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All About Disability Complaints Against Airlines, Airports

  • Written by George Sensalis

airlines airports disability complaintsIn the last few weeks, cases involving disabled passengers complaining about airports and airlines have made headlines. Airlines and airports have been accused of discriminating against passengers with disabilities. 

 

For example, BBC correspondent Frank Gardner was left stranded on a plane at London Heathrow airport due to the late return of his personal wheelchair, and a young disabled adult was denied boarding by IndiGo Airlines staff at Ranchi airport in India on the grounds of his disability, and Australia's former disability discrimination commissioner Graeme Innes was humiliated at security at Adelaide airport, and graduate student Victoria O'Brien, whose $6,000.00 wheelchair vanished in the thin air at JFK airport in New York.
 
The list appears endless as new cases are being reported every week. But while high-profile figures can easily access mainstream media to be heard, most people need to follow due process and file their complaints according to the law of the country where the incident occurred.
 
In light of recent events, many people are worried about getting on an airplane. We wrote a guide to help those who feel discriminated against by airports or airlines in the United States and Europe. It includes everything you should know about what your rights are and how to handle discrimination at the airport.
 
Following these steps and tips will help expedite your complaint and ensure access to redress at the earliest opportunity.
 
United States
 
Introduction: The legality of disability compliance under the Air Carrier Act of 1986 and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)
 
The Air Carrier Act of 1986 is a federal law that prohibits air carriers from discriminating against disabled individuals. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is a civil rights law that prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities in all areas of public life, including jobs, schools, transportation, and all public and private places that are open to the general public.
 
This section will explore the legality of disability compliance under the Air Carrier Act of 1986 and the Americans with Disabilities Act.
 
What do you need to know about filing disability complaints against Airlines and Airports?
 
It is a good idea to know what you are entitled to before you fly. Airlines and airports have obligations to make sure that passengers with disabilities can travel safely.
 
There are many types of disabilities, but they all share one thing in common - they need accommodations. Filing a disability complaint against an airline or airport can be complicated, but it is worth the effort if you want to get some help.
 
The first step is finding out who has jurisdiction over your complaint - an airport or airline? If it's an airline, then the Department of Transportation has jurisdiction. If it's an airport, then the Federal Aviation Administration and the Department of Justice have jurisdiction. The next step is filing your complaint with the appropriate agency and providing them with all of your information so that they can investigate the issue and take appropriate action as required.
 
How does the accommodation process work for airlines and airports?
 
The Americans with Disabilities Act requires that airlines and airports provide accommodations for passengers with disabilities. The Air Carrier Act of 1986 states that air carriers cannot refuse to provide accommodations for passengers with disabilities. These laws require airlines to accommodate passengers with disabilities in the following ways:
 
Airline personnel should make sure that the person traveling is aware of their rights under these laws and must offer them an opportunity to use a wheelchair, scooter, or other assistive devices.
 
Airports are required by law to have an equal number of accessible gates as they do inaccessible gates. This means that airports should have at least one accessible gate per terminal.
 
What do I need to provide in order to file a complaint?
 
The Air Carrier Access Act makes it illegal to discriminate against passengers with a disability. The Department of Transportation (DOT) enforces the ACAA and it applies to all flights in the US, both domestic and international.
 
Your first point of contact is the airline agent. Most complaints tend to be simple and can usually be resolved at this stage.
 
Your second point of contact when filing a complaint is the Complaint Resolution Official (CRO). The CRO is in charge of resolving disability-related issues that have escalated beyond an initial interaction with airline agents. Every airline must have one on duty at all times, but because they are not required to have a CRO on-site you may speak with the CRO over the phone at their own expense.
 
If the CRO fails to address your problem, and If you feel an airline has discriminated against you on the basis of your disability, you may file a complaint with the DOT via their website. (link opens a new window)
 
Remember to provide all the details related to your complaint, such as the date of travel, time of the incident, flight number, details of where the incident happened (gate number or onboard the aircraft), and any supporting evidence you were able to gather, like pictures, names of witnesses, airline logs, etc.
 
If your incident happened at an airport security checkpoint and involved TSA agents, you will need to file your complaint with them via their website. (link opens a new window)
 
If your complaint is about the accessibility of the terminal building or any part of the airport terminal, you will need to file your complaint with the FAA via their website. (link opens a new window)
 
European Union (Including the United Kingdom)
 
Introduction: The European antidiscrimination framework covering air travel (EC1107/2006)
 
The European antidiscrimination framework covering air travel (EC1107/2006) is a law that prohibits discrimination in the air travel sector, such as the refusal of transport to persons with disabilities.
 
