As the EHRC Helpline closes this Autumn, the CAA should take on full responsibility for the disabled air passengers’ complaints handling service, the Home Office announced.
The Home Office has finally announced the transfer of PRM complaint handling from the Equality and Human Rights Commission to the Civil Aviation Authority.
In March 2012, Reduced Mobility Rights exposed the issue. “Unfortunately due to our funding being cut we are no longer able to offer conciliation for cases related to EC Air Regulations 1107. Therefore, we are unable to intervene in your case," the EHRC has been telling passengers with reduced mobility since the beginning of March 2012.
The Equality and Human Rights Commission is the complaint handling body for complaints filed by disabled passengers for England, Scotland and Wales. However, because of funding cuts, the EHRC unilaterally decided to cease to provide the service, leaving disabled passengers without assistance.
"We understand that the EHRC has taken the view that it is unable to fund this service with effect from 1 April 2012," a Home Office spokesperson told Reduced Mobility Rights in March.
Sadly, neither the Home Office, nor the EHRC seemed to be concerned by the fact that the most vulnerable among us, the disabled, were de facto left without the support EU regulation entitles them to receive.
Thankfully, the Civil Aviation Authority provides a complaint handling service in parallel to the EHRC. "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.
On May 15, the Home Office published the Response to the consultation "Building a fairer Britain: reform of Equality and Human Rights Commission".
Within the report, the Home Office makes the long awaited announcement.
"As the EHRC’s helpline is currently used to support the complaints-handling service for disabled air travellers, we have decided that when the helpline closes and the new Equality Advisory and Support Service launch this autumn, this service should be solely provided by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA).
The CAA has recently absorbed the Air Transport Users Council and taken on its consumer function, so it has considerable expertise in handling complaints relating to air passengers’ rights. It is also setting up a new Consumer Panel to serve as a critical friend. The Government considers that leaving the CAA to provide a complete service could help to further incentivise the industry to improve compliance, minimising the costs to industry and delivering a better outcome for disabled air travellers."
However, the Home Office failed to take into consideration the approach of the summer, traditionally the busiest time of the year for air travel. Disabled passengers by air are bound to remain in the vacuum created by the slow transfer of powers from the EHRC to the CAA.
In other words, a step in the right direction is hindered by the Home Office indifference to the problems PRMs may encounter throughout the summer.