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Delta, Southwest Best US Airlines For Passengers With Disabilities in 2012

  • Written by Roberto Castiglioni

Delta AirlinesThe Air Travel Consumer Report shows that Southwest and Delta Air Lines had the least number of disability related complaints in 2012.


Despite official data from the DoT’s Air Travel Consumer Report showing an 18.3% year on year increase in complaints filed by passengers with disabilities in 2012, the top 6 US airlines disabled passengers complaints versus total passengers carried ratio remains well within 0.0001%.


In Europe, airports are responsible for delivery of the vast majority of services for passengers with disabilities; however, in the United States legislation protecting the rights of people with disabilities places responsibility for delivery of all services and facilities to disabled passengers on airlines.


Low cost carriers are usually associated to poor customer service. Southwest showing is the exception to the rule. Last year, Southwest carried 133,978,100 passengers. In the same period, the low cost airline received 41 complaints from passengers with disabilities. (tot. pass/ dis. comp. ratio 0.000030). Southwest received 41 disabilities complaints in 2011, 35 in 2010. The carrier was unavailable for comments.


Disability complaints numbers of other US low cost carriers tend to fit the no frills, poor

customer service stereotype. Ultra low cost carrier Spirit Airlines, which carried 10,422,548 in 2012, received 18 disability related complaints (tot. pass/ dis. comp. ratio 0.00017). Allegiant Air, 6,987,324 flown and 26 disabled passengers’ complaints received in 2012, scored 12 times worse than Southwest (tot. pass/ dis. comp. ratio 0.00037).


In the Delta’s case, 2012 results show a thorough change in the ways the carrier supports disabled passengers. In February 2011, the DoT fined the Atlanta based airline $2,000,000 for violating rules protecting passengers with disabilities. This fine was the largest penalty the U.S. Department of Transportation ever assessed against an airline.


Air Travel Consumer Report for 2012 indicates Delta Air Lines has taken decisive action to correct past mistakes. Last year, the airline carried a total of 164, 571,529 passengers, making Delta Air Lines the largest US carrier per passengers flown in 2012. There were 56 complaints filed by passengers with disabilities against the airline last year (tot. pass/ dis. comp. ratio 0.000034), down from 79 in 2011, and 114 in 2010.


Monthly figures show there was a substantial decline in numbers of complaints filed by passengers with disabilities against Delta in the second half of 2012. “Delta Air Lines is closing existing gaps in operation by reviewing best practice guidelines and working with disability associations to identify ways to better support the needs passengers with disabilities,” a spokesperson for the airline told Reduced Mobility Rights.


The Atlanta based carrier is especially proud of its employee-run ABLE Network on Disability, a voluntary organization “committed to making Delta the best place to work for employees with disabilities by promoting inclusion, respect for differences, equal opportunity, and diversity in the workplace.”


Delta Air Lines pledges to continue investing in improving services for disabled passengers. “Never being complacent is critical to continue improving our services,” the airline spokesperson said.” We will continue reviewing our policies and procedures in cooperation with disability associations, and our disability network.”


American Airlines took third place with 107,806,578 flown and 100 complaints in 2012 (tot. pass/ dis. comp. ratio 0.000092). "We take our responsibilities very seriously providing the best service that we can for every single one of our highly valued customers,” a spokesperson for American said. “We welcome regular feedback so that we can continue to improve all areas of the customer experience. We put the customer at the centre of everything that we do with regards product developments and customer service evaluation."


Low cost carrier JetBlue Airways came fourth with 28,934,000 passengers flown and 29 disability related complaints in 2012 (tot. pass/ dis. comp. ratio 0.00010022). The airline was unavailable for comments.


United Airlines placed 5th with 140,441,000 passengers flown and 144 disabled passengers’ complaints in 2012 (tot. pass/ dis. comp. ratio 0.0001025). 2012 Disability related complaints surged to 144 from 49 in 2011 and 46 in 2010. United merged with Continental Airlines in 2011, a factor that may have negatively impacted its 2012 performance of supporting passengers with disabilities.


The analysis of United’ month by month data shows a significant decline of disability related

complaints in the last quarter of 2012. “United maintains strong relationships with numerous disability organisations throughout the United States,” a spokesperson for the airline said. “In addition, we established several years ago a Customers with Disabilities Advisory Board made up of individuals representing several disabilities.  The board meets regularly to discuss issues pertaining to air travel and accessibility and offers suggestions and advice to improve our service.”


US Airways took sixth place. The airline, currently merging with American Airlines, carried 62,524,816 passengers and received 70 disability related complaints in 2012 (tot. pass/ dis. comp. ratio 0.00011). The carrier was unavailable for comments.


Unlike the American public, European citizens do not have the privilege to access information such as the DoT’s Air Travel Consumer Report. In the EU, data is currently available to the public in selected member states only. However, existing reports do not match the quality and quantity of information the US Department of Transportation provides to the public.


The Air Travel Consumer Report also lists complaints filed against foreign airlines operating flights from and to America. In 2012, the following European airlines received complaints from passengers with disabilities concerning their flights from and to the United States: Air France (9), Lufthansa (9), British Airways (7), Iberia (3), Virgin Atlantic Airways (2), Turkish Airlines (2), Alitalia (2), Aer Lingus (2). 


Do you require assistance when traveling by air? Have you recently flown with an American carrier or a foreign carrier on a US bound flight? Click here to share your travel experience with us.



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