Guest

Three LCCs Fined For Inproper Wheelchair Stowage

Sun Aug 31, 2003 8:02 am

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The government fined three airlines a total of $750,000 because they couldn't stow folding wheelchairs inside aircraft cabins, but gave back most of the money so they could improve access for the disabled.

America West Airlines, JetBlue Airways and Southwest Airlines violated regulations banning discrimination against disabled passengers, the Transportation Department announced Thursday.

Other airlines are being investigated for similar violations.

America West spokeswoman Janice Monahan said the airline believes it complied with the law. The airline checked the passenger's personal wheelchair at the gate and then used another wheelchair to seat the passenger on the plane.

America West was fined $150,000 but received a credit of $135,000 so it could create the stowage space.

Southwest spokeswoman Linda Rutherford said folding wheelchairs couldn't fit into the overhead storage bins on the airline's Boeing 737s. The airline stored wheelchairs in the cargo hold and quickly brought them to the gate after the jetliner landed, she said. Now the airline is retrofitting the overhead bins over the next 14 months. The cost is being partially defrayed by the $450,000 credit on the $500,000 fine.

A call to JetBlue seeking comment was not immediately returned. The Transportation Department statement said the airline will use $90,000 of its $100,000 fine to create and a toll-free disability hot line and a quality assurance team to learn more about providing service to passengers with disabilities.



Looks like the LCCs need to take the disabled into account when cutting costs.
 
atrude777
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RE: Three LCCs Fined For Inproper Wheelchair Stowage

Sun Aug 31, 2003 8:07 am

yep absolutely. disabled people ALWAYS need assitance, whether they are wheelchair bound, blind, deaf(like me) or whatever the reason. Hope they act quickly and check the majors as well.

Alex.
Good things come to those who wait, better things come to those who go AFTER it!
 
BR715-A1-30
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RE: Three LCCs Fined For Inproper Wheelchair Stowage

Sun Aug 31, 2003 8:12 am

Looks like the LCCs need to take the disabled into account when cutting costs.

I agree, I am surprised at this. I haven't noticed how AirTran stores wheelchairs, but I will look next time I fly w/ a disabled passenger. I do think, though, that if a disabled passenger flies, they will ask the people in 10 or 11 to move to a different seat, but Flyer732, and GroundStop will have to say for sure.
Puhdiddle
 
LoneStarMike
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RE: Three LCCs Fined For Inproper Wheelchair Stowage

Sun Aug 31, 2003 8:17 am

The article doesn't say that the passengers weren't being assisted. It just said the airlines had to provide space in the cabins for wheelchair storage.

I don't see what the big deal is. It's not like the passenger is going to be using the wheelchair in the cabin of the aircraft. As long as it's brought out of the cargo hold and onto the jetway in a reasonable anount of time, I see no reason for it to be absolutely necessary that the the wheelchair has to be stored in the cabin.

LoneStarMike

 
elwood64151
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RE: Three LCCs Fined For Inproper Wheelchair Stowage

Sun Aug 31, 2003 9:20 am

Exactly what are the passengers supposed to do with the wheelchairs while on board? They don't fit down the aisles!

This sounds to me like someone in the government having too much power and interpreting the ADA as meaning "full, unobstructed access", rather than reasonable access.

I don't know of a single airline that stows wheelchairs in the cabin or the overhead bin. I don't know of a single aircraft where one would fit in the overhead bin.

BR715-A1-30:

You are correct. In fact, two seats in 10 are specifically blocked on the seat-map at check-in for the purpose of having a seat for a disabled pax. AirTran gate-checked the wheelchairs when I worked there.
Those who fail to learn history are doomed to repeat it in summer school.
 
Guest

RE: Three LCCs Fined For Inproper Wheelchair Stowage

Sun Aug 31, 2003 9:50 am

Do these airlines have aislechairs that travel in the cabin during the flight? I know that even American Eagle has onboard chairs on its regional jets.
 
luv2fly
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RE: Three LCCs Fined For Inproper Wheelchair Stowage

Sun Aug 31, 2003 9:59 am

This is one of the reasons B6 is removing the seats onboard it aircrafts to make room for a closet to store the onboard wheelchair's.
You can cut the irony with a knife
 
Goose
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RE: Three LCCs Fined For Inproper Wheelchair Stowage

Sun Aug 31, 2003 10:01 am

Hrm. I've seen wheelchairs gate-checked on a couple airlines before. I recall doing it often when I worked the ramp on CP and AA flights.

