Each year more than two million passengers with a disability or reduced mobility take flights in and out of the UK. With January the busiest time of year for booking holidays, we wanted to highlight the free assistance available to these passengers, which is aimed at ensuring journeys are completed as smoothly as possible.
Under EU regulations all disabled air passengers, who are departing from an EU airport or flying with an EU airline anywhere in the world, are legally entitled to this support, commonly known as special assistance.
Special assistance can cover:
- your journey through your departure airport,
- boarding the aircraft and during the flight,
- disembarking the aircraft,
- transferring between flights
- travelling through your destination airport.
However, in order to get best use of this special assistance, passengers should provide airports and airlines at least 48-hour notice, ahead of their departure.
When booking a flight online or over the phone, your travel company should ask if you require special assistance, and what sort of assistance you require or any seating preferences you have. You can find out more here: How can I request help?
Some common examples of special assistance might be:
- I am a wheelchair user and will need some assistance from the drop off point, through to checking in and boarding/disembarking the aircraft.
- I am blind and use a guide dog. I would like to book an aisle seat, which is near the exit. I will also need assistance checking in, finding my way around the airport and boarding.
- I am elderly and frail and will be travelling with my carer. I will need to use an airport wheelchair from the drop off point, and will need assistance boarding and disembarking the aircraft. I also need to be sat next to my carer on board the aircraft.
- I am a parent and my son is autistic and he finds the busy airport environment stressful. In order to reduce stress I would like a fast track service and be provided with some and reading materials about the airport/airline for my son, which he can see in advance.
The last example highlights that special assistance must be provided for both passengers with physical and non-physical disabilities. This includes those people with communication difficulties and/or learning disabilities.
In order to find out if an airport or airline offers the service (s) that best suits you, we advise researching and comparing the services available. To assist you the CAA has recently launched a PRM web directory, which provides links to the special assistance services at 32 UK airports and 40 major airlines.
These links provide information to:
- descriptions of the services offered,
- airport and airline helpline numbers so you can pre-arrange special assistance and ask for extra help should you need it,
- the location of drop off and pick up points at airports,
- any potential restrictions on your travel.
The legal rights of air passengers with a disability or reduced mobility came into effect nine years ago. These rights have opened up air travel to thousands of people who otherwise might not have had the confidence to travel.
It is our role to ensure the passenger experience is further enhanced by continuing our work in driving improvements in the quality of service provided by airports and airlines, and we will continue to use our regulatory powers to raise those standards higher, so we can all continue to enjoy that well deserved break!
Passengers with a disability can find out more about their rights and special assistance services at www.caa.co.uk/specialassistance.