Department of Transportation Fines Virgin America for Violations

Department of Transportation Fines Virgin America for Violations
Image: Pexels

The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) has assessed a $100,000 civil penalty against Virgin America for filing incomplete reports about complaints from passengers with disabilities and for not adequately responding to those same complaints.

The DOT requires that all airlines record any complaint related to disability, to categorize them by the type of disability and nature, and to then submit an annual report. The airline must also provide a written response to the complaint is it alleges any violation of the disability rules within thirty days that discusses the complaint, gives the airline's point of view, and states that it might be referred to the DOT.

A July 2011 routine inspection conducted by the DOT Aviation Enforcement Office at Virgin America's headquarters revealed that the airline failed to provide written responses to complaints. It found that the company also failed to properly categorize and account for all disability-related issues raised in complaints in 2008 and 2009.

In addition, if an airline receives a written complaint alleging a violation of the Department's disability rules, the carrier must provide a written response within 30 days that specifically discusses the complaint, gives the carrier's view of whether a violation occurred, and states that the complaint may be referred to DOT for an investigation.

"We expect airlines to respond individually to disability-related complaints and to report those complaints to us," said U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. "These are important parts of our rules protecting the rights of passengers, and we will continue to take enforcement action when they are violated."