WASHINGTON – The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) announced today that it has reached agreements with Alaska Airlines/Virgin America and Spirit Airlines to expand greatly the availability of airport kiosks that will be accessible to individuals with disabilities. DOT also reached an agreement with All Nippon Airways (ANA) to make the airline’s mobile website accessible for individuals with disabilities.
“The Department is committed to making transportation more accessible for everyone,” said Secretary Elaine L. Chao. “These agreements will ensure greater accessibility and improve the flying experience for individuals with disabilities.”
Under DOT rules, airlines are required to ensure that any automated kiosk they install after December 12, 2016 at U.S. airports with annual enplanements of 10,000 or more is an accessible model, until at least 25 percent of the kiosks in each airport location are accessible. DOT mandates that 25 percent of kiosks must be accessible by December 12, 2023. Airlines are also required to ensure that their websites are accessible, but there is no requirement for airlines to ensure that their mobile websites are accessible.
Alaska Airlines/Virgin America, Spirit Airlines, and ANA self-reported their temporary inability to comply with these rules and offered to instead adopt measures providing greater accessibility to individuals with disabilities than required under DOT rules. The Department reached agreement with these airlines to not take enforcement action against them for their temporary noncompliance with the Department’s kiosk/website rules in return for the airlines undertaking measures to make air travel more accessible for persons with disabilities.
Under the agreement, Spirit Airlines will make at least 50 percent of its kiosks at U.S. airports accessible by December 31, 2017, almost six years before it would be required to do so under DOT rules. Alaska Airlines/Virgin America agreed to ensure that at least 50 percent of its kiosks at U.S. airports are accessible to passengers with disabilities by December 31, 2019. This is significantly more accessible kiosks than required under DOT rules at a much earlier date. In addition, under both agreements, the airlines will install only accessible kiosks in the future, so that ultimately 100 percent of the airlines’ kiosks will be accessible to passengers with disabilities. Kiosks installed at U.S. airports are used for a variety of functions, such as printing boarding passes and baggage tags, scanning passports to check-in, and canceling or rebooking tickets.
The Department’s agreement with ANA specifies that the airline’s mobile site must conform to the World Wide Web Consortium (WC3) Mobile Web Best Practices (MWBP) and that the airline must consult with individuals with disabilities regarding the mobile site’s accessibility and usability no later than November 2018. This agreement will increase access to individuals with disabilities as many individuals use mobile devices even more than traditional computers for web browsing.
DOT is committed to using all tools available to improve the flying experience of individuals with disabilities. Today, in addition to the issuance of these agreements, the Department is posting on its website two interactive guides designed to supplement disability-related trainings that airlines are required to provide to their personnel and contractors under DOT rules. DOT worked closely with disability-rights organizations, airlines and airports to ensure that these guides are of optimal use. The interactive guides and other helpful disability-related information can be found on DOT’s website at: https://www.transportation.gov/airconsumer/disability-training.
The Department also meets regularly with disability rights organizations to better understand the air travel experiences of passengers with disabilities and to provide information to individuals with disabilities about their rights under the Air Carrier Access Act and the Department’s disability regulation. The Department is committed to finding solutions to barriers that may make travel difficult for persons with disabilities including taking enforcement action if appropriate. The most recent enforcement action was in July 2017 against a U.S. airline assessing a $400,000 civil penalty for violating the Department’s oversales and disability rules. Additional information on the Department’s commitment to providing passengers with disabilities with equal access to air transportation can be found at: https://www.transportation.gov/airconsumer/disability.
The agreements are available at www.regulations.gov. The agreement with Alaska Airlines and Virgin America is in docket DOT-OST-2017-0168. The agreement with Spirit Airlines is in docket DOT-OST-2017-0169. The agreement with ANA is in docket DOT-OST-2017-0167.