Flying the Unfriendly Skies? File a complaint!
Damaged wheelchairs. Incorrect transfer assistance. Inability to reserve appropriate seats. Surly airline personnel. Airlines’ continued violation of regulations concerning air travel for people with disabilities. What can you do?
“Travelers with disabilities who encounter problems at any point in the process — reservations through luggage retrieval — should always request to speak to a complaints resolution officer (CRO),” advises Paralyzed Veterans of America Advocacy attorney Bob Herman. “CROs should be familiar with Air Carrier Access Act regulations and authorized to resolve problems on the spot.”
Another way to deal with problems as they occur is to call the Department of Transportation’s toll-free hotline to assist passengers with disabilities. Air travelers who experience disability-related air travel service problems may call the hotline, 800-778-4838. A call to this number may help you at the actual time of the event, whether reserving an accessible seat or retrieving your wheelchair at your destination.
Despite limited investigation/enforcement, PVA encourages you to file a complaint with the Aviation Consumer Protection Division. For information on filing a complaint, online or by mail, visit the websites http://airconsumer.dot.gov/CP_DisabilityandDiscrimination.htm or http://airconsumer.ost.dot.gov/problems.htm.
Complaints alleging discriminatory treatment by federal security screeners (e.g., personnel screening and searching passengers and carry-on baggage at airport security checkpoints) should be directed to the Department of Homeland Security’s Office for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties and/or the Transportation Security Administration’s Office of Civil Rights and Liberties External Compliance Division. These offices accept complaints by mail to the following addresses:
Department of Homeland Security (DHS)
Office for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties
Mail Stop #0800
245 Murray Lane, S.W.
Washington, DC 20598
Transportation Security Administration (TSA)
Attn: External Programs Division
Director, Office of Civil Rights and Liberties
601 South 12th Street – West Tower, TSA-6
Arlington, VA 22202
These offices also accept complaints by email and telephone. Members of the traveling public who believe they have been unlawfully discriminated against by federal security screeners may send an email to the Department of Homeland Security Office for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties at firstname.lastname@example.org, or to the Transportation Security Administration’s Office for Civil Rights and Liberties External Compliance Division at email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also call DHS’s Office of Civil Rights and Liberties toll free at 877-336-4872 or 800-877-8339 (TTY).
“Only by everyone reporting incidents will DOT have an overall picture of the industry’s compliance efforts and problem areas,” Herman advises.