Disabled persons have right to travel without discrimination
By Isabelle Smets | Thursday 14 June 2012
The rights of disabled persons travelling by air are not being sufficiently respected in EU. So says the European Commission, which published guidelines
(1), on 14 June, recapping a few basic rules and explaining the scope of the relevant EU legislation
(2). The guidelines are easy to read as they are presented as 22 Q&As.
Can passengers with reduced mobility be required to present a medical certificate to obtain free assistance? The answer is ‘no’. Must they always be accompanied? The answer is ‘no’ if they are self-reliant. Can they transport their mobility equipment for free? ‘Yes’, a maximum of two pieces of mobility equipment can be transported for free. This and many other questions and answers, and the accompanying explanations can be found in these guidelines.
In a 2011 report on the application of Regulation 1107/2006, the Commission committed to providing these directives before the 2012 Paralympic Games. It has kept its word.
Joachim Gerard, a Belgian member of the Paralympic team who will travel to London, accompanied Commissioner Siim Kallas (transport) at the presentation to the press. In his mind, while there has been a real improvement over the last few years, he still encounters problems in around 20% of his trips. “When you’re taking the plane, you never really know what is going to happen.” And everything is possible: being asked to pay a supplement for transporting equipment or simply being turned down at the gate for not being accompanied.
Kallas considers that one of the main problems lies in the limited percentage (around 40%) of pre-notification of assistance needs before travelling. And yet, the Commission stresses, this “is of crucial importance to allow service providers to prepare the required assistance”. In its guidelines, the Commission specifies that while service providers must make reasonable efforts to also help passengers who have not notified their needs in advance, they can, however, prioritise those passengers who have taken the time to do so.
Regulation 1107/2006 has been in force since July 2008. It prohibits airlines from refusing reservation or boarding to a person because of his or her disability, except for duly justified security reasons. The regulation guarantees disabled persons the right to free assistance in airports (at departure, arrival and in transit) and on board aeroplanes (for example, transporting wheelchairs or guide dogs for blind people).(1) The document is available at
www.europolitics.info > Search = 316350
(2) Regulation 1107/2006 on passenger rights for disabled people and people with reduced mobility travelling by air