Access to flights: disabled people report problems

Almost two-thirds of disabled people have struggled to board a flight and one in three have experienced negative attitudes from airline staff, a new survey has revealed.

A poll of nearly 70 disabled people across the country, carried out by disability charity Leonard Cheshire, also found a quarter of respondents had problems booking their flight.

The results of the survey, published in a report entitled Now Boarding, follows a new European Regulation which came into effect this week making it illegal for airline providers to unreasonably deny disabled people access to a plane.

From next year the new legislation will also legally entitle people to compensation if their wheelchair or other equipment is damaged.

It is estimated that about two million air passengers a year are disabled.

Annette Laidler, the charity’s policy officer, said the Disability Discrimination Act provided some protection for disabled people when booking flights and at airports but it did not cover services onboard aircraft.

“We want to see this vital piece of UK legislation extended to provide disabled people with the full legal protection they need,” she said.

The charity is also calling for airport and airline operators to prepare for the new legislation including providing disability training for airport and airline staff.

The survey also found 11% of disabled people had to cancel or delay a trip because of problems accessing a flight. But more than half of respondents believed that air travel was becoming more accessible.

Respondents to the survey did not report any significant difference in the service provided between full cost and low-cost airlines.

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