WASHINGTON — The Transportation Department said Monday that it has issued a $500,000 civil penalty against AirTran Airways for violating rules about accommodating disabled travelers.
The government said the airline had violated rules governing assistance given to passengers during boarding, and that it frequently failed to provide an adequate written response to passenger complaints. The airline also failed to properly categorize disability complaints in reports it filed with the government.
AirTran spokesman Christopher White said the company is constantly striving to improve service and is implementing several initiatives to enhance its ability to serve special needs passengers “with the highest level of dignity and care.” He noted that over the past three years, AirTran has served more than 920,000 passengers with disabilities and less than half of 1 pecent of these customers has reported an issue to the airline or DoT.
The Transportation Department said up to $60,000 of the penalty can be used to establish a council that will help the airline comply with federal disability rules, and to hire a manager to oversee accommodations for people with disabilities. Another $140,000 of the penalty can be used to develop an automated wheelchair tracking system at AirTran’s major hubs within one year.
White said the overwhelming majority of issues reported by disabled passengers is in relation to the quick availability of wheelchairs and the company is working to correct this by implementing a real-time wheelchair tracking system at its Atlanta, Baltimore, Milwaukee and Orlando hubs.
Orlando, Fla.-based AirTran is a unit of AirTran Holdings Inc.