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Did you know that you have certain rights as a passenger when you are travelling by plane? If your flight is significantly delayed or cancelled, you have right to a financial compensation. The airline also has to provide you with food, accommodation, and possibility to call or use the internet within certain limits. You also have some specific rights if you are a visually impaired person, or a person with a disability more general: the airport has to provide assistance so you can board your plane. The airline cannot refuse your booking because of your disability. And in each Member State of the EU, there is an official body designated to help you enforce your rights if something goes wrong.
All of this is part of the EU’s Air Passengers’ Rights laws. There are in fact two separate laws: Regulation 261/2004 on general Air Passenger’ Rights such as cancellations and delays, and Regulation 1107/2006 which is specific to Air Passengers’ Rights for persons with disabilities and regulated for example the provision of assistance at airports. There is actually a whole set of Regulations covering passengers’ rights in all transport modes, except for urban transport, which has made travelling easier for many of us in the EU.
Passengers’ Rights in the EU can be therefore seen as a success story because they have brought concrete benefits to citizens who often perceive the EU institutions as abstract and bureaucratic. Those laws have empowered passengers to claim their rights and enforce them, especially persons with disabilities. Knowing that you can expect assistance at the airport helps to plan your journey and travel more independently and knowing that you have the rights to reimbursement or a compensation if your flight has been cancelled gives you some certainty and avoids stress in cases of disruption.
However, of course these laws are also not perfect. In fact, there are some major shortcomings that concern visually impaired persons:
To tackle all the problems mentioned above, organisations like EBU together with the European Disability Forum and other allies such as the European Passengers’ Federation, AGE Platform Europe (the organisation representing older persons), and BEUC (the organisation representing consumers) have teamed up to advocate for improvements in the existing legislation. Seeing as though both laws are now over 10 years old, some issues need to be updated and some loopholes urgently closed.
The general Air Passengers’ Rights Regulation (261/2004) which governs the aspect of liability for mobility equipment, is currently being discussed in the Council. A proposal from the European Commission has been on the table since 2013 and it would significantly improve the situation for persons with disabilities, i.e. it would raise the liability limit to the actual value of the damaged, lost, or destroyed equipment. The Member States, who are the ones discussing in the Council, are sceptical to include this change so we need to keep putting pressure on the national governments to see the need for this important amendment.
The Air Passengers’ Rights Regulations for persons with disabilities (1107/2006) will be evaluated in 2020. The results of this evaluation will determine if a revision could be planned by the Commission or not. We need to make sure that the results of the evaluation are realistic and reflect the reality of visually impaired passengers so that the loopholes can be fixed. If you have feedback feel free to send it to EBU who will work together with EDF on this evaluation so that we will hopefully have a stronger legal framework to make travelling easier for everyone.
By Marie Denninghaus, EDF Policy Coordinator
To report cases of discrimination or for additional questions feel free to contact Marie Denninghaus (firstname.lastname@example.org)