Much to my disappointment, the Department of Transportation (DOT) recently assessed a $600,000 fine against Jet Blue; part of which was for Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA) violations. I’m disappointed because I always kind of liked that airline. I mean they have comfortable seats, low fares and the occasional wacko flight attendant who chugs a beer and jumps down the safety chute. What’s not to like? Seriously though, they were also apparently lagging in the access department; and that’s no laughing matter.
So what did the DOT nail them on?
Well apparently they failed to provide adequate boarding and deplaning assistance to disabled passengers. Although specific incidents weren’t mentioned by the DOT, they noted that in many cases Jet Blue did not provide physical assistance, wheelchairs, mechanical lifts and ramps to passengers that needed them. And when those passengers complained, Jet Blue also failed to respond within the required time frame — 30 days under the ACAA.
Fortunately those passengers also complained to the DOT; so let that be a lesson to everyone. If you have an access problem with an airline, don’t just complain to the airline. Remember to also file a complaint with the DOT. When they get a number of similar complaints on the same airline, the DOT will investigate. And when they find violations of the ACAA, they fine the airline.
And here’s the best part of the whole process. When the DOT fines an airline for ACAA violations, they allow them to invest a portion of the fine in access improvements. In this case, the amount allotted to access improvements was $250,000. In return for that credit, Jet Blue agreed to establish a task force to audit the handling of disabled passengers, create a disability customer care center, and to include more information for disabled travelers on their website.
And that’s definitely a step in the right direction. After all, it’s not all about money. It’s about improving services for disabled passengers.