Spirit Airlines fined for disability procedures

The Department of Transportation slapped Spirit Airlines with a charge of $100,000 for violating Air Carrier Access Act regulations through its handling process for disability complaints.

Photo of airplane wing
Air Carrier Act of 1986

Spirit Airlines is the third major airline to be fined for its handling of disability claims in the past two years. The DOT hit AirTran with a $500,000 fine in August 2010. In the largest penalty ever against an airline for a nonsafety related case, the DOT fined Delta $2 million in February 2011.

“Our rules on how airlines handle disability-related complaints are designed to help us ensure that passengers with disabilities are treated fairly when they fly,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood in a news release.  “We will continue to make sure carriers comply with our disability rules and take enforcement action when they do not.”

The Air Carrier Act of 1986 requires airlines to take steps to ensure accessibility for people with disabilities. It also requires airlines to respond to disability related complaints within 30 days. Additionally, the airlines must separate disability related complaints from other complaints, and submit an annual report to the DOT.

According to the DOT’s investigation of Spirit Airlines, the company often failed to separately  count many complaints from people with disabilities in 2009 and “failed to provide adequate responses to a vast majority of the disability-related complaints,” according to the release.