.... and it's a necessity when you're dealing with a 400 lb electric chair. Ever tried to take one of those up the jetway stairs on the outside? Ugh.

And yes, most airlines have aislechairs for disabled folks. In fact, I can't think of a single instance in which I haven't seen one in the cabin.
"Talk to me, Goose..."
 
jjbiv
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RE: Three LCCs Fined For Inproper Wheelchair Stowage

Sun Aug 31, 2003 10:02 am

What is the purpose of stowing customers' standard wheelchairs in the cabin?

joe
 
Guest

RE: Three LCCs Fined For Inproper Wheelchair Stowage

Sun Aug 31, 2003 10:02 am

Another way of looking at it... perhaps it is just cheaper to pay fines periodically than to modify an entire fleet to be within complete compliance.
 
targowski
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RE: Three LCCs Fined For Inproper Wheelchair Stowage

Sun Aug 31, 2003 10:16 am

as a manual wheelchair user myself, i can attest that the importance of having your wheelchair in the cabin is not so that you can use it to move into the cabin but as an extra insurance policy that the baggage handlers do not destroy your chair when they load it in the cargo. people who use wheelchairs treat the chair almost as an extension of thier bodies, since many of us simply would not be able to be mobile in any meaningful capacity without one. i have had my chair damaged once by an airline (CO) on a vacation and the last thing you want to worry about when you land in an unfamilar place is a place to fix whatever parts of your chair are damaged. as well, the wheelchair i own is about $2500 (it is a quickie XBR with a full suspension and aluminum frame and is almost worth being handicapped just to own one!) and the idea of using a steel hospital chair for mobility is about as appealing as being a porsche owner forced to drive a hyndai as a rental car when somone hits you. even more so, since i cannot walk and a chair is not a luxury item. my particular chair has quick release wheels and can collapse easily to fit into the storage closet typically used for suit bags without taking too much space for suits. i have never tried to but it into the overhead bin, although i am sure it may fit if i put the various pieces into different bins.

as to how i get on the plane, there are employees of the airline or airport specifically tasked to help someone like me transfer into a narrow chair/dolly that fits between the seats and i get on either first or last. as to whether or not the particular airline has a foldable narrow chair on board, that almost always depends. i doubt most commuter planes like american eagle have them. i have flown extensively overseas and i can say that as of a few years ago LOT did not have this option on ORD-WAW, but QUANTAS did and the crew were more than happy to assist me to the lavatory (required on LAX-SYD, trust me).

as for the ADA (and i know something about this, i am an attorney), i can say that much of what i can describe as abuse of this statute has to deal with people on the fringes of physical disabilites claiming some entitlement under this statute when plainly they are not often disabled in a way that impairs activites of their daily lives. as someone who requires wider doors, grab handles in public restrooms, elevators, etc, the ADA has dramatically improved my quality of life.
 
Guest

RE: Three LCCs Fined For Inproper Wheelchair Stowage

Sun Aug 31, 2003 10:28 am

i doubt most commuter planes like american eagle have them.

I know for a fact the CRJ-700 have them, and there are two different types in use. I've seen one used firsthand.
 
targowski
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RE: Three LCCs Fined For Inproper Wheelchair Stowage

Sun Aug 31, 2003 10:38 am

N951U-
was the chair you saw in use during the flight or was it on the ground? all airports have the straightback chairs to load myself and others on and off the planes. of course, my american eagle experience is ORD-AZO and until recently was serviced by ATRs, very small. sometimes i think the straightback couldnt even fit between the aisles themselves and i was forced to sit in the very first row next to the door (either the first or last row, depending on which door was used.)
 
WMUPilot
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RE: Three LCCs Fined For Inproper Wheelchair Stowage

Sun Aug 31, 2003 10:40 am

Good to see Airtran and ATA are already wheelchair compliant!!!
JetBlue - Bringing humanity back to air travel
 
Guest

RE: Three LCCs Fined For Inproper Wheelchair Stowage

Sun Aug 31, 2003 10:44 am

It is a collapsable aisle chair stored in an aircraft closet that is on board at all times. I saw it used in flight to assist a passenger in reaching the lavatory. All flight attendants are training in its use, and I have personally seen the diagrams and instructions for use and assist in their inflight manuals.
 
