Rolling thunder


Continental Airlines is going to have to do some mighty fast talking to contain the damage from DOT accusations that the carrier discriminates against disabled passengers.

The complaints, filed with the government in 1997 and 1998, involve wheelchair-dependent passengers who say they received inadequate assistance when flying Continental. That's bad enough. But apparently the DOT has paperwork filed directly with the airline from more than 100 incidents passengers in wheelchairs or in need of wheelchairs who either were stranded or handled negligently by Continental employees.

The DOT is seeking a $250,000 penalty against the airline. That's chump change for a carrier like Continental. The real concern here is perception. With constantly increasing competition in the skies and ever-escalating dissatisfaction among passengers, airlines are going to be scrapping for market share as never before. And as persons with disabilities continue to make up a larger percentage of the traveling public, their clout will be felt.

Continental is vociferously declaiming its innocence in this matter. We'll have to wait and see how it turns out.


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