What happens if you book special assistance at airports?
Over the past months there have been a number of complaints filed against airlines for failing disabled travellers, from leaving them on the plane to breaking their wheelchairs during flights.
But is there a current law protecting people with reduced mobility and if so how are they covered?
Under the Regulation 1107/2006, a European Union law which came into force in 2006, disabled travellers should have equal entitlement to non disabled travellers.
The EU states: “This applies to air travel as to other areas of life.”
“Assistance to meet their particular needs should be provided at the airport as well as on board aircraft, by employing the necessary staff and equipment.
“In the interests of social inclusion, the persons concerned should receive this assistance without additional charge.”
Of course, the term disability covers a broad spectrum, but to be able the law refers to people with any physical disability (sensory or locomotor, permanent or temporary), intellectual disability or impairment, any other cause of disability or their age.
The Civil Aviation Authority says: “Special assistance is available to passengers who may need help to travel such as the elderly, those people with a physical disability, such as wheelchair users, and those who have difficulty with social interaction and communication, such as those with autism or dementia.”
If you require special assistance you are advised to request the service when you book your flight, airlines usually have a tick-box on their websites. If you book a flight at a travel agent it's best to let them know you would require the service providing all the details.
You need to book special assistance at least 48 hours before your flight.
The service offers help all through your journey with checking in baggage, going through security, passport control and customs, boarding and leaving the aircraft, “with the provision of lifts, wheelchairs or other assistance needed as appropriate”, proceeding from the aircraft, door to the seat and storing cabin baggage reaching connecting gates when in transit accessing the toilet facilities.
You are advised to arrive at least two hours before take off. When you reach the airport, find the special assistance area where you can tell the staff what help you need before boarding. They may accommodate you to the check-in desk where you can have your bags tagged and, if you have one, your wheelchair.
After the bags are tagged a member of staff will escort you through security, unless you have someone who can do this for you.
Once passed security locate the dedicated area so you can register for a second special assistance.
Now all that is sorted you have time to chill, buy duty free and grab some refreshment, though before spending your cash it’s a good idea to introduce yourself to ground staff.
You may not be able to choose your seat on the plane, if you have restricted mobility you won’t be allowed to sit in emergency exit rows as passengers using these areas need to be able to open escape hatches.
You are not entitled to a free flight for your carer, they will have to pay full price for their ticket.
Disabled passengers can only be refused to board flights “for reasons which are justified on the grounds of safety and prescribed by law.
“If the size of the aircraft or its doors makes the embarkation or carriage of that disabled person or person with reduced mobility physically impossible.”
If your wheelchair is damaged during the flight you may be entitled to compensation. The law states: “Where wheelchairs or other mobility equipment or assistive devices are lost or damaged during handling at the airport or during transport on board aircraft, the passenger to whom the equipment belongs should be compensated.” But you can only claim up to the sum of around £1,150.
Oh, and you are permitted to bring an assistance dog on flights.
[ For information on booking a holiday if you have a disability read our Summer Holiday article ]