Access to air travel - guidance for disabled and less mobile passengers
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Section 2: Background
A journey by air is a two-way contract between the provider and the traveller, and there are rights and responsibilities for both. As a passenger, you can do a great deal to help airlines and airports (the aviation industry) to assist you and to give excellent levels of customer service.
This guide complements the Department for Transport (DfT) 'Access to Air Travel for Disabled People - Code of Practice', which is aimed at helping the aviation industry improve services.
The Government has worked with disabled people and the organisations involved in all stages of a journey by air, including travel agents, airport operators and airlines to produce the Code. It covers all aspects of air travel - from accessing information through to arriving at the final destination. It also covers the design of airports and planes with over 30 seats.
The Code sets out the good practice necessary to make sure disabled and less mobile passengers enjoy trouble-free journeys by air. However, it will take a while for these standards to be achieved everywhere.
The Code includes relevant information for airport operators who are legally bound by the Disability Discrimination Act 1995 (DDA). It also advises airlines on how to provide better services to disabled people on a voluntary basis.
The Code sets out minimum standards that the aviation industry should provide but encourages them to provide higher levels of service and facilities.
At present, it is a voluntary code for UK companies only, but it is hoped that it will be adopted by international airlines operating into UK airports and at international airports. The Code will be monitored by the industry, by disability organisations and by the Government. If necessary, it will become part of UK law.
It is important to remember that not all the services and facilities will be available straight away at every airport and on every plane. If you need a particular service or facility, always check that it is available before booking.
Travelling by air is not yet covered by the Disability Discrimination Act 1995 (DDA). Because air travel is very largely an international industry it was felt to be more helpful to try and agree standards for accessibility at an international level so that disabled travellers could be confident about services and facilities at both ends of their journey.
There are now international codes of practice in place and there is likely to be European legislation soon to reinforce them. This should help to make sure that all airport operators and airlines have to work to the same standards. It should help disabled and less mobile passengers know what services and facilities they can expect, wherever they were travelling in Europe.
However, the DDA does apply to the use of booking systems and airport facilities and services. This means that, for example, shops and check-in facilities in the airport are covered but in-flight services and entertainment on the plane are not.
The Government and the majority of airlines and airports have agreed that the cost of providing any additional assistance for disabled people should not be passed directly on to the disabled or less mobile passenger. They are working on different ways of managing those costs.