Blaming government funding cuts, the Equality and Human Rights Commission has stopped providing assistance to disabled passengers.
The EHRC is the complaint handling agent for violations of the EU directive protecting the rights of disabled passengers.
Following the recent announcement of funding cuts, the Equality and Human Rights Commission has unilaterally decided to stop providing assistance to disabled passengers who wish to complain for alleged breaches of EU 1107/2006.
"Unfortunately, due to our funding being cut, we are no longer able to offer conciliation for cases related to EC Air Regulations 1107," Chloe Driver, Helpline Advisor at the Equality and Human Rights Commission told Mrs C.M., a passenger with reduced mobility who recently lodged a complaint against Thomson Airways.
This means the EHRC no longer offers conciliation or, like it used to in the past, provide legal assistance to selected cases of disabled passengers complaining their rights had been violated.
However, the EHRC maintains that it is still available to receive complaints and to tell people how they should handle them. Some of the advice given is cause for concern.
"Neither the EC Regulation nor Regulation 9 of the UK Regulations creates a private law cause of action sounding in damages. The Appellant may invoke the administrative enforcement regime which is operated by the Civil Aviation Authority," Mr Justice Supperstone ruled, dismissing the appeal filed by the EHRC on behalf of a disabled child against British Airways.
Despite the outcome of the case and the above legal principle also confirmed by the services of the European Commission the EHRC still suggests passengers may bring their case to court.
"Due to the recent cases Stott versus Thomas Cook and Hook versus British Airways, the right to compensation where there has been a breach of the EC Air Regulations has been substantially diminished.
As a result of this, you may wish to seek in depth legal advice to see whether you wish to take this further by lodging a complaint to a County Court.
Please note if you do decide to lodge a complaint to a County Court there are time limits involved. The time limit is six months less one day from an incident date."
Unfortunately, the right to compensation has not been "substantially diminished" like the EHRC suggests, but cancelled altogether.
The EHRC unilateral decision to stop providing complaint handling assistance to disabled passengers has caught the Home Office off guard. Apparently, the Home Office first became aware of the situation last Monday, when we contacted their press office for comments.
Awaiting a formal announcement from the Home Office, passengers with reduced mobility may feel let down by the authorities.
However, the Civil Aviation Authority is ready to step to the plate. "If disabled passengers have any issues with complaining about their treatment with a UK airline, they are welcome to contact the CAA on 020 7453 6888," a Civil Aviation Authority spokesperson told Reduced Mobility Rights.
The situation is cause of embarrassment for the UK government, given it is unfolding just months away from the Paralympics 2012.