Airline associations have won an early concession from the European Commission over planned legislation concerning disabled passengers, writes Justin Wastnage.

The EC published a draft version of its rights of persons with reduced mobility (PRM) when travelling by air in February, which has been put out for industry consultation before a likely formal proposal by the second quarter. The paper sets out possible legislation with three main areas: airlines will be forbidden from refusing transport for PRMs; airlines will be obliged to cater for disabled passengers once on board; and it will be mandatory for European airports to assist PRMs from arrival at the departure airport through to final departure point at the destination airport, rather than from check-in to baggage claim.

Although the draft foresees airports being liable for the provision of this service, mainline carriers are likely to be granted a clause allowing them to use any existing wheelchair and buggy facilities at their hubs, says a senior source at the EC's protection of air passengers department of the transport directorate general.

The European Disability Forum welcomes the move. The EC says 10% of EU citizens suffer from reduced mobility, and are often excluded from travelling. Airline associations say much of the detail is missing.

The European Regions Airline Association says the bill would place a burden on small carriers. Airport operators are expected to oppose the proposal, as previous legal rulings in various countries placed de facto responsibility on airlines to provide assistance to PRMs, which would be reversed through this proposal. Members of the European Parliament have questioned the legality of creating a monopoly of disabled passenger assistance providers in airports obliged to put ground handling services out to tender.

Source: Flight International