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Airlines fined for lax services to the disabled


American Airlines has been ordered by the Department of Transportation to pay a $25,000 penalty because of complaints that the airline failed to provide prompt help with wheelchairs to passengers who had requested them.

It was the second such fine against an airline on issues involving handicapped passengers. In December, Continental was fined $6,000 because it lacked a system for quickly identifying which seats had movable armrests, which make it easier for handicapped passengers to slide to their seats. The airline has since computerized this information.

The Air Carrier Access Act obligates the nation's airlines to ensure that handicapped passengers receive reasonable access to air transportation. American is able to use up to $15,000 of the penalty to buy new wheelchairs; it has bought more than 100 thus far.

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