The rights of air passengers who either have a disability or reduced mobility are at the heart of two new sets of CAA legal powers.
Under EU regulations passengers with a disability and people with reduced mobility (PRM) are legally entitled to special assistance when travelling by air. This may include help when travelling through an airport, boarding or disembarking an aircraft and help during a flight.
Since August this year, the CAA has been using its information duties, introduced as part of the Civil Aviation Act 2012, to work with major airlines and airports to improve the quality of ‘special assistance’ information available on their websites.
Following an industry-wide consultation, we asked 50 airlines and all UK airports to ensure this information was more comprehensive, clearer to understand and displayed just one click away from their website’s homepage. We also asked that websites include a helpline number, so passengers can pre-arrange special assistance and have information on how to complain.
And on December 1st, the Civil Aviation (Access to Air Travel for Disabled Persons and Persons with Reduced Mobility) Regulations 2014 came into effect.
These changes mean the CAA now has full legal authority to ensure airlines or airports comply with European regulations, which entitle air passengers with a disability and people with reduced mobility (PRM) to special assistance when travelling.
The new legal framework requires a proportionate approach. The ultimate sanction for any business which persistently fails to comply with European law is an Enforcement Order, which could result in prosecution, for those which fail to comply. However, the CAA expects the majority of problems will be resolved without court action.
The CAA’s Director of Regulatory Policy, Iain Osborne, said: “In using these new powers we aim to ensure the passenger experience for disabled people and people with a reduced mobility is further improved and enhanced.
“Good and easily accessible information relating to special assistance is essential for passengers with reduced mobility.
“When we reviewed airlines’ and airports’ websites, we found this was not always easy to find and often unclear and lacking in detail. So we have worked with the industry to make sure it is presented in a much clearer fashion and just one click from the homepage.
“It is pleasing to note that most airlines and airports have now made these improvements. Where this is not the case, the CAA will work with the airlines and airports involved to bring them into full compliance.
“This increased level of clarity will enable passengers to better plan their trip, or allow them to choose between different airlines or airports depending on the level of assistance available.
Today, Wednesday December 3, 2014, is the UN International Day of Persons with Disabilities.
Iain Osborne added: “The UN’s International Day of Persons with Disabilities recognises there is a continuing need to break down barriers, provide open access to all and create a fully inclusive society.
“As the UK’s national aviation regulator we ensure the rights of air passengers who have a disability or reduced mobility are adhered to.”
Under the Civil Aviation Act 2012, the CAA has duties and powers to provide information to users of air transport to assist them in comparing services and facilities, and to the general public about the environmental impact of aviation. In January 2014 the CAA concluded its consulted on its proposed Statement of Policy for the use of these new information powers. The consultation can be found here: www.caa.co.uk/default.aspx?catid=2608.