Passenger Guide - Special Assistance
Information for passengers with disablities or reduced mobility who need Special Assistance.
Your rights in the EU: European Regulation (EC) 1107/2006 provides rights for passengers with disabilities and reduced mobility when travelling by air:
These rights apply when you fly from a European Union (EU) airport.
Flights to EU airports are also covered provided that you are travelling with a EU registered carrier.
Airport operators and airlines must provide assistance free of charge if you have a disability or reduced mobility and require help to complete your journey.
BEFORE YOU FLY
Request help in advance
You should ask for assistance either when you book or at least 48 hours before travel, whether it is through a travel agent, tour operator or airline. This information will then be passed to the airport and the service provider. If you don't give advance notice you could experience delays and may not receive the service that you need. It is up to you to find out how to request help. You may be asked about about special assistance during the booking process but this isn't standard practice so you may need to make a request. If you are booking on a website, look out for a special assistance link for information on how to get the type of help that you need. Keep written confirmation of your assistance request if at all possible.
Types of assistance
Airlines, travel agents and tour operators should provide a free method of requesting assistance when you book (or at later stage).
They may ask you to telephone them or their agent or complete a web form. Many airlines provide a freephone or local rate number for you to call to notify them of your assistance needs. Some airlines also offer a free callback option.
It is important that you are clear about the type of help that you need. This will help avoid delays and ensure that you receive appropriate support. This could include:
- the use of an airport wheelchair to get to the gate,
- assistance with boarding the aircraft and getting seated.
Airlines will need to know if:
- you are taking an electric mobility aid (e.g. an electric wheelchair or mobility scooter)
- your condition means that you need extra care and attention
Questions that you may wish to consider in advance include:
- are on-board wheelchairs available on all aircraft? These are used to move people to the toilet during the flight.
- what are the walking distances to departure gates? Airports should provide this information on their websites.
- does the airport uses airbridges or steps for passengers to board aircraft?
- the number and type of accessible toilets at the airport and on board aircraft.
- what restrictions (e.g. safety, weight, space, battery type) apply to the carriage of electric mobility aids.
- the airline’s policies on carriage of oxygen.
- the airline’s policies in relation to compensating for damaged mobility equipment.
- the types of seats available and how the airline allocates these.
The medical clearance process
You may be asked for proof of your “fitness to fly” when requesting assistance. If you have a stable condition, there is generally no need to be cleared for travel. There are usually two parts to the medical clearance proces:
- you will be asked to provide information about your situation or condition and, for many passengers, this will be all you will need to complete.
- if the airline has concerns about how flying might impact your particular condition, it will ask you to complete a further form. You may also be asked to provide medical proof at this stage, often a doctor’s note.
Travelling with a carer
Airlines may decide that for safety reasons, you must travel with a carer. This is generally the case if a passenger can’t undertake activities such as:
- using the toilet,
- feeding themselves,
- breathing unaided and,
- being able to evacuate independently in the event of an emergency.
Your travelling companion will usually need to buy their own ticket. However, the airline should make all reasonable efforts to ensure that you and your companion can sit next to each other.
AT THE AIRPORT
Accessing special assistance at the airport
Arrive in good time for your flight! Airlines usually specify times for checking in and getting to the departure gate. They may recommend a slightly longer time frame for passengers with disabilities and reduced mobility.
When you arrive at the airport you should go to one of the assistance points in the terminal. Assistance points will usually have some type of disability related logo, and include a buzzer or telephone to enable you to call for assistance should they not be staffed at that time.
Airports must locate assistance points at various places in the airport boundary and this may include drop off points, car parks, train stations and bus terminals. If you park at a medium/long term car park you will usually need to make your own way to the terminal using the airport's bus service.
Staff at assistance points can help with:
- taking you to a designated “special assistance” area in the terminal building.
- getting to check-in and bag drop (if required).
- going through security, into the departure lounge and to the departure gate.
Alternatively a companion can push you in an airport provided wheelchair through the airport and up to the departure gate. If you have your own wheelchair or electric mobility aid you should be able to use your own equipment right up to the departure gate. Many airports have a designated area in the departure lounge where you can wait until your flight is called.
Special assistance staff can help you travel through the departure gate and on to the aircraft. They will also help you get to your seat and with stowing your carry on bags if required. To assist with this process, different equipment may be used.
At your destination airport
On arrival, your wheelchair or mobility aid should be returned to you at the arrival gate, unless there are extenuating reasons. You are entitled to assistance through immigration, customs, baggage reclaim, and all the way to the designated arrival point. This will include some car parks, train stations, drop off points.
Accessing special assistance on board the aircraft
Airlines are responsible for communicating essential information about a flight in accessible formats.
