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Airline discrimination fined by DOT
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Sept. 11, 2001 -- On Friday, the U.S. Dept. of Transportation said it was fining Northwest Airlines $3 million for violations under the Air Carrier Access Act. The story was carried in major news outlets, including U.S.A. Today (, which reported that the $3 million "is the largest penalty ever sought by the government for alleged violations of passengers' legal rights.

"The action comes 2 years after major airlines, including Northwest, pledged to improve treatment of disabled passengers as part of a broader ''Customers First'' campaign," reported USA Today.

DOT announced the fines after an internal investigation, which found -- instances of lengthy delays in obtaining wheelchairs -- passengers being stranded aboard aircraft for extended periods -- passengers being left at the wrong gate, resulting sometimes in the passenger missing his or her flight.

"Northwest also failed to comply with the requirement for providing a proper written response to the complainant," said DOT. DOT's news release at provides a link to the official complaint document.

This isn't the first time Northwest has been accused of discriminating against people with disabilities. Last spring, the EEOC sued Northwest for its "'zero acceptability' policy that prohibits people with insulin-dependent diabetes from being hired as cleaners and baggage handlers." EEOC said he same policy applied to people with epilepsy requiring anti-seizure medication.

Nondiscrimination in travel for people with disabilities is mandated under the Air Carrier Access Act. In February, 1999 the National Council on Disability issued a report that sharply criticized DOT for lax enforcement of the law. Read the report (warning: it's long!) online at

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