The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) released a statement today that it has fined Virgin America $150,000 for failing to make its in-flight safety video accessible to passengers with hearing impairments. The airline also was ordered to cease and desist from further violations.
“Safety is our number-one priority and that includes ensuring that every airline passenger has access to airline safety briefings,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx. “We will continue to take enforcement action when our disability rules are violated so that all passengers are aware of critical, potentially life-saving information.”
An investigation by DOT’s Aviation Enforcement Office found that since October 2007, when the airline first began scheduled service, Virgin America used its in-flight entertainment system to present the pre-flight safety briefing but failed to ensure that the video was accompanied either by open captioning or an inset for a sign language interpreter. This violated DOT’s rule, which is part of its regulations implementing the Air Carrier Access Act, requiring video safety briefings to be accessible to passengers with hearing impairments.
Although captioning for in-flight safety videos created before Nov. 10, 2009, is not required to be in high contrast, Virgin America has agreed to add high-contrast captioning to its video by Sept. 30, 2013.
The Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA, 49 U.S.C. 41705) prohibits discrimination by U.S. and foreign air carriers on the basis of physical or mental disability. The Department of Transportation, in interpreting and implementing the ACAA, has issued a rule (14 CFR Part 382 “Nondiscrimination on the Basis of Disability in Air Travel“) setting forth the standards of service which air carriers are expected to provide to disabled individuals.