Failing to understand disability discrimination law requirements, online travel agents eBookers throws water on fire but offer no amendments.
Reduced Mobility Rights investigation into online travel agents websites continues. To date, only two online travel agents websites out of a total of 27 sites reviewed comply with Regulation 1107/2006, the law protecting the rights of passengers with disabilities traveling by air.
Article 4.3 of the Regulation states that “An air carrier or its agent shall make publicly available, in accessible formats and in at least the same languages as the information made available to other passengers, the safety rules that it applies to the carriage of disabled persons and persons with reduced mobility, as well as any restrictions on their carriage or on that of mobility equipment due to the size of aircraft.”
Article 6.1 of the Regulation requires airlines, their agents, and tour operators ensure receipt of notifications of the need for assistance made by disabled persons or persons with reduced mobility at the time of booking.
The Pre-Notification Guidance drawn by the Civil Aviation Authority for the Association of British Travel Agents states that that easily accessible links to the section containing information for disabled passengers should be available on online travel agents websites' homepage. Dedicated pages should also clearly explain users how they should record and notify their requests for assistance.
eBookers are owned by Orbitz Worldwide, a global online travel company originally formed by a group of leading U.S. airlines in 1999.
The eBookers’ website makes mention of their pre-notification for special assistance requirement in its Terms & Conditions page. There is no other mention whatsoever of essential or relevant disability related information throughout the travel agent website.
“At eBookers, we take customer service very seriously and strive to provide the best possible experience for all our customers. eBookers processes are in place to ensure that any special assistance requests are actioned to make sure all our customers have access to our services irrespective of what their individual needs and circumstances may be,” an eBookers spokesperson told Reduced Mobility Rights.
Like the vast majority of travel agents who failed our test, eBookers fail comprehend the need to provide accurate, detailed information before the booking process. Passengers with disabilities, like any other passenger, need to be made aware of requirements, regulations and restrictions before booking a flight or a packaged holiday containing a flight.
Passengers with special needs must be made aware in a clear, accessible manner if there are any costs associated to the service requested; if there are restrictions, weight or dimensions or number of pieces, in relation to their medical supplies/equipment and mobility devices. Providing this information is a legal requirement that eBookers fail to comprehend and adhere to.
“eBookers offers customer support at the time of booking as well as passing along any special requests to airline and hotel partners as required. To assist our disabled customers at the time of booking eBookers offers an online chat facility for hearing impaired customers, 24 hour telephone support and larger print versions of our booking conditions for customers who are visually impaired. In addition, eBookers’ customer booking form contains a dedicated section for special requests for disabled customers. As the travel agent, eBookers communicates these special requests with the airline or hotel on behalf of the customer, so the third parties can implement the appropriate measures required as stipulated by the customer,” the spokesperson concluded.
Reduced Mobility Rights referred eBookers to the Civil Aviation Authority, national enforcement body for Regulation EC1107/2006. The investigation continues.