Inaccessible Travel - ABTA Warns Members


The Association of British Travel Agents (ABTA) has issued a warning to its members, stating that their websites must allow passengers with disabilities to easily request assistance for their journey when booking flights. This comes after a disabled former professor was forced by an American airline to crawl off of his flight, because of a complete lack of disability provision.

disability access in airports, airplanes and accommodation

The Position in the UK and the EU

ABTA is a trade association for tour operators and travel agents, which provides guidance to its members to ensure they adhere to certain standards. The law in the EU states that travel businesses which sell flight based packages online i.e. package holidays, must also display on their websites the safety rules that airlines apply to disabled passengers, and any restrictions on disabled passengers or mobility equipment due to the size of aircraft.

ABTA offers their members guidance on providing disabled friendly travel through their website This guidance aims to ensure that holidaymakers are protected against inaccessible travel.

They have further stated, "Information for consumers with reduced mobility is also very important. Feedback from consumers shows that a major cause of frustration is not being able to find the relevant information to help make the right choices in booking their travel arrangements…"

Airline Fails To Offer Help To Disabled Passenger

Accessible information is a relatively straightforward requirement for a tour operator to fulfil, however, such information would do little to prevent the circumstances that Baraka Kanaan, from Hawaii, found himself in.

Mr Kanaan arranged a Delta Airlines flight and also called their customer helpline, in order to make the proper arrangements with regards to his disability. He told staff over the phone that he would need a lift to get onto the airplane and an aisle chair to get him to his seat, and he was told that this wouldn't be a problem.

However, there was no provision made for him on his inbound or outbound flight to receive the assistance requested, despite his own efforts of arranging it with the airline. He was told he would have to crawl hand over hand down the aisle, wearing his best suit. All that the airline could offer the man was a piece of cardboard that they put on the ground so that he wouldn't get dirty.

The Air Carrier Access Act requires airlines and airports to, 'provide boarding assistance to individuals with disabilities by using ramps, mechanical lifts, or other suitable devices where level-entry boarding by loading bridge or mobile lounge is not available.' Mr Kannan says Delta offered him air-miles and a voucher for a small sum which he refused.

Are Disbility Needs Met When Booking A Package Holiday?

In many cases in Europe, the rights of disabled people are given the gravity they deserve. However, it remains imperative that the needs of disabled passengers are not overlooked and are addressed by tour operators at the time of booking. This doesn't only extend to flights but also extends to the needs of individuals when booking accommodation. Information on disabled access should be made available by a tour operator when considering all aspects of a holiday. Failure to ensure these requirements are met where requested has the potential to give rise to a claim against a tour operator under the Package Travel Regulations 1992.

There may also be challenges on the accessibility of the travel websites themselves to also be considered. For example, for people with dyslexia, sites that have extremely busy and complex web pages, make it very hard for dyslexic people to spot which options they should tick to say, check in online, which can ultimately lead to passengers having to pay a heavy penalty for needing to check in at the airport.

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