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Tuesday, 2 October 2023

Airport and airline services for disabled travellers

Under European law, disabled persons and persons with reduced mobility (PRM) have legal rights to assistance when travelling by air. It’s important to let airlines know your needs at least 48 hours before you travel. Learn more about services for disabled passengers and additional seating fares for travel companions.

Services for disabled passengers and Persons with Reduced Mobility (PRM)

These services should be available at all European airports if you have a sensory, physical or learning disability which affects your mobility when using transport:

  • facilities to summon assistance at designated arrival points, such as at terminal entrances, at transport interchanges and in car parks
  • assistance to reach check-in
  • help with registration at check-in
  • assistance with moving through the airport, including to toilets if required
  • help with getting on and off the plane
  • free carriage of medical equipment and up to two items of mobility equipment
  • a briefing for you and any escort or companion on emergency procedures and the layout of the cabin
  • help with stowing and retrieving baggage on the plane
  • assistance with moving to the toilet on the plane (some planes will have an on-board wheelchair)
  • someone to meet you off the plane and help you reach connecting flights or get to the next part of your journey

It’s important to let the airline you’re travelling with know exactly what your needs are at least 48 hours before flying. If you don’t then you risk not getting the help you need and may even be unable to board the plane. However, if no notification is given, airports are required to make all reasonable efforts to provide assistance. See ‘Travelling by air for disabled people – before you go’ to find out more about planning your journey.

Travelling alone - self reliance

To travel alone, you must be able to:

  • unfasten your seat belt
  • leave your seat and reaching an emergency exit
  • put on a oxygen mask and lifejacket
  • understand the safety briefing and any instructions given by the crew in emergency situations

Airline cabin crew are not able to provide personal care. For safety reasons, airlines are entitled to require that you travel with a companion if you are not ‘self-reliant’.

If you need help with feeding, breathing, using medication or using the toilet you will also need to travel with a companion.

Seating on the plane

Airlines should allow you to choose the seat most suitable for your needs. However, if you're disabled or have reduced mobility you're not allowed to sit in seats which allow direct access to emergency exits. This is because of safety reasons.

Additional seats

If you need to travel with a companion, the airline should make all reasonable efforts to seat them next to you.

If the airline requires you to travel with a companion, then they may be able to offer a reduced fare for the second ticket. This will usually be a reduction against the full fare.
There may be a limit on the number of reduced fares an airline can offer on one flight. This especially applies if it's a holiday package or charter flight. Ask your travel agent or the airline for more details.

Some disabled travellers may need to occupy two seats for reasons related to their disability. Decisions regarding costs for this will be made on a case-by-case basis. An airline may charge for two seats or may give the second seat at a reduced rate or free.

Where reduced fares are offered, airlines may require medical proof of your need to travel with a companion or book an extra seat. You should ask the airline or your travel agent what information you will need to give. For example, a letter from your doctor.

Air travel code of practice

The Department for Transport has published a code of practice called 'Access to air travel for disabled persons and persons with reduced mobility'.

The Code provides guidance to the UK air travel industry on how it can meet its legal obligations. It sets out recommendations and good practice to ensure disabled people and people with reduced mobility enjoy a consistent and seamless level of service. The code covers the whole journey, from accessing information at the booking stage through to arriving at the final destination.

Legal rights

Under European law, disabled persons and persons with reduced mobility have legal rights to assistance when travelling by air. There is detailed passenger information leaflet available on the Department for Transport website and of the Equality and Human Rights Commission.

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