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Disabilities: know your rights when travelling by plane

Posted 03/12/16

December 3 is the International Day of Persons with Disabilities. Consumer advice organisation the UK European Consumer Centre (as part of the European Consumer Centres Network - ECC-Net) is drawing attention to the rights and problems of air passengers with disabilities or reduced mobility.

Andy Allen, UK ECC service director, said: "Even though European law ensures substantial consumer rights, people with disabilities or reduced mobility can still face serious problems when travelling by air."

In 2016, the ECC-Net received several information requests and complaints:

  • An elderly Dutch woman was supposed to fly from Amsterdam to Sofia. She got assistance when arriving at the airport, because she was not able to walk long distances. However, an employee took her to the wrong gate. As a result she missed the flight.
  • A British air passenger suffering from Crohn’s Disease wasn’t allowed to board a flight as the airline claimed she appeared drunk.
  • An Austrian consumer booked a flight from Vienna to Paris. He needs a dialysis machine which is vital for him, but too big to carry as hand luggage. The airline denied offering this transportation of medical equipment free of extra charges.

According to EU Regulation No. 1107/2006 on the rights of disabled persons and persons with reduced mobility, consumers are entitled to check in medical equipment free of extra charges. Airlines also have to offer to transport assistance dogs or mobility aids such as wheelchair, most of the time free of charge.

Assistance given at airports should enable persons with disabilities to proceed from a designated point of arrival to an aircraft and from the aircraft to a designated point of departure, including embarking and disembarking. For example, after the flight passengers with reduced mobility shall be provided assistance to reach their connecting flight, a bus or a taxi. If necessary, they shall also be assisted with their luggage.

Andy added: "If help is required, there is an obligation on air passengers with reduced mobility to inform the airline or the tour operator about their need of assistance at least 48 hours in advance before takeoff. If the airport does not provide the assistance required, consumers should contact the airport directly. The airline is responsible for problems associated with the flight, the luggage or the check-in of mobility aids."

The regulation applies to all airports and air carriers with a registered office in the European Union, Iceland and Norway. The ECC-Net offers free assistance and advice to air passengers with disabilities in cross-border disputes who have already contacted the air carrier unsuccessfully.

If you are a UK consumer and find yourself in dispute with an EU trader, then please contact the UK European Consumer Centre for advice on 01268 88660 - weekdays between 9am and 5pm.


Notes to Editors

For further information, please contact UK European Consumer Centre’s press office on 01268 582206.

The UK European Consumer Centre is part of the European Consumer Centre Network (ECC-Net). There are 30 centres in the EU, plus Iceland and Norway. The aim of the network is to provide advice and support to consumers who have a dispute with a trader based in a European country outside the UK. The Network will assist consumers in the attempt to resolve the complaint.

UK ECC can provide advice in the following main areas: buying goods and services, online shopping, internet auctions, holidays, timeshare and holiday clubs, air travel.

UK ECC is co-funded by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS), and the European Commission. The UK ECC service is delivered by the Chartered Trading Standards Institute http://www.tradingstandards.uk/

  • Consumers can make contact with the UK European Consumer Centre via the website – www.ukecc.net – or by phone on 01268 886690 weekdays between 9am and 5pm.
  • If in doubt before you buy, contact our sister organisation – the European Consumer Centre for Services – for  pre-purchasing advice: www.ukecc-services.net

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