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 2014.

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 were received.

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 airline said.

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 processes.

Comments
JDS Travel News JDS Viewpoints JDS Africa/MI