The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) today assessed a civil penalty against Turkish Airlines for not responding in a timely manner to complaints filed by consumers, including passengers with disabilities, and for not adequately responding to the passengers' complaints in its responses. The airline was ordered to cease and desist from further violations and assessed a civil penalty of $300,000.
"When consumers file complaints with airlines, they deserve prompt and complete responses that appropriately answer their specific concerns," said U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx. "We will continue to take enforcement action when the rights of passengers are violated."
The Department's Aviation Enforcement Office found that since August 2011, Turkish Airlines failed to provide timely responses to a large number of consumer complaints and several disability-related complaints that the Department's Aviation Consumer Protection Division received directly from consumers and forwarded to the airline. In addition, Turkish Airlines did not assure the Department that it provided substantive responses to the larger amount of complaints that it received directly from consumers.
Under DOT rules, airlines must acknowledge that they received written complaints regarding scheduled service within 30 days of receipt of the complaint and provide a substantive written response to the complaint within 60 days. Airlines are also required to provide a written dispositive response to a written complaint alleging a violation of the Air Carrier Access Act, which provides that no airline may discriminate against any otherwise qualified individual with a disability, within 30 days of receipt of the complaint. To be "dispositive," the response must discuss the complaint at issue, admit or deny whether the airline believes that a violation occurred under the circumstances, summarize the facts that led the airline to its conclusion of whether or not a violation occurred, and advise the complainant of his or her right to refer the matter to the Department for an investigation.