If and when a disabled traveler encounters problems with services or assistance when traveling by air, standing regulations provide ways of filing a complaint against those responsible for the alleged infringement.
As explained in the "PRM Travel Rights" section, people with reduced mobility traveling by air fall under the support of two regulations: the U.S. DoT 14 CFR Part 382 and EU Reg 1107/2006. However, neither regulation applies to non E.U. or American carriers operating flights originating from the European Union towards destinations outside the E.U. and the U.S.A.
There are significant differences between the U.S. and the European regulations with respect to the complaint and enforcement procedures.
United States: U.S. DoT 14 CFR Part 382
This regulation applies to all U.S. domestic flights and all international flights from and to the United States of America irrespectively of the air carrier nationality.
The point in U.S. DoT 14 CFR Part 382 that dwarfs EU 1107/2006 is the mandatory requirement for air carriers to have a Complaints Resolution Official (C.R.O.). The regulation imposes air carriers to have a Complaint Resolution Official on duty at each airport the carrier operates. The CRO must be available and accessible at all times to passengers wishing to file a complaint.
If the complaint concerns a service or assistance not made available to the person with reduced mobility before the flight, the CRO has the power by law to take action, as necessary, to ensure the air carrier personnel compliance with the law. The only case in which the CRO cannot take steps to ensure compliance is when this would overrule a choice of the pilot-in-command of an aircraft based on safety.
If instead the complaint concerns an alleged infringement of the law already occurred, and provided the CRO agrees that a violation has occurred, the Complaint Resolution Official shall provide to the complainant a written statement containing a summary of the facts and what steps, if any, the carrier proposes to take in response to the violation.
However, passengers who believe that an air carrier has violated any provision of the law and wish to seek help can contact the U.S. Department of Transportation, Aviation Consumer Protection Division, 400 7th Street, SW., Washington, DC 20590, (202) 366- 2220.
Enforcement: all air carriers comply with 14 CFR Part 382 simply because the U.S. Department of Transport actively imposes fines on those operators who infringe the law. In the most recent case, the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) assessed a civil penalty against Mesaba Aviation for violating 14 CFR Part 382 (Part 382). The carrier received a civil penalty of $125,000.
European Union: EU Regulation 1107/2006
This regulation applies to all European air carriers whose flights depart from and arrive at a European airport. The law also applies to European Air Carriers departing to or arriving from airports located outside the European Union. Theoretically, 1107/2006 should also apply to non Europen carriers whose flight depart from an airport located in the EU. In reality, non EU carriers feel free not to comply with it (we have first-hand knowledge of this).
A disabled person or person with reduced mobility who considers that EU 1107/2006 was infringed may bring the matter to the attention of the managing body of the airport or to the attention of the air carrier concerned, as the case may be.(*)
Note: (*) Because the EU regulation divides roles between airport managing bodies and air carriers, the consumer has the responsibility to determine first hand who is responsible for the alleged infringement and then contact the appropriate entity. This incredibly complicated situation creates a legal loophole, which may result in additional sufferings and humiliation at the expenses of persons with reduced mobility (see example of Mrs Jo Heath vs. Ryanair - opens new window).
If, after contacting the airport managing body or the air carrier, the person reporting the alleged infringement does not find satisfaction, a step forward can be taken by filing a formal complaint.
Each member state of the European of the European Union appointed a national enforcer of the regulation. Typically, the Civil Aviation Authority of the member state is the national enforcer.
Click here to access the full list and contact information of European National Enforcement Bodies (NEBs)
To get a better understanding of not only rights for the disabled but the rights of all, consider acquiring a degree in social justice.
Notes and References:
The content of this page is for information and guidance only. The content of this page shall not be treated, seen or considered as legal advice. If you need legal advice, please contact a solicitor.
EU Regulation 1107/2006 (opens a new window)
U.S. Department of Transportation 14 CFR Part 382 (opens a new window)
Civil Aviation Authority (opens a new window)
Equality and Human Rights Commission (opens a new window)
Consumer Council for Northern Ireland (opens a new window)
Mesaba Airlines Fined (opens a new window)