This law was created to prevent discrimination in the air travel sector, such as refusing transport to people with disabilities. Even though the United Kingdom left the European Union, the framework was taken in its original form into U.K. law.
 
European law divides responsibility for the provision of services to disabled passengers between airports and airlines. Airports are responsible for assisting passengers from the time they arrive at the airport until they get on the flight. Airlines are responsible for assisting passengers onboard the aircraft and transporting personal wheelchairs.
 
What do you need to know about filing disability complaints against Airlines and Airports?
 
Airlines and airports share obligations to make sure that passengers with disabilities can travel safely regardless of their disability or medical condition.
 
The first step is finding out who has jurisdiction over your complaint - an airport or airline? Airports are responsible for assisting you from the time you arrive at the airport to the moment you board your flight. Airlines are responsible for everything that happens on board the aircraft, including the loading and unloading of your personal wheelchair.
 
In both cases, the National Enforcement Body, usually the Civil Aviation Authority of the country, has jurisdiction in enforcing anti-discrimination legislation.
 
How does the accommodation process work for airlines and airports?
 
EC1107/2006 states that airports and airlines cannot refuse to provide accommodations for passengers with disabilities. This law requires airports and airlines to accommodate passengers with disabilities in the following ways:
 
Airports are responsible to communicate the disabled passengers arrival at an airport and their request for assistance at the designated points inside and outside terminal buildings, help them move from a designated point to the check-in counter, check-in and register baggage,  proceed from the check-in counter to the aircraft, with completion of emigration, customs and security procedures, board the aircraft, with the provision of lifts, wheelchairs or other assistance needed, as appropriate, proceed from the aircraft door to their seats, store and retrieve baggage on the aircraft, proceed from their seats to the aircraft door, disembark from the aircraft, with the provision of lifts, wheelchairs or other assistance needed, as appropriate, proceed from the aircraft to the baggage hall and retrieve baggage, with completion of immigration and customs procedures, proceed from the baggage hall to a designated point, reach connecting flights when in transit, with assistance on the air and land sides and within and between terminals as needed, move to the accessible toilet facilities if required.
 
Airlines are responsible for the carriage of recognized assistance dogs in the cabin, subject to national regulations. In addition to medical equipment, transport of up to two pieces of mobility equipment per disabled person or person with reduced mobility, including electric wheelchairs (subject to warning of 48 hours and to possible limitations of space onboard the aircraft, and subject to the application of relevant legislation concerning dangerous goods. Communication of essential information concerning a flight in accessible formats. The making of all reasonable efforts to arrange seating to meet the needs of individuals with a disability or reduced mobility on request and subject to safety requirements and availability. Assistance in moving to toilet facilities if required. Where a disabled person or person with reduced mobility is assisted by an accompanying person, the air carrier will make all reasonable efforts to give such person a seat next to the disabled person or person with reduced mobility.
 
What do I need to provide in order to file a complaint?
 
Depending on the stage of the journey the incident happened, your first point of contact is the airport Accessibility (or PRM) manager or the flight Purser. Most complaints are easy to address and get resolved at this stage.
 
If your first contact fails to address the problem, you will need to contact the airport or airline customer services at this point. They should reply within 30 days, but you might get a response sooner than that.
 
You can contact the National Enforcement Body if the customer service in charge isn’t resolving the problem. Some European states also have Alternative Dispute Resolution agencies in charge of cases like these. The National Enforcement Body's website of the country in which the incident happened will show all details about the dispute process in place and who to contact next.
 
Conclusion & Further Advice
 
Outside of the United States, the European Union, and the United Kingdom, some countries have anti-discrimination legislation in place that covers air travel. For example, this includes countries like Brazil and Nigeria, as well as many others.
 
If you're unsure which law applies in a given country, please get in touch with the Reduced Mobility Rights Support Team and they will be able to point you in the right direction.
 
Flying with a disability can be a tricky business, but with the help of this article, you'll be able to navigate your way through any potential bumps in the road. We've covered everything you need to know in the unlikely event that things go wrong.
 

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We had an insulting and physically damaging experience on board an international flight. We approached Reduced Mobility Rights and received support to reach a resolution.

Michael and Sara Heymann

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Reduced Mobility Rights Limited
Registered in England and Wales.
Company No : 07748812
2 Woodberry Grove, London, N12 0DR
Phone: +44.(0)7786.993741
 

 

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