Many disabled and reduced mobility air travellers still face problems of unjustified refusals, and other unfair demands when attempting to travel. As thousands of disabled Paralympians and spectators prepare to travel to London for the 2012 Olympic Games, the European Commission has published guidelines to clarify their rights when travelling by air.
Commission Vice-President Siim Kallas responsible for Transport, said: “Dealing with disability in life is a tough enough challenge: things shouldn’t get even tougher when you arrive at the airport.”
The guidelines cover travellers at all EU airports and the operations of EU carriers anywhere in the world. They also cover non-EU carriers within or leaving Europe. The aim is to clarify existing EU rules on passenger rights for disabled people and people with reduced mobility travelling by air. The key concerns are:
1. Pre-notification: The guidelines highlight the importance of pre-notification. In order to allow service providers (airports or airlines) to arrange the required assistance, it is essential that disabled persons and persons with reduced mobility notify their needs at least 48 hours before the published time of departure.
2. Unjustified Refusals: Passengers report recurring problems with refusals and inconsistent requirements for medical certificates and for passengers to be accompanied. The guidelines clarify that medical certificates should, as a norm, not be required for those with a stable condition – for example blind people or those confined to wheelchairs. The guidelines also clarify that if you are self-reliant, the norm is that you should not be required to be accompanied, except where there are specific safety requirements of which you should be advised.
3. Problems with medical and mobility equipment: The guidelines underline that disabled passengers and passengers with reduced mobility are allowed to have two pieces of mobility equipment transported for free. A passenger using an electric wheelchair is obliged to notify the carrier at least 48 hours in advance.
The guidelines further underline that recognised guide and assistance dogs shall travel within the cabin subject to appropriate prior notice. Passengers needing to travel with oxygen must pre-notify in advance. The guidelines clarify that it is for the airline to determine whether passengers can bring their own oxygen and there is no requirement on an airline to provide oxygen. However, this information must be made clearly available by the airline.
Commenting on the new guidelines, Vice President Siim Kallas said: “My message to disabled passengers is: If you want an easier journey, tell them in advance that you are coming. To the airlines and airport operators I would say: Disabled and reduced mobility passengers will usually need your assistance. These guidelines are there to help you, in helping them.”