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New EU Ruling Favors Disabled Airline Passengers

Disabled airline passengers and those with reduced mobility had their rights formally regulated last month after a EU proposal. According to the ruling, the responsibility for the care of disabled passengers will now be vested not with the airlines but with the airports who are expected to pass the cost, reckoned by the European Commission to be 0.60 euro per passenger overall, back to the airlines as part of the handling charge. Today, airlines charge as much as 5.22 euros.

Under the new regulation, airport staff should be able to move disabled people from a designated point to the check-in counter and enable them to check-in and register their baggage, proceed from the check-in counter to the aircraft and board the aircraft, with provision of lifts, wheelchairs or any other assistance needed.

Also, when people with reduced mobility are assisted by an accompanying person, this person must, if a request is made, be allowed to provide assistance in the airport with embarking and disembarking. There are loopholes in the rules (which will be gradually introduced over a two year window), including 48 hours’ warning by disabled passengers, which is not compulsory. Air bridges makes life easier for both passengers and airport/airline staff and it may be that their use could be insisted on where the airport has the facility, but this is for the future and needs careful consideration.

The EU committee said that in order for the legislation to work it would require give and take by both airports and airlines. The committee was voting at first reading on a draft regulation by the European Commission on the right of passengers with reduced mobility traveling by air.  Members felt that the Commission proposals should cover not only individuals with reduced mobility but also certain other categories of passengers who do not necessarily have limited mobility but who can nevertheless encounter difficulties when traveling via airports.

In adopting the report by Robert Evans, by 33 votes to 4 with 11 abstentions, parliament members approved compromise amendments on the responsibilities of the managing body of airports when such passengers arrive for onward travel by air, on their check-in conditions and on the training of air carriers’ and airport managing bodies’ staff in how to provide direct assistance.

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