The US Department of Transportation (DOT) has assessed a civil penalty against airline Virgin America for filing incomplete complaints registered by passengers with disabilities, and for not responding adequately to those complaints. The carrier has been ordered to cease and desist from further violations and received a civil penalty of $100,000.
US Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood commented: “We expect airlines to respond individually to disability-related complaints and to report those complaints to us. These are important parts of our rules protecting the rights of passengers, and we will continue to take enforcement action when they are violated.”
The DOT says that the action follows an on-site inspection by its Aviation Enforcement Office at Virgin America’s corporate headquarters in July 2011. It found that in many instances, the airline had failed to provide a written response that addressed a complaint. It had also failed to properly categorise and account for all of the disability-related issues that were raised in the complaints received during 2008 and 2009.
As a result, a number of complaints were reportedly missing from Virgin America’s annual reports submitted to the DOT in 2009 and 2010.
A Virgin America spokesperson told Airports International that the carrier took the issues “seriously” and had taken immediate steps in 2011 to ensure more detailed responses to both passengers and the DOT.
She continued: “Although the cited issues were primarily related to compliance with the technical requirements [of] reporting these types of complaints to the DOT, and to responding to complaints fully in writing, it should be noted that the airline has and continues to respond to consumer complaints of this nature and has provided compensation, refunds and other redress as appropriate, directly to travellers.”