If you require a personal or an alternative type of safety briefing it is important that you notify the airline in advance so that this can be arranged.
Airlines may make use of audio and visual materials such as safety cards and signs to communicate i.e. illumination of the seatbelt sign for landing and cabin crew checking the cabin.
Access to toilets
Airlines are also obliged to provide assistance to and from the toilet and most will have onboard wheelchairs on each of their aircraft.
It is important to discuss your onboard needs with the airline before you travel so that they can tell you about the facilities that are available and how their staff can help you. You may also need to ask the airline to be seated as close to the toilet as possible. Airline staff are not expected to assist passengers with activities such as eating, drinking, taking medication or using the toilet facilities.
Help with seating on your flight
Airlines must make all reasonable efforts to arrange seating to meet the needs of passengers with disabilities and reduced mobility. Airlines may allocate you seats that have a little extra floor space, movable arm rests and are close to the toilets. Allocation of seats is subject to safety requirements and availability
You may not be given seats in areas that could impede an evacuation of the aircraft (this might include seats by emergency exit doors and aisle seats)
In general, you should not be charged extra for a particular seat unless it is in a different class of travel (i.e. first class, business class, economy)
If you require an extra seat, an airline may charge but may offer a discount.
Seats allocated during booking
If seats are allocated before you fly, the airline should allow you to pre-book an appropriate seat.
Seats allocated at check in
Check-in staff should advise you about the seating available on your aircraft and, provided there is availability, allocate you one that is suitable.
Seats allocated after boarding
If seats are not assigned until you are on the aircraft you should speak to staff at the departure gate and then cabin crew to try and arrange appropriate seating.
Using oxygen on your flight
You should always be able to use supplementary oxygen if you need to. Airline policies vary and some will provide oxygen for you to use, but a charge may apply.
Bringing your own supply
If an airline allows you to bring your own oxygen (usually contained in a Portable Oxygen Concentrator - POC) they should not charge you to take it with you. You should be allowed to carry oxygen in addition to your free cabin baggage allowance. You must let your airline know, in advance, if you plan to take your own supply with you. You should always check with the airline and your doctor. Also note that some countries do not allow POCs to be taken with you for security reasons.
Travelling with mobility and medical equipment
If you use an electric mobility aid such as an electric wheelchair or scooter, you will need to give the airline some information in advance about the equipment, including its make and model. This is to ensure that it is loaded and stowed safely during the flight and is not a fire risk.
Check before you book if the airline has restrictions relating to equipment - these can vary depending on who you fly with.
Before travelling you should:
- tell your airline the make, model, weight and size of your wheelchair.
- take the operating manual with you – this might be useful for the airline.
- let your airline know if your wheel chair is collapsible and provide details of how to assemble and disassemble it.
(This will help if there are any issues with loading your equipment into the hold)
You can carry up to two mobility items free of charge
This applies generally for your trip rather than just the flight, so if there is something specific that you will need at your destination the airline should accept it as one of the two pieces of mobility equipment (provided that it is a reasonable request).
You can travel with medical equipment and supplies provided that the amounts are reasonable. Many airlines will want to see a medical certificate if you are taking large quantities of medication. You must have a certificate If you are taking more than 100ml of medicine in liquid or gel form through security.
Travelling with an assistance dog
If you plan to take your assistance dog with you on the flight, it is essential that you tell the airline about this in advance. Airlines must accept all assistance dogs for air travel without chargé!
Dogs will normally sit in the space on the floor in front of the seat (many airlines will seat passengers with guide dogs in the front row, if possible, where there is usually a little more space). If it is not possible for the dog to sit there or the dog is of a larger breed, then an airline may charge for a second seat in order for there to be enough floor space for the dog to lie down. A safety harness should be taken on the plane to enable your dog to be secured during take-off and landing.
RESOLVING TRAVEL PROBLEMS related to Disability or Reduced Mobility
If you experience problems which are related to your disability or reduced mobility you may complain about it to an airline or an airport (you must contact the company first). If you are still not satisfied once you have received a reply from them, or if you have not received a reply within six weeks, you may contact your local Civil Aviation Authority, attaching all relevant correspondence.
Denied Boarding / Delays / Cancellations
If you are denied boarding, or your flight is delayed or cancelled, you may also wish to consider your rights under EC Regulation 261/2004. Passengers with disabilities and reduced mobility have some specific rights in relation Regulation 261/2004. Airlines carriers are required to prioritise carrying persons with reduced mobility and any persons or certified service dogs accompanying them. They also need to pay particular attention to the needs of persons with reduced mobility, and any persons accompanying them (Articles 9 & 11).
Have a nice flight!