New rights to give disabled travelers a better journey


LONDON – Transport Minister Rosie Winterton, the Equality and Human Rights Commission and the Civil Aviation Authority were at London City Airport today to outline measures coming into force this month giving up to 15 million disabled people and those with limited mobility new rights when traveling through airports in Europe.

Beginning July 26, 2008, a new European regulation on air travel will mean
airports will have to provide services that enable disabled passengers to
board, disembark and transit between flights. The rights will also apply to
people with reduced mobility, such as someone with a broken leg, and will
give a right to assistance once on the plane.

This is the second stage of measures designed to protect disabled passengers
when traveling by air and creating a consistent standard across Europe. Last
year it became illegal for airlines, travel agents or tour operators to
refuse a booking on the grounds of disability or to refuse to board a disabled
person who has a valid ticket and reservation, except for safety reasons.

The Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) has a responsibility to promote
the new regulation to the public and any person who feels that there has been
a breach of the law has the right to complain to them. The Commission will
handle and monitor complaints and offer conciliation where appropriate. It can
support people to take civil action and could refer the matter to the Civil
Aviation Authority who will have the power to prosecute. If guilty, an airport
operator, airline, travel agent or tour operator could face an unlimited fine.

Rosie Winterton said, “This is a major step in ensuring that disabled people and those with reduced mobility have the same access to the standards and services that every one expects when they fly. We expect all airlines and airports to maintain these high standards and for strong action to be taken against anyone repeatedly breaking the regulations across Europe.”

Baroness Jane Campbell, chair of the EHRC Disability Committee, said, “Airports have told us this will be the biggest ever single shake-up
in customer service, and we believe this new regulation will bring real
improvements for disabled people and those with reduced mobility. It should also be very good for business. Disabled people alone have a spending power of some £80 billion, and people who previously dare not risk flying for fear of problems, can now confidently give it a try.”

“The Commission has considerable powers to ensure that the air travel industry
meets its obligations, and we shall be monitoring complaints carefully and
ensuring these are used to improve services,” Campbell concluded.

Richard Jackson, group director of Consumer Protection at the Civil Aviation
Authority, said, “The new regulations will bring significant benefits to disabled travelers and those with reduced mobility. We have worked closely with UK airlines, airports and tour operators to ensure that they are fully familiar with the new rules.”