Airports are failing to meet the needs of disabled passengers a year after EU regulations designed to protect passengers with reduced mobility came into force.
The claim, made by the charity Leonard Cheshire Disability (LCD), was made ahead of a Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) report on the effectiveness of the Persons with Restricted Mobility (PRM) regulations, which is due for publication in September.
The EU is also committed to reviewing the directive next year, the CAA said.
Under the regulations, responsibility for providing assistance to disabled people from arrival at the airport to check-in through departure and boarding passed from individual airlines to airports.
According to LCD the airports are falling short. Senior campaigns officer Katie Turner said: “There’s been a lot of monitoring of the regulations since they came into force to see how effective they have been. We have done some ourselves by, for example, lobbying airports.
“The feedback has been varied, but unfortunately, a lot of the feedback, said the experience was not good and, in some cases, even worse than before the airports took on the responsibility.”
Traveleyes director Amar Latif, who run a specialist agency and operator, said his customers – who are visually impaired or accompanying someone who is – had not witnessed any improvements.
“The are still putting blind people in wheelchairs even though they are able to walk. If they object they are told ‘we can’t take you’.
“As far as people complaining about their treatment, I don’t think they know about the process.”
But ABTA manager trade relations Susan Parsons reiterated the need for PRM customers to make both the travel agent – and airline if booking direct – aware of their needs.
“The big issue is consumer awareness,” said Parsons. “Some operators and agents deal with people with disabled people all the time and have serving PRMs down to a fine art.
“The problem is people can be pretty proud so trying to get information from them at point of sale is a big issue. They may not want to admit they have mobility problems or the PRM may not be present when the booking is made.
“A good way to put it is to ask, ‘can you walk around the supermarket without assistance?'”.
ABTA offers detailed suggestions on how members can help ensure customers pre-notify the airline.
Parsons added: “We have a checklist on the website that includes a number of things to make sure the agent is asking the right questions. It is up to the agent to ask those questions, but it is also up to the passenger to let the agent know.”
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