AA777MIA
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RE: Three LCCs Fined For Inproper Wheelchair Stowage

Sun Aug 31, 2003 12:35 pm

AA has been wheelchair compliant for years. The ADA requires that an airline provide a storage space for a wheelchair in the cabin. I believe they only have to have room for one, its pretty much first come first serve. On AA, its the front closet, so if you have a wheelchair in it, forget the hanging bags. Kind of sucks when its full, but an airline cannot refuse it in the cabin if there is room, otherwise can be fined. If the space is already taken, then it is gate checked and brought up to the jetbridge upon arrival..
 
Accidentally
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RE: Three LCCs Fined For Inproper Wheelchair Stowa

Sun Aug 31, 2003 12:45 pm

I use a 400lb powerchair...cost about $20,000. Flew LGA-DFW-LGA on AA. Rollled down the jetway, got into the aisle chair, they wheeled me in and helped me into my seat. They took my chair and checked it. All was done very well.

My only gripe is the wait to allow it to be moved downstairs, and into the aircraft. (and vice-versa) I held the whole operation up, things must be much easier for the cabin storeable chairs. In and out.
Indianapolis, IN
 
L-188
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RE: Three LCCs Fined For Inproper Wheelchair Stowage

Sun Aug 31, 2003 12:47 pm

Actually what is a ball is getting a person in a straight back chair up the intergral rear stairs on a 737-200QC.

This must be a new rule because when I worked for 121 carriers all of those chairs went into the front belly. and where placed in the jetbridge on arrival. Those electric ones that didn't have non-spillable batteries also had to have those removed and placed in leakproof boxes in the hold.

And considering that you can't get a standard width wheelchair down the asle I wonder what the purpose of keeping them in the cabin is, other then making the owner feel better.
OBAMA-WORST PRESIDENT EVER....Even SKOORB would be better.
 
MSPXJGuy
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RE: Three LCCs Fined For Inproper Wheelchair Stowage

Sun Aug 31, 2003 1:16 pm

2 things, the "aisle chair" "narrow chair/dolly" are called straight backs. Second of all certain airplanes are exempt from the rules about keeping wheelchairs in the cabin. I'm not exactly sure of the details (someone else might know) but certain aircraft have to be built after a certain date and hold so many passengers in order to make the airline keep the wheelchair in the cabin. For example there is no way we could have a wheelchair in a Saab340 or a ARJ. Us ramp agents frequently have to take them down to the cargo bins. (Not the easiest job in the world but they get down and stored properly)
 
AA777MIA
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RE: Three LCCs Fined For Inproper Wheelchair Stowage

Sun Aug 31, 2003 1:21 pm

If I am correct, I don't think the powerchairs can be stowed in the cabin because A, they will not fit in the closets, but more importantly is the batteries in which they run on. They have to be placed in the belly of the aircraft..
 
MSPXJGuy
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RE: Three LCCs Fined For Inproper Wheelchair Stowage

Sun Aug 31, 2003 1:24 pm

As far as the battery is concerned, we have special boxes to put them into if they are wet celled so I don't think that could be used in consideration then again i'm not totally up to date on all the policies of the larger aircraft, just know smaller ones. I'm thinking with these fines they might be just for regular wheel chairs. But then again, its all speculation and probably need to wait to find a major carrier's rampy to post something.
 
L-188
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RE: Three LCCs Fined For Inproper Wheelchair Stowage

Sun Aug 31, 2003 1:29 pm

Yeah, the last time I worked with wheel chairs was almost 10 years ago before the ADA.

But I am pretty sure that regardless if the batteries are spillable or not they are considered Haz-mat and can't be carried in the passenger cabin. If they are spillable they need to be in a leakproof box. I don't think the ADA wheelchair rules trump CFR-49.
OBAMA-WORST PRESIDENT EVER....Even SKOORB would be better.
 
