The U.S. Department of Transportation has fined United
Airlines $2 million for failing to properly service disabled passengers.
“It is our duty to ensure that travelers with
disabilities have access to the services they need,” DOT Secretary Anthony Foxx
said in a statement.
The DOT investigated United due to a significant increase
in the number of disability-related complaints it received about the airline in
The department found that United failed to provide
adequate and timely assistance to disabled passengers as they boarded and
exited planes and as they moved through Chicago O’Hare, Denver International
Airport, Washington Dulles, Newark Liberty and Houston Bush Intercontinental.
In addition, the DOT found that in “numerous instances”
United either failed to return wheelchairs and other mobility aids to
passengers in a timely manner, or returned them in worse condition than they
In response to the fine, United posted an announcement
about its efforts to serve passengers with disabilities on its website.
“We want you to know that providing convenient,
comfortable and flyer-friendly service to all of our customers is one of our
top priorities, and we are committed to meeting all DOT rules. And while we’ve
made significant efforts to improve, we remain focused on doing better,” the
United noted that it is testing an app that would allow
customers to request disability-related assistance and that it plans to equip
flight attendants and customer service agents with the iPhone6 Plus, which will
be leveraged for improved wheelchair service.
“We’re also ensuring that our vendors who provide our
wheelchair service use a more modern technology to handle requests more
efficiently,” the airline said.
Along with the $2 million fine, the DOT also fined United
$750,000 on Thursday for six tarmac delays in excess of the three-hour limit
imposed on domestic flights. Five of the delays took place during a snowy day
at O’Hare in December 2013 and one of the delays occurred at Houston Hobby on
May 20 of last year during a severe thunderstorm.
Nevertheless, the DOT found that mismanagement caused the
excessive delays in Chicago and that United didn’t attempt to deplane
passengers in Houston.
In a statement to Travel Weekly, United said it is
continuing to invest in cutting-edge technologies to improve its ramp