As the result of a consent decree executed on Jan 7, 2016, United Airlines (UAL) is required to invest $650,000 to improve their services for disabled passengers. The decree resulted from an investigation of passenger complaints of a failure to enplane, deplane and transfer wheelchair-users in a timely manner at Houston International Airport , Chicago O’Hare International Airport, Denver International Airport, Newark International Airport, and Dulles International Airport.
Specifically, the decree requires UAL to spend $650,000 to develop a pilot program that allows passengers to request wheelchair assistance at the airport via UAL’s mobile app. It also requires that they spend $150,000 to implement quality assurance audits with their vendors who provide wheelchair assistance. The Department of Transportation also assessed a $700,000 fine against UAL for failing to provide wheelchair assistance in a timely manner.
Additionally, United voluntarily agreed to do the following things in order to improve their service to disabled passengers.
- Purchase mobile devices for flight attendants and gate agents to allow employees to better communicate with the vendors who provide wheelchair assistance, and to track the needs of disabled passengers in real time.
- Purchase wheelchair lifts for Newark, Houston, Los Angeles, Las Vegas and Orlando airports
- Increase staffing of wheelchair attendants during holiday periods.
- Increase the staffing of their Accessibility Hotline.
- Develop and implement surveys to help improve their service to disabled passengers.
It should also be noted that UAL paid out over $650,000 in compensation to disabled passengers who did not receive services required under the Air Carrier Access Act. This compensation was in the form of vouchers and frequent flyer miles.
All in all, this $2 million settlement is good news, as it will ultimately improve services for disabled passengers — at least on UAL. And if for some reason UAL fails to implement these changes by September 1, 2016, the airline will be fined $650,000.
So it looks like the skies will be a lot friendlier for wheelchair-users and slow walkers in 2016. And that’s a very good thing for everyone.