Government pledges sea change for air travel after #RightsOnFlights campaign

Tue,27 June 2023
News UK Transport
The Government has announced that it will legislate to make airlines more accountable when dealing with Disabled passengers and to remove the cap on compensation for wheelchairs or mobility aids damaged on domestic UK flights.

The news comes after #RightsOnFlights campaign work by DR UK, TV presenter and author Sophie Morgan, industry specialists Roberto Castiglioni and Josh Wintersgill, and Marion Fellows MP which saw a petition presented to Number 10 demanding change.

The campaign has highlighted the barriers Disabled people, especially wheelchair and mobility aid users face when using air travel, after Sophie’s wheelchair and mobility aids were damaged multiple times on long haul journeys.

The Government undertook a consultation with airlines, campaign groups and individuals in the first quarter of 2022, the response to which it has finally published today.

In its response, it said: “We will work with industry to move to a standard of voluntarily waiving the cap for compensation on both domestic and international flights. We will also continue to explore with the CAA, industry and consumer groups other options to improve accessibility and, thereby, increase the confidence of passengers. Measures include those suggested in consultation responses including:

  • better information provision for disabled passengers and those with reduced mobility.
  • improving accessibility training for staff assisting disabled passengers and those with reduced mobility.
  • more broadly, continuing to work with stakeholders to ensure we can engage directly with passengers with personal experience and seek their views on further options for improvement.

“If damage or loss does occur, it is obvious that the disruption and distress caused can be significant. We want passengers to receive sufficient compensation, appropriate to the value of the item and damage caused, and in good time. We will work with industry to encourage voluntary uptake of such waivers, and public commitment to fair and prompt compensation, for both domestic and international flights. We will legislate when parliamentary time allows to remove the cap for UK domestic flights.

“Government is committed to ensuring that the aviation sector is putting passengers first. While most operators already do the right thing and meet their obligations to consumers, these reforms will ensure that, where behaviour falls short, consumers have the protections they need and the CAA has sufficient enforcement powers to effectively uphold consumer rights.”

DR UK’s Media and Communications Manager, Anna Morell said: “This is good news, and has been a long time coming. Airlines now need to act swiftly to implement the gold standard practices outlined in the consultation and Government needs to ensure that it does indeed make time to ensure that new legislation is passed. 

“Airlines and Parliamentarians also need to take note that access for Disabled people goes beyond wheelchair use. For example, many airlines during the pandemic withdrew free oxygen canisters for people with respiratory conditions who are forbidden from using their NHS equipment while travelling in the air. Airlines need to realise that such measures are not nice to haves, they are necessities for Disabled people to have parity of access to air travel.

“We will be watching to ensure that the pledges made today become action to enable parity for Disabled air travel passengers.”