Monday, October 29, 2012

UK's Civil Aviation Authority to handle air travel complaints of disabled passengers now

Dear Friends,

We find the world is gradually becoming inclusive for people with disabilities where the affairs of the disabled are not segregated to be dealt by exclusive commissions / ministries but integrated in to the mainstream network of handling consumer affairs. Transfer of handling air travel complaints from disabled persons from Equality and Human Rights Commission UK to their Civil Aviation Authority is one such good example which should be followed world over  not only to mainstream the disability issues but also to spread the sensitization about the disability in the larger community.

Here is an advice released by the UK's Civil Aviation Authority for the benefit of persons with disabilities and those with reduced mobility after the authority took over responsibility for handling air travel complaints from disabled people and those with reduced mobility from the Equality and Human Rights Commission.

Any passenger in the UK that faces difficulty travelling within an airport or on board an aircraft – through disability, injury, age or any other reason - is entitled to help from the airport or airline. The UK Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) is today reminding travellers of their rights and offering advice on what to do to improve their air travel experience.

Anyone who is unhappy with the service they receive when travelling should first contact the airport or airline they used, but if they don’t receive a satisfactory response the CAA can then take up the case on their behalf.

And to ensure the CAA delivers the best possible results for those that aren’t happy with the service they get from an airport or airline, it has set up the “Disability advisory group” - a forum where disability groups, consumer groups, the Department for Transport and the CAA can share data on the issues of most concern.

The rights of people with reduced mobility travelling by air apply across the EU and the CAA is responsible for enforcing them here in the UK. Its efforts focus on making sure airports and airlines meet their passengers’ needs and as part of this, the regulator is stressing to passengers the importance of informing their airport and airline of their needs at least 48 hours before they are due to travel. This can help improve the level of support passengers receive by allowing enough time for suitable preparations and additional facilities to be made available.

The rights for disabled passengers and persons with reduced mobility travelling by air are set out in EU regulation under 1107/2006 which is available at link: Rights of Disabled Passengers.  (9 page PDF document, link opens in a new window)

Iain Osborne, Group Director for Regulatory Policy at the CAA said: “Anyone who is able to fly safely should have fair access to air travel, and the right to any support they need to travel within the airport and board the aircraft. The obligations on airports and airlines to provide this support are very clear, and as we saw during the Paralympics, having everyone work together is the best way to ensure passengers get the service they deserve.

“However, there are still occasions where people do not receive the support they need and this can be very distressing for those passengers. By notifying their airport and airline of their needs in advance of their flight, passengers can help prevent this. And if they still don’t receive a good quality service, we want to hear from them so we can work with the airports and airlines to make sure it doesn’t happen again.”

Information and advice for passengers with reduced mobility is available from the CAA’s online passenger portal at The portal also includes other useful advice for passengers before they fly, whilst on board their flight and how to complain if something goes wrong.

Passengers who are not satisfied with the response from a complaint to an airport or airline can refer their complaint to


Subhash C Vashishth

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Disabled Pass Holder offloaded by Driver of Public Transport in UK

Dear Colleagues,

Persons with disabilities are often poked fun at for their disability and misbehaved with while using public transport in India and routinely in rural belt where transports systems are not well developed still. Many of such travelers hold their free or highly concessional travel passes from the State Transport Departments or Social Justice Departments which means they are often looked at as a customer who will not pay up for the travel and thus ridiculed and commented upon. This has been observed that the drivers of public transport do not stop when they see a disabled traveler waiting at the bus stop or do not align the bus with the bus bay or stop the bus much ahead of the bus bay to discourage use of public transport by the passengers with disabilities.

What has happened in UK with Ms. Jess McGee is horrifying and it is difficult to compensate for the loss of dignity and shock that she suffered during the travel. If the law, in public interest and for public safety, disallows her to drive, she has all the rights to be compensated for her loss of opportunities in her independent mobility and this is highly discouraging for persons with disabilities to use public transport if such incidences occur when they step out to work, education or for any other chore.

Such incidences generally go unreported in India, especially when it comes to road transport such as State Transport Buses, Metro Rail and Indian Railways. Though several disabled flyers have taken up issues of maltreatment and discrimination in the past (perhaps they had access to media and were from sound economic backgrounds!) when they were asked to sign a bond or not given facilities for safe and comfortable transfer despite paying a full fare.  However, not all persons living with disabilities have those means and access to media and thus things go unreported. We need a campaign across India to ensure dignity during travel for persons with disabilities.

Here is the coverage from Daily Mail, UK

  • Jess McGee, 19, left 'shocked and embarrassed' after the incident on her way to work in Bath, Somerset
  • She had no money but was saved by a kindly passenger who stepped in and paid her fare
  • Travel bosses say they are investigating

Jess McGee,19, from Bath, Somerset, was on her usual route to her job at a supermarket when she showed the driver her legal bus pass.

As an epilepsy sufferer she is registered disabled and is entitled to free travel on public transport because she cannot drive safely. The driver on board the number 13 service asked to take a closer look and then demanded to know her disability.

When she explained her condition he told her it was a 'p*** take' and ordered her to pay or get off the bus.
Jess wasn't carrying any money but was saved by a kindly passenger who stepped in and paid her fare.
She said: 'I felt very shocked and embarrassed.  'I was so shocked at the time that I didn’t feel I could put up an argument. 'People I have spoken to since have said all the things I should have said to him but at the time I just couldn’t.'

The incident happened when she tried to use her Diamond travel card from Bath and North East Somerset Council. Mum Penny fumed: 'I was just really outraged. 'She is totally reliant on public transport because she hasn’t got the option to drive. 'She has got a lot of barriers that have stopped her from doing things, but she is trying to live life to the full.

'It just made me angry that anybody could treat anybody like that.  'It was just absolutely none of his business what her disability was.'

A spokesman for operator First said: 'We will be getting in touch with Ms McGee as soon as possible to apologise for any distress she may have suffered.

'As part of our training programme we train all of our drivers in disability awareness and expect all our staff to recognise and respond to the range of different needs that our customers may have, this includes hidden disabilities such as epilepsy.

'However, we will be taking further steps to ensure that such an incident does not happen again.'

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