Press release

Parliament strengthens rights of air passengers with disabilities

Transport - 16-12-2005 - 11:03
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MEPs vote to strengthen rights of air passengers with reduced mobility

Person in wheelchair

The European Parliament adopted a legislative resolution that considerably improves the rights of disabled persons and persons with reduced mobility when travelling by air. They may not be refused transportation on the grounds of their disabilities. Also, they have to be given - without additional charge - the assistance to meet their particular needs at airports, enabling them, e.g. to board the aircraft, proceed from the check-in to the aircraft or reach connecting flights when in transit.

Parliament and Council reached a compromise before the vote, so that the Transport Ministers will approve Parliament's first reading without amendment.  The report was adopted with 506 votes in favour, 6 against with 1 abstention.
During the debate, Parliament's rapporteur, Robert EVANS (PES, UK), said that up to 10 million passengers are assisted at Europe's airports every year. However, "too many people – the elderly or those with disabilities – complain of being neglected or, worse still, maltreated at Europe's airports. Fundamental rights for disabled passengers when travelling by air ought to be something we take for granted." Therefore, people with reduced mobility and disabled passengers "have to enjoy the same rights when travelling by air as you or I, without incurring any additional costs".
The major aspects of the regulation are as follows:
The scope of the regulation has been broadened: it applies not only to persons with reduced mobility, but also to disabled persons.  That means individuals who are, inter alia, blind, partially sighted, deaf, hard of hearing, or who have an intellectual disability are explicitly included.
Disabled persons and persons with reduced mobility may not be refused transport on the grounds of their disability or lack of mobility.  They also have the right to receive the necessary assistance they need in order to use air transport.  This assistance must be given free of charge and must enable them to, for example, check-in and register baggage, to board the aircraft, with the provision of lifts, wheelchairs or other assistance needed, to disembark from the aircraft, to move to the toilet facilities if required or to handle all necessary mobility equipment, such as electric wheelchairs, subject to advance warning of 48 hours.
However, the need for assistance must be notified to the air carrier, its agent or the tour operator concerned 48 hours before the time of departure.  This notification also covers the return flight.
The regulation applies to airports whose annual traffic is higher than 150 000 commercial passenger movements.  At those airports, points of arrival and departure, both inside and outside terminal buildings, have to be designated at which disabled persons or persons with reduced mobility can, with facility, announce their arrival at the airport and request assistance.
The managing body of an airport is responsible for ensuring that the necessary assistance is provided. It can provide such assistance itself or may contract with one or more other parties. When entering into such a contract the managing body is "taking into account the existing services at the airport concerned".  Initially, the Commission wanted the airports to be solely responsible.  Many airlines, however, strongly criticised this, because they provide high quality services for disabled persons and persons with reduced mobility and wanted to keep on offering this service. The compromise between Parliament and Council gives the main responsibility to the airport whilst giving airlines the possibility to provide their service.
For the purpose of funding this assistance, a specific charge is levied on the air carriers using the airport. This charge will be shared among the air carriers using the airport in proportion to the total number of all passengers that each carries to and from that airport.
The right to transportation can be refused in order to meet applicable safety requirements or if the size of the aircraft or its doors makes the embarkation or carriage physically impossible.  In the event of refusal on these grounds acceptable alternative must be proposed to the person in question.  A disabled person or a person with reduced mobility who has been refused to embark on the ground of his/her disability or reduced mobility he/she must be offered the right to reimbursement or re-routing.
This Regulation will enter into force on 20 days following the date of publication in the Official Journal.  It shall apply from beginning of 2008. Articles 3 (Prevention of refusal of carriage) and 4 (Derogations, special conditions and information), however, will apply one year following the date of publication in the Official Journal.
REF.: 20051216IPR03827