Skip to content
Subscriber Only

Airlines Duck Fines for Busting Wheelchairs (Corrected)

  • Congress increased maximum fine for mishandling wheelchairs
  • FAA last fined an airline for damaged mobility devices in 2016
Photographer: Alexander Schulz/EyeEm via Getty Images

Wheelchair users have complained for years about airlines breaking their devices, prompting Congress last year to triple the fine regulators could assess for damaging a mobility aid to about $100,000. They also forced airlines to publicly report how many devices they mishandled.

A year later, the Department of Transportation hasn’t issued a single enforcement action using its enhanced powers, even though airlines are, on average, losing or damaging about 1,000 wheelchairs and scooters a month. Several airlines, including Southwest Airlines Co. and American Airlines Group Inc., incorrectly reported their statistics for parts of the year, complicating the DOT’s task. However, the agency said the bad data didn’t impact its oversight of the airlines.