I am disabled. What are my rights as an air traveller?

A disabled person or a person with reduced mobility shares the same rights as any other air traveller in respect of delays, lost and damaged luggage.

However, they have additional rights conferred upon them by The Civil Aviation (Access to Air Travel for Disabled Persons and Persons with Reduced Mobility) Regulations 2007, which implemented the provisions of Regulation (EC) No. 1107/2006 of the European Parliament and the Council of the European Union. 

The purpose of the regulations is to ensure that disabled persons and persons with reduced mobility have the same opportunities for air travel as that of other persons and are not discriminated against. The regulations apply to travel between Member States of the European Union and from non-Member States where the airline’s business is situated in the European Union.

Can I be refused transport on the grounds of my disability or reduced mobility?

The regulations provide that disabled persons or persons with reduced mobility should not be refused transport by reason of their disability or reduced mobility unless there are justifiable safety reasons for doing so. The decision as to whether there are justifiable safety reasons should be made at the time when the booking is made. It is, therefore, important that a disabled person or person with reduced mobility makes their needs known at the time of the booking. 

It is justifiable to refuse a booking if such a refusal is necessary in order to meet the safety requirements established by law or in order to meet the safety requirements set out by the authority that issued the air operator’s certificated to the airline in question.

It is also justifiable to refuse a booking if the size of the plane or its doors means that it is physically impossible for the disabled person or person with reduced mobility to get onto the plane. 

If a booking is refused for one of these reasons, the airline, agent or tour operator is required to take reasonable steps to find an acceptable alternative.

If a disabled person or a person with reduced mobility is denied boarding on the grounds of disability or reduced mobility then an offer of reimbursement or re-routing should be made to the disabled person or person with reduced mobility and any person accompanying them. 

For safety reasons an airline may require that a disabled person or person with reduced mobility be accompanied by another person who is capable of providing the assistance which is needed.

Will I be able to take medical equipment and mobility equipment with me?

The regulations provide that in addition to medical equipment a disabled person or person with reduced mobility should be allowed to take with them up to 2 pieces of mobility equipment, including electric wheelchairs. However, this is subject to 48 hours notice being given to the airline and is subject to the amount of space on board the plane.

What are my rights at the airport?

The regulations require that the particular needs of disabled persons and persons with reduced mobility be provided for at the airport as well as on board the plane. An airport is expected to employ the necessary staff and equipment to ensure that the passenger’s needs are met. 

A disabled person or person with reduced mobility should be able to get from a designated point of arrival at an airport to the plane and then upon arrival, from the plane to a designated point of departure and without interruption or delay.

Arrangements should be in place enabling the disabled person or person with reduced mobility to be able to communicate their arrival at the airport.  They should then be assisted with check-in and assisted from the check-in counter to the plane. Assistance should be provided to enable the person to board the plane. After the plane has landed they should be assisted from their seat and out of the plane, assisted in the collection of baggage and to connecting flights where appropriate. If required they should be assisted to toilet facilities. 

If mobility equipment is damaged or lost temporary replacement is required.

What about on the plane?

The regulations provide that a disabled person or person with reduced mobility should be helped to their seats and that reasonable efforts must be taken by the airline to ensure that the seating meets the needs of the individual concerned. The disabled person or person with reduced mobility should also be assisted with the storage and retrieval of baggage on the plane and assistance in moving to toilet facilities should be provided if required.  

If an assistance dog is to accompany the disabled person or person with reduced mobility then the dog should be allowed to travel in the cabin of the plane unless it is unsafe to do so. In common with any other dog an assistance dog travelling to or from the UK will have to comply with the requirements of the Pet Travel Scheme.  

If a disabled person or person with reduced mobility is accompanied by another person the airline is required to make reasonable efforts to ensure that they are able to sit next to each other.

Can I be charged a supplement to cover the cost of an airport or airline providing me with the facilities or assistance I need?

The regulations state that the needs of a disabled person or a person with reduced mobility should be provided without additional charge.

Provision of information

The regulations require that all essential information provided to air passengers should be provided in alternative formats which are accessible to disabled persons and persons with reduced mobility.

What if the airport operator or airline fails to comply with the regulations?

If an airport operator or airline fails to comply with their obligations under the regulations the disabled person or person with reduced mobility should bring the matter to the attention of the airport operator or airline. If the matter is not resolved satisfactorily by the airport operator or airline then a complaint can be made to The Civil Aviation Authority. A claim for infringement of the disabled person or person with reduced mobility’s rights may be brought in the County Court. The County Court has the power to award compensation, including compensation for injury to feelings. Any court proceedings should be brought within 6 months of the date from when the infringement occurred.