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Air passenger rights for disabled people

Air passenger rights for disabled people

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Disabled passengers and people with mobility difficulties have been subject to discrimination, careless or unjustifiable treatment at airports and by airlines for many years. Common problems include being denied entry because of a disability or having your wheelchair damaged and unusable at your destination. A growing number of elderly people, as well as the availability of low-cost air travel in many areas of the globe, has resulted in a greater number of disabled and older people wanting to travel by plane. Both these factors have made it more difficult for governments, as well as air carriers, tour operators, and travel agents, to provide better and reliable services to meet this growing market. It is also important to recognize that disabled passengers have rights that must always be respected. 

First, the Regulation made it illegal for airlines not to carry disabled passengers. It was in effect since July 2007. Only very small aircraft are exempted from this prohibition. This is because it is physically impossible for an airline to accommodate disabled passengers (e.g., because the door is too narrow to allow a wheelchair to pass through or for passengers to be lifted onto the plane) or on the grounds of legally binding safety regulations. A "recognized" assistance animal must be accepted on board. This is subject to prior notice. A disabled passenger may be required to accompany someone who can assist. The airlines are encouraged, but not required, to offer a discount fare to the accompanying person. 3.1.3 Airport management bodies are responsible for providing services and facilities for disabled passengers. This second section of the Regulation puts the responsibility on airports to ensure that they meet their needs from their point of arrival to their seats on the aircraft, as well as during transit through airports. The Regulation outlines minimum requirements for assistance. In cooperation with airlines and organizations representing disabled persons, the managing body of airports that handle more than 150,000 passengers per year must establish minimum standards for quality. The services can be provided by airports or contracted out to other bodies, such as airlines. Although the Regulation doesn't set quality standards, it does refer to the European Civil Aviation Conference's guidance. This includes information about best practices in areas such as ground handling for disabled passengers and staff training on disability awareness. 

Services are not charged to disabled passengers. Airport management bodies recover the cost of services by charging airlines a proportionate amount of passengers they transport to and from the airport. The Regulation outlines the types of assistance that disabled passengers must receive. These facilities include the ability for disabled passengers to notify the airport of their arrival and request assistance at designated points inside and outside the terminal building (e.g. a call button). The location and layout of each airport will determine the designated points of arrival, but they should include both car parks and taxi ranks as well as bus and train terminals. The most important thing is that the airport's disabled users should be consulted when deciding on designated points. A disabled passenger must be assisted by the airport to get through check-in, security screenings lost and found, and access to duty-free and restaurant outlets. Access to toilet facilities for disabled passengers is an essential requirement. All passenger information must be accessible. These same requirements apply to connecting flights. 

Airlines also have obligations. The airlines have to seat disabled passengers in the most comfortable position on board. However, they must adhere to safety regulations, such as those for exit rows. They must assist passengers in moving to and from the toilet on board, but not in the toilet. Additionally, they can carry two pieces of mobility equipment (such as a wheelchair) provided there is enough space. 

Passengers have rights as well as obligations. They must know what to do before they travel to ensure that they receive the help they need. 

Anybody who requires assistance must inform the airline or agent they booked at least 48 hours before the flight departs. They are still expected to give their best effort if they fail to do so. It is important to give advance notice to ensure that you get the support you need. 

 

The US Rule states that airlines cannot refuse to transport people with disabilities. They cannot refuse to carry a passenger if they are unable to do so for safety reasons. They can't require advance notice that someone with a disability is traveling. There are two exceptions to this rule: someone who needs to transport an electric wheelchair on a small plane or with respiratory equipment. They may need to be notified 48 hours in advance. Airlines cannot restrict the number of people with disabilities allowed onboard a flight. Airlines cannot require that a person with disabilities travel with another person. This is except for limited situations where the rule allows the airline to request a safety assistant. The airline cannot charge travel fees for passengers with disabilities if they disagree with the necessity of a safety assistant. They can't refuse a disabled passenger a seat due to disability or demand that anyone sit in a certain seat because of disability unless they meet safety requirements. This is excerpted from the restriction that exit row seats cannot be occupied by anyone who can assist with evacuation. Assistance is required by airlines when boarding, disembarking, or making connections. It is also necessary to assist within the cabin. Mobility equipment and folding wheelchairs must be stored in the cabin first, after other items. The airline must accept batteries-powered wheelchairs and batteries. A service animal must be accepted on board by the airline (currently, only dogs are allowed for US carriers). Passengers do not need to show proof of training from a recognized body. Without prior notice, passengers may travel with self-trained animals or emotional support. 

While the US and European legislation share the goal to improve the quality and consistency in air travel for people with disabilities, their approaches are very different. This can lead to major problems for both disabled travelers and air carriers. Now, the key question is how to make both sets work for disabled people without putting pressure on air carriers or other stakeholders. 

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