The DOT is reviewing Minneapolis airport Delta Airlines wheelchair workers report highlighting problems with assistance to passengers with disabilities at MSP.
The "Able, But Not Willing" report published by Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 26 highlights a number of problems passengers with disabilities traveling on Delta Airlines face at Minneapolis International airport.
The report mentions a Delta representative statement made at a meeting of the Metropolitan Airports Commission (MAC) on May 19. According to the statement, an airline internal audit of ten largest Delta airports around the US Minneapolis consistently scores number nine or ten in quality of service for passengers with disabilities.
"We look forward to studying this report in order to identify opportunities to further improve the air travel environment for passengers with disabilities," a DOT spokesperson told Reduced Mobility Rights on Wednesday.
At the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport, where 75 percent of arriving or departing ﬂights are operated by Delta, the airline contracts with Air Serv to provide the wheelchair and electric cart service to passengers.
Air Serv employs 8,000 people and provides services at airports throughout the United States and United Kingdom. In the UK Air Serv is known as OmniServ, the company providing wheelchair assistance at London Heathrow airport.
“I’ve seen that because of under-staffing, we often have to prioritize passengers with connecting ﬂights over those who MSP is their ﬁnal destination," a wheelchair worker said. "This means that some passengers are getting left for long periods, or waiting in the chairs because they are being transferred. I’ve seen passengers who waited for 30 minutes or more to get taken to baggage claim. I think it’s unfair to disabled passengers.”
Air Serv electric carts drivers have addressed the Metropolitan Airports Commission about having to provide aisle chair service without having received the proper training. “Many of the new workers are getting their training from other workers on the job and it takes them a lot longer when doing aisle chair service," One wheelchair attendant said. "Improper training can lead to injuries for both the passenger and worker.”
A Survey of over 100 wheelchair attendants and cart drivers at the Minneapolis International Airport conducted by SEIU Local 26 in 2013 found Air Serv does not provide any paid time oﬀ, such as sick days or vacation, to its employees at MSP. "Two-thirds of surveyed wheelchair agents and cart drivers at MSP reported having come to work sick because they don’t have paid sick days."
The Delta wheelchair assistance contractor declined to comment. "At Air Serv, we have implemented tracking of initial and recurrent employee training," the Air Serv Website says. "Periodically, our employees are tested to measure the retention of their training."
Air Serv 110% Club recognizes all employees who go above and beyond the call of duty. Employees earning the most points at each company location are recognized at the end of the year at a gala luncheon or dinner, and are awarded a certificate and a uniform lapel pin recognizing their achievement.
“We have the responsibility to take a look at it and encourage the people that have the responsibility to step forward and do something about it, if it is a problem,” Dan Boivin, the Metropolitan Airports Commission chairman, said.
"I hope the Metropolitan Airports Commission and Delta take these concerns seriously. I am ready to support my colleagues as we move through legislative channels to make sure our airport is truly a world-class facility for everyone," State Sen. Patricia Torres Ray (DFL) said.
Thirteen people were arrested outside Minneapolis Airport on Monday for staging a protest for better services for passengers with disabilities. Over 100 workers, disability advocates and union members gathered outside MSP Terminal 1 calling for better training and higher wages. All the arrested were charged with unlawful assembly and released.
“We are deeply concerned with what we are learning about the conditions for passengers with disabilities and the workers that serve them at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport. We are actively looking into these deficiencies and will work to ensure our airport is safe, efficient and hospitable for everyone," Transportation Committee chairs, Rep. Frank Hornstein (DFL) and Sen. Scott Dibble (DFL), said in a joint statement following the arrests.
The Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA) requires air carriers to provide adequate training to all public facing personnel and maintain training records.
"The Department of Transportation’s rule on non-discrimination on the basis of disability in air travel requires U.S. and foreign airlines to train their public-contact employees and contractors concerning requirements of the rule," the DOT spokesperson said. "The Department has been active in enforcing its air travel disability rule.”
Enforcement action taken by the DOT against carriers regarding disability issues can be found here.