There?s good news in the air – literally – for folks traveling to Europe this summer. As of July 26, 2007 it will be illegal for an airline, travel agent or tour operator to refuse a booking on the grounds of disability or to deny boarding to a disabled passenger. This applies to any flight leaving an airport in the European Union, and also to flights on European airlines arriving in the EU.
Air travel has been a fuzzy area for access in many EU nations. For example, currently Britain?s Disability Discrimination Act does not extend to air travel and some folks have been denied boarding in the past. Take Bert Massie, Disability Rights Commission Chief, for example. In 2000 Scot Airways denied boarding to Mr. Massie because he could not walk. Mr. Massie even offered to crawl up the three steps to the aircraft or have a friend carry him aboard, but to no avail. He was left waiting at the gate.
Ironically, the shoe is on the other foot today, as folks who feel they have been denied boarding because of their disability are now instructed to report such incidents to the Disability Rights Commission; who will in turn will advise complainants of their rights and possibly refer cases to the Civil Aviation Authority for prosecution. If found guilty, the airline could face an unlimited fine.
It should also be noted that on occasion these rights may not apply; in cases where legitimate safety issues are a factor. In those cases you must be told specifically why you were denied boarding and offered a reasonable alternative.