MSPXJGuy
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RE: Three LCCs Fined For Inproper Wheelchair Stowage

Sun Aug 31, 2003 1:51 pm

True but nothing is stopping from keeping the battery in the cargo bin and the wheel chair upstairs. I don't know, details details. I'm not totally up to date on all of that stuff. I just know my job and my job doesn't entail dealing with wheelchairs in the cabin. It's so rare that we have to even pull out one of the boxes anyways since a lot of wheelchairs are dry cell and just have to be disconnected.
 
L-188
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RE: Three LCCs Fined For Inproper Wheelchair Stowage

Sun Aug 31, 2003 1:54 pm

Well the one thing about those electric ones I do remember is that a number of them aren't designed to collapse, which might make upstairs stowage problematic.
OBAMA-WORST PRESIDENT EVER....Even SKOORB would be better.
 
aerlingusa330
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RE: Three LCCs Fined For Inproper Wheelchair Stowage

Sun Aug 31, 2003 2:14 pm

I agree with LoneStarMike, why do you need your wheelchair in the aircraft if it has to be stowed. The airlines do a great job of getting the chair back up to the jetway after arrival and usually they hold back the pax until the disabled person is off the plane first and is clear into the terminal. Especially these days where there are skycaps walking all around the terminal and every airport has many many wheelchairs for you to use, FREE! Also, they're yours to use when in the airport therefore you don't need to bring them on the plane and carry them with you while you travel. It's something to make travel easier for disabled people. Here they are fining the airlines when the disabled people don't even need to bring their wheelchair on board. I see the point about an electric wheelchair because the airports don't have those and they're relatively expensive and are used specifically for people who cannot operate a regular wheelchair. The money might even go back into the airline industry if United or USAirways need more help from the government in the future.
Shamrock 136 heavy cleared for takeoff runway niner.
 
DCA-ROCguy
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RE: Three LCCs Fined For Inproper Wheelchair Stowage

Sun Aug 31, 2003 3:29 pm

I don't see what the big deal is. It's not like the passenger is going to be using the wheelchair in the cabin of the aircraft. As long as it's brought out of the cargo hold and onto the jetway in a reasonable anount of time, I see no reason for it to be absolutely necessary that the the wheelchair has to be stored in the cabin. LoneStarMike

I don't see what the big deal is either. N951U, as many of us know, is a frequent LCC critic and apparently thinks he can embarrass some of them with this post. The question is, are wheelchairs promptly available to facilitate boarding and deboarding, and can the airline ensure reasonable cabin-movement and restroom-access for the disabled on board? The article says nothing about that.

Given the cultures of excellent service at JetBlue and Southwest (I'm not as familiar with AWA, but as their spokesman noted they have onboard wheelchairs for restroom access), I would be very surprised if there was in fact any real issue of proper disabled access to cabins and restrooms at either of these carriers.

Jim
Need a new airline paint scheme? Better call Saul! (Bass that is)
 
targowski
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RE: Three LCCs Fined For Inproper Wheelchair Stowage

Sun Aug 31, 2003 3:30 pm

as a wheelchair user, i can say that i have never ever gotten off the plane first, before any passengers. they never hold passengers until i get off and quite a few times, i have waited around for airline personnel to figure out the right people to contact to bring a straighback. i fly a lot, and this is not an infrequent occurance and makes missing short connection times a potiential outcome.

sure, most of the time i fly, nothing happens in terms of wheelchairs being destroyed or plans delayed. as far as wheelchairs in the terminal, etc, i can say that to able-bodied people one wheelchair is indeed interchangable for another, but for anyone who knows anything about disabilities and the products that attempt to make regular life for the disabled possible, being in the wrong equipment can not only weaken your mobility, but also your health. ever heard of pressure sores? you dont want them. and you dont want me to have them since all of you healthy people fund the insurance company's money that would be spent to treat them.

i am trying to be optimistic here, most of the time travel is usually as hasslefree as being able-bodied (which is always up to debate) and some times an airline will upgrade me to domestic first class or international business simply to make it easier to load me into the plane (though i dont expect such treatment and its getting few and far between), but a few of the assumptions posted in this threat are misleading at best.

additionally, while the fine might seem like a lot of money (which it is), airlines are corporations like any other and generally will not be motivated to improve service (especially for the miniscule % of paying passengers with disabilities) unless not complying with the law has unappealing economic consequences. such is life, and it will always remain so.