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Frontier Fined for Violating Rules Protecting Air Travelers with Disabilities

Carrier violated Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA) regulations

The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) today assessed a civil penalty of $50,000 against Frontier Airlines for violating rules protecting air travelers with disabilities.

“The Department of Transportation is committed to ensuring that airline passengers are treated fairly, and passengers with disabilities are no exception,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood.  “At DOT, we take our aviation disability rules seriously and will continue to take enforcement action when airlines violate these rules.”

An investigation by DOT’s Aviation Enforcement Office into complaints filed against Frontier found that the carrier violated the DOT regulation implementing the Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA) with respect to its transportation of an individual with a disability.

The individual filing the complaint, a quadriplegic who has no use of his arms, legs, or torso, is unable to sit upright in an aircraft seat without support and restraint.  Frontier failed to provide him appropriate notice, in advance of the return portion of his round-trip transportation, that Federal Aviation Administration requirements prohibit seatbelt extenders as restraint devices for his upper body, even though the carrier had permitted him to use the devices in three prior flights, including the outbound flight of the trip in question.  On the return flight, the individual did not have an alternative restraint method and was removed from the flight.  The Department’s disability regulation requires airlines to provide passengers who notify them that they use a wheelchair for boarding, as this individual did, of any limit on the carriers’ ability to accommodate passengers with a disability, even if the passengers do not request the information.

Frontier also violated the Department’s disability regulation by failing to provide the passenger with adequate assistance in pre-boarding and getting on and off the plane, despite receiving multiple advance notices that the individual had a disability and needed assistance prior to his flight.  DOT requires airlines to provide assistance to passengers with disabilities while boarding and deplaning aircraft, including the use of wheelchairs, ramps, mechanical lifts and service personnel where needed.

The consent order is available on the Internet at www.regulations.gov, docket DOT-OST-2012-0002. 

Friday, April 13, 2012