Yannis Vardakastanis, President of the European Disability Forum (EDF) told the European Commission considering children as PRMs is wrong.
In a devastating blow to families traveling with infants, toddlers and young children, the European Disability Forum sent a letter to the EU Transport Commissioner Siim Kallas asking the EU Commission to sacrifice elderly persons, children, obese persons and pregnant women and any other adult without disabilities, eliminating them from the scope and protection of Regulation EU 1107/2006.
New guidelines for the regulation, which identifies the rights of disabled persons and persons with reduced mobility when travelling by air, are scheduled to be announced in May.
"We would also like to bring your attention to a critical point of the guidelines which is the definition of PRMs and the extent to which the scope of the Regulation should be broadened," Yannis Vardakastanis says in his letter to the EU vice President.
"To systematically consider children, unaccompanied minors, pregnant women, elderly persons, or obese persons in themselves as PRMs, even though they are not persons with disabilities or PRMs would create considerable operational difficulties for various parts of the aviation industry (air carriers, airports, tour operators…) and would as a consequence be detrimental for passengers with disabilities and persons with reduced mobility who need assistance in order to be able to travel."
In an unexpected move, EDF goes as far as asking the European Commission to reject the new guidelines. "We are therefore convinced that the guidelines as currently worded will seriously undermine the purpose of the Regulation, which is to protect disabled persons and PRMs against discrimination, and to ensure that they receive assistance," EDF tells the EU Transport Commissioner.
"We believe that the proposal for guidelines should be withdrawn as, despite its good intentions, it will undoubtedly water down or even shelve the regulation and further exacerbate problems in its implementation."
Unlike EDF, Reduced Mobility Rights has been advocating extending protection of the regulation to infant and toddlers, limited to repatriation of personal mobility devices (buggies, strollers) at the gate.
Depending the airline used, parents traveling with infants and toddlers arriving at London Heathrow and London Gatwick may not be repatriated with their buggies until the baggage reclaim carousels.
Unfortunately, parents are not told of this situation at their point of departure. They become aware of the bitter surprise only upon arrival at Heathrow or Gatwick.
At London Heathrow, Menzies Aviation provides baggage handling services for Lufthansa, British Midlands International, SWISS International Airlines and other partners in the Star Alliance.
Menzies Aviation management explains they do not provide buggies gate repatriation to ensure its employees comply with Health and Safety regulations. The manager claims that employees could be injured when using gate ramps to get buggies from the airplane cargo hold to the gate. However, the company accepts delivery of buggies and strollers at the departure gate.
However, parents and children traveling on United Airlines do not share the grief of other families. United, which also docks at Heathrow Terminal 1, has its in-house baggage handling service and delivers strollers at the aircraft gate.
Passengers traveling with British Airways arriving at Terminal 5 will also have to walk carrying their children all the way to the baggage reclaim hall.
Reduced Mobility Rights believes it is necessary to provide families traveling with infants and toddlers the status of PRM (person with reduced mobility). In this regard we urge the EU Commission to maintain the current format of the draft guidelines.
Granting children PRM status will allow National Enforcement Bodies, such as the UK Civil Aviation Authority, power to secure gate repatriation services are available at all UK airports.