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Changed Hours of Operation for the Department's Toll-Free Hotline for Air Travelers with Disabilities

Aug 31, 2006
On August 5, 2002, my office, the Office of the Assistant General Counsel for Aviation Enforcement and Proceedings (Enforcement Office), established a toll-free telephone number primarily to respond to inquiries from individuals with disabilities experiencing real-time disability-related difficulties during air travel. However, despite significant steps taken by my office to publicize the existence of the hotline, which is currently staffed by contractor employees from 7:00 am to 11:00 pm local time in Washington, D.C., seven days a week, the usage level for the hotline remains low (i.e., approximately 2 calls a day). Very few of the calls received involve time-sensitive complaints that need to be resolved in “real time”, and the hotline has cost more than $1400 per call to operate. We believe that the hotline is not providing sufficient benefits to passengers with disabilities to warrant its current costs. As a result, effective October 1, 2006, we will be cutting back the hotline hours and bringing the function of answering the hotline calls in-house to our Aviation Consumer Protection Division.

The hotline’s new hours of operation will be limited to the office hours for the Aviation Consumer Protection Division, Monday through Friday from 7:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., except holidays. The vast majority of the hotline calls are currently received during this time period. Further, calls outside those hours (i.e., evenings, weekends and holidays) will be recorded and answered when the office reopens the next business day.

The Enforcement Office continues to be committed to improving the quality of air transportation for people with disabilities but believes that a reduction in the hours of operation for the Department of Transportation's aviation consumer disability toll-free hotline is in the public interest. The reduced costs of operating the hotline should be beneficial to the office in maintaining its other disability-related compliance, enforcement and outreach efforts. We will continue to monitor use of the hotline and if we see increased use or more “real-time” complaints, we may make further adjustments. We ask that you disseminate information about the existence of our aviation consumer disability toll-free hotline and its new hours of operation. The toll free number for our hotline remains 1-800-778-4838 (voice) or 1-800-455-9880 (TTY). Thank you, in advance, for your assistance.

Samuel Podberesky
Assistant General Counsel for Aviation Enforcement & Proceedings
Office of the General Counsel (C-70)
Department of Transportation
400 7th St., S.W.
Washington, D.C. 20590
telephone: (202) 366-9342
fax: (202) 366-7152