United Airlines fined $2.7M for violating rules protecting disabled passengers, long tarmac delays

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WASHINGTON (AP/KHON2) – United Airlines drew a $2.7 million fine from the government on Thursday for violating rules aimed at protecting disabled passengers and preventing long tarmac delays.

The Transportation Department said there was a significant increase in 2014 in disability-related complaints regarding United. A department review found that United had failed to give passengers with disabilities prompt service getting on and off planes, and in many instances damaged or delayed the return of wheelchairs and other mobility devices.

The department cited United operations at Houston International Airport, Chicago O’Hare International Airport, Denver International Airport, Newark International Airport and Washington’s Dulles International Airport.

“Of the $2 million assessed for these violations, United will spend $150,000 to improve quality assurance audits of United’s wheelchair vendor(s), including tracking the time period within which wheelchair assistance is provided to passengers with disabilities, and $500,000 towards a pilot program to develop and implement technology that assists passengers with disabilities in making requests for wheelchair and other disability-related assistance at the airport via United’s mobile app. DOT is also crediting United with $650,000 for compensation it provided to consumers who filed a disability-related complaint with the airline in 2014.” – DOT

United also was fined for five lengthy delays in which passengers were kept waiting in planes on the tarmac at O’Hare airport during severe winter weather on Dec. 8, 2013, and for another delay at Houston Hobby Airport on May 20, 2015.

“Of the $750,000 assessed for the tarmac delay violations, United will spend $375,000 toward the cost of acquiring and installing an automated visual docking and guidance system that will allow aircraft to be parked in all-weather conditions and during irregular operations without marshallers.” – DOT

In a statement, United said it remains committed to meeting all Transportation Department rules, particularly during difficult operating conditions.

The airline also said it was continuing to invest in cutting-edge technologies to improve its ramp processes and had launched automated aircraft parking systems at two of its largest hubs. The systems were enabling it to reduce taxi times and safely guide aircraft to the gate when conditions might have previously prevented it from accommodating passengers, United said.

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