Deep in Disability Denial: Delta Flunks "Charm School"

Delta Airlines (N394DL), Boeing 767 Spotting i...

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On February 17, 2011 Delta Airlines received a hefty $2.5 million fine for "egregious" and repeated discrimination against travelers with disabilities. 

Specifically Delta violated the Air Carrier Access Act (14 CFR Part 382) related to boarding, disembarking, making connections, and reporting. 

Following the crisis management playbook Delta negotiated a series of offsets - basically agreeing to create some of the infrastructure necessary to treat travelrs with disabiities as customers rather than as a risk to be managed - in exchange for cash payment of the fine. They arranged to have a vendor simultaneously issue a "character reference" press release, published a statement by a non C-level executive, and sat out the 48-hour news cycle for the story. Mainstream media obliged by fundamentally reprinting Delta's press release. 

Individual bloggers with disabilities and organizations promoting inclusion in tourism made up the bulk of the reporting and analysis. Businesses who understand people with disabilities to be their market provided further analysis of the situation. 

Bill Forrester summarizes the situation in an article entitled "Will Accessibility Fines Spell Sunset for Some Airlines?"  here is how is article begins:

There has been some debate about whether the new fines being levied on the airline industry for breaches of accessibility legislation, as a result of the record fine imposed on Delta, has the potential to put an already financially stressed industry out of business. Discount airlines in Australia have been using the same argument for some time. I think there needs to be some context put around the fines and its potential affects on the industry.

The Context

Every business operates in an environment and a set of rules set by the community. Those rules embody the values and expectations of society and change over time. The current set of rules relating to accessibility are just one of a raft of rules affecting the aviation industry that include aircraft safety, workplace safety, noise regulations, environment restrictions etc. Every business has to structure its operations to remain profitable in the particular environment in which it operates. Those rules are the same for all players as they have to be to maintain a level playing field.

Industry Structure and Compliance

It has also been said that the financial margins of the industry are low and that it cannot absorb large financial penalties. Let's be very clear on something...

For the full story:

http://travability.travel/blogs/access_fines.html


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