Airlines Rapped For Discrimination
by Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
This article is reproduced here under special arrangement with Inclusion
Daily Express Email News Service.
Sept.10, 2001--Two airlines are in the "hot seat"
for their treatment of people with disabilities, it was reported last week.
On Friday, the U.S. Department of Transportation filed a complaint against
Northwest Airlines claiming the nation's fourth largest air carrier
discriminated against air travelers with disabilities on hundreds of
occasions. The Transportation Department is asking that Northwest pay a $3
million fine, which would be the largest civil penalty ever against a
carrier, plus $10,000 for each additional violation the department finds as
it continues its investigation.
According to the complaint, most of the problems have had to do with the
airline making people with disabilities wait for long periods of time for
wheelchairs, that they have left passengers on planes for extended periods
of time, and made passengers miss flights by leaving them at the wrong
The DOT investigation was in response to a formal complaint filed by two
passengers who said Northwest failed to provide them with wheelchairs even
though they had requested them more than a month in advance.
In Europe, disability groups and the airline industry are united in their
condemnation against Ryanair, Ireland's "no frills" airline, for its
continued policy of charging extra to help passengers who use wheelchairs
and for allegedly refusing to board certain passengers with disabilities.
Earlier this year most airlines and airports in Europe voluntarily agreed to
provide free wheelchair assistance. A handful of low-cost carriers,
including Ryanair, did not.
"We're a low-cost airline," Ryanair spokesman Enda O'Toole told the European
Voice news service. "Wheelchair provision is one of the services we don't
Now, the Association of European Airlines (AEA), which represents the
European Union's larger carriers, has decided to abandon the voluntary
approach and support proposed legislation that would force all airlines to
provide these services at no charge.
"I think the mood in the industry is that such practices give aviation a bad
name and should be outlawed," said John Hume of Airports Council
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