Passengers who require special assistance when travelling abroad have had to go to great lengths to receive the care that they need and in the past, many of these passengers have been discriminated against. EasyJet is among one of the major airlines that have been under scrutiny for discrimination against the disabled. Many disabled passengers were reportedly denied boarding EasyJet flights for being disabled or for being without a guardian or carer. Wheelchair bound Christian Pedoussaut, 59, for example was denied boarding an EasyJet flight from Bristol to Toulouse because he was alone. Another man who required a wheelchair due to being paralysed from the chest down was thrown off an EasyJet flight from London Gatwick to Montpellier, France. The airline simply refused to take him because of his disability which meant he was delayed for 12-hours at the airport. The reason these passengers were turned away because of a rule that used to be in place.
This rule stated that people with reduced mobility were required to travel with a companion if they were unable to reach the emergency exits independently. The clarification to this rule modified the difference between reaching and walking. Now, the rule states ‘make your way unassisted’ not necessarily by walking. This insignificant change has made a huge difference for many passengers with reduced mobility, as they will no longer face the risk of being denied boarding or being required to travel with a companion.
Since a series of similar incidents, many other airlines have changed their policies to accommodate these passengers, to promise much smoother journeys with the care that they need. Travelling with a disability or requesting a wheelchair should not be made difficult, as it restricts passengers from flying. Previously, before changes were put in place passengers with disabilities or in need of special assistance would have to contact the airline’s call centres to request wheelchairs or special assistance. Thanks to new features on airline’s webpages, passengers can now book everything online. Passengers can select options ranging from mobility and wheelchair assistance, assistance for those who are visually impaired or deaf orhave learning disabilities. Furthermore, airlines such as British Airways now have the option of saving these preferences for any future bookings, making the process even easier for the passenger.
Any passengers who has been denied boarding (regardless of having a disability or not) could be entitled to claim back flight delay compensation. Airlines often deny boarding due to overbooking and this can lead to passengers having to endure heavy flight delays. If the delay was three hours or more, under European law (EC Regulation 261/2004) a passenger can legally claim up to 600 Euros worth of flight delay compensation if the airline is to blame. Sometimes the airline cannot be held responsible for delays, as an extraordinary circumstance may have occurred. Air traffic control strikes and extreme weather are examples of extraordinary circumstances. Whereas fuel leakages, staff shortages, technical faults and knock-on effects are examples of avoidable events and so airlines are fully responsible.