EHRC U-Turn on Disabled Passengers Rulings?
- Written by Roberto Castiglioni
In an unexpected turn of events, Equality and Human Rights Commission admits Thomas Cook statement on disabled passengers’ rulings is correct.
There is a new and totally unexpected development in the row between the EHRC and airlines over the Court of Appeal rulings that denied compensation for injury to feelings for two wheelchair bound passengers.
The head-spinning U-turn of the EHRC is significant. The Commission first claimed that because of the rulings there was no protection for disabled travellers who are discriminated against while flying. Less than 48 hours later, it admitted that, bar recourse for injury to feelings, protections offered under the European Directive 1107 remain in place.
On Monday, the Equality and Human Rights Commission said it may seek to challenge a Court of Appeal ruling on the issue in the Supreme Court. "The Commission is considering taking the case of Tony Hook against British Airways and Christopher Stott’s case against Thomas Cook to the Supreme Court," John Wadham, Group Director of Legal at the EHRC, said.
“The decision renders the regulation regarding air travel for disabled passengers toothless. It offers no protection for disabled travellers who are discriminated against while flying. It also means that disabled passengers cannot get compensation even after an airline has been found to be discriminatory by the Courts,” he added.
On Tuesday, tour operator Thomas Cook disputed the EHRC statement. "There is quite simply no additional right to further compensation for injury to feelings, and we have been concerned by comments made by the EHRC which have misrepresented the Court of Appeal's decision which makes it clear that the protections offered under 1107 continue to be in place," Andy Cooper, Thomas Cook UK & Ireland's Director of Government and External Affairs, told Reduced Mobility Rights.
Late Tuesday night, Reduced Mobility Rights received a communication from Equality and Human Rights Commission. "The appeal court’s decision is clear that any claims for compensation for disability discrimination and injury to feelings are prevented by the Montreal Convention," an EHRC spokesperson said. "Notwithstanding that, the protections offered under the European Directive 1107 remain in place."
The row sparked from two rulings of the Court of Appeal on two separate cases involving wheelchair-bound passengers. The disabled passengers filed lawsuits for injury to feelings against air carriers after they were unable to sit next to their carers on board their flight.
The Court of Appeal dismissed both cases, ruling that the Montreal Convention, a framework of international rules and regulations on air travel, takes precedence over British and European law.
The latest development once again underlines that there is no legal access to compensation for disabled passengers filing claims under Regulation 9 of the Civil Aviation 2007/2895 ("the UK Regulations").
Meanwhile, the Department for Transport keeps neglecting to transfer EU 1107/2006 enforcement powers to Civil procedure, The Civil Aviation Authority is left with extremely limited criminal enforcement powers, which means it mainly relies on the industry's voluntary compliance to the EU regulation.
Certainly not the ideal scenario for the country host of the 2012 Paralympics games.