Stott v Thomas Cook Tour Operators Ltd [2014] UKSC 15 (05 March 2014)

In this case the Supreme Court dismissed an appeal arising from a failure by an air tour operator to see that proper provision was made for the needs of a disabled passenger, contrary to the requirements of the Civil Aviation (Access to Air Travel for Disabled Persons and Persons with Reduced Mobility) Regulations 2007 (SI 2007/1895).


On 12 September 2008 Mr Stott booked online, with Thomas Cook, to fly from East Midlands Airport to Zante, departing 22 September and returning 29 September 2008.

Mr Stott is disabled and requires help and support from his wife. He therefore phoned Thomas Cook after booking  to ensure that he and his wife would be seated together.

There were no problems on the outward flight but when returning from Zante their seat allocations were not together. Mr Stott had an accident when boarding the aircraft. His wheelchair overturned and he fell to the cabin floor.

“Those present appeared not to know how to deal with the situation. Mr Stott felt extremely embarrassed, humiliated and angry and his wife, who had recently suffered serious ill-health herself, was also very distressed at the chaotic scenes."

“Eventually Mr Stott was assisted into his aisle seat in the front row and his wife was seated behind him. This arrangement caused them considerable difficulties in that it was difficult for Mrs Stott to assist her husband with his catheterisation, catheter bags, food and movement during the three hour twenty minute flight.”

Mr Stott was given no help by cabin crew which forced Mrs Stott to kneel or crouch in the aisle to attend to her husband's personal needs. This obstructed the cabin crew and other passengers as they made their way up and down the aisle.

The Judgment

Mr Stott brought a claim under that the Thomas Cook's treatment of him was in breach of its duty under EC Disability Regulations, in that they had failed to make all reasonable efforts to give his wife a seat next to him. The claim also demanded damages including aggravated damages.

The Supreme Court accepted that there was a breach of EC Disability Regulations because Thomas Cook had discriminated against Mr Stott in the way he was treated. However, no compensation for Mr Stott’s injured feelings was awarded as the Court was constrained by the universal and exclusive operation of the Montreal Convention.

You can view the Supreme Court judgment and press release.

For comments on the decision see UKSC blog and the Equality and Human Rights Commission website.