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New Air Travel Regulations for Those with Special Needs

The Association of European Airlines reacted with disappointment last month to the vote in the European Parliament on legislation affecting persons with reduced mobility traveling by air, which would have a direct impact on the services that airlines currently provide for their passengers.

“By putting the responsibility for caring for passengers with special needs in the hands of the airports, the EU authorities disregard the experience, investments in personnel and equipment made by airlines.

“The regulation would create a charging and service monopoly which would benefit neither the airlines nor their customers,” said AEA Secretary General Ulrich Schulte-Strathaus.  “Specialized, dedicated services currently provided by airlines to this highly-valued segment of the airline’s customer base will be put at risk if the airlines are obliged to subscribe to an airport-run service over which they have no control.”

Instead of setting high service level standards for airlines and airports, the EU proposal denies airlines a voice and a role in serving their own passengers. The AEA regrets that the Commission has not undertaken an impact assessment based on the Better Regulation guideline, looking at the consequences of creating a monopoly system and placing a third party between the airline and the passenger leading to greater complexity and potential for service failures.

The AEA points out that regulators have not assessed the impact on the number of airline staff redundancies, the high risk of abuse of a monopoly system, and remedies available to airlines in case of under-performing monopoly services, as well as the impact on passengers at large hub airports with complex passenger operations that need to be firmly integrated into the airline’s existing service chain.

Nevertheless, the AEA praised those parts of the proposed legislation that firmly establish the rights of reduced-mobility travelers and guarantee that such passengers are not directly charged for the assistance they receive. “In protecting against discrimination, and harmonizing the rules across the EU, the lawmakers have taken a positive step”, said Mr. Schulte-Strathaus.

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