Friday, April 15, 2016

International Airlines Fined Over Failure to Act on Disability Complaints

European Carriers Receive Half a Million Dollar Fines
Shipping News Feature
US – A recent BBC Radio programme illustrated how attitudes to disability have radically altered over the past 30 years. Whereas many disabled people were shunned and given little or no consideration it is now mandatory that everyone, able bodied or not, receives fair and equal treatment. Not so it seems by some major European air carriers who have received punitive fines this week from the Department of Transportation (DoT) for failing to act on customer complaints.

Air France, Lufthansa, and British Airways have been chastised for not adequately responding to complaints filed by passengers with disabilities. Air France and Lufthansa were each fined $200,000 and British Airways was fined $150,000. The airlines were also ordered to cease and desist from future similar violations.

The offences include some up to 2015 and the full details of the relevant consent orders are available at this link to docket number DOT-OST-2016-0002. These consent orders are the results of several on-site regulatory compliance inspections conducted by the Department’s Office of Aviation Enforcement and Proceedings. During these inspections, the Department reviewed a number of disability-related complaint files and found that, in many occasions, Air France, Lufthansa, and British Airways failed to provide satisfactory responses to passenger complaints and did not conclude or settle the matters correctly.

The Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA) prohibits airlines from discriminating against individuals with disabilities. Under DOT rules, airlines are required to provide a written dispositive response to a written complaint alleging a violation of the ACAA within 30 days of receipt of the complaint. US Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx commented:

“When air travellers file complaints with airlines, they deserve prompt and complete responses that appropriately answer their specific concerns. We will continue to take enforcement action when airlines violate our rules protecting the rights of passengers.”

The airlines pointed out they had spent millions of dollars upgrading fleets and facilities to make travel easier for passengers with disabilities and each airline gave tailored responses to explain why they had failed in their obligations, Air France said the closure of its customer care office in the US had led to problems, Lufthansa and British Airways were found to have failed to inform complainants of their right to appeal and British Airways had simply forwarded complaints to the relevant airport authority saying it was not the company’s responsibility to provide disability assistance.