October 19, 2005

Europe Adopts New Air Travel Access Measures

By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express

BRUSSELS, BELGIUM--An estimated one million people have Bob Ross to thank for helping to make their travel experience more accessible.

Ross, who has cerebral palsy and arthritis, took low-cost airline Ryanair to court in September of 2002 over the £18 (about $28 US) it forced him to pay -- each way -- to provide a wheelchair when he traveled to and from Stansted airport in Essex.

The company argued that it was a discount airline and that wheelchair service was one feature it did not provide.

Last year, a British court found Ryanair guilty of discrimination and ordered it to pay Ross £1,336 ($2,435 US).

Last Friday, the European Parliament passed a number of agreements that would expand the rights of travelers with disabilities across the continent.

According to eTurboNews and Business World, the measures require all European airports and airlines to provide assistance to any passenger that needs help because of age, disability or illness -- at no charge to the passenger.

The agreements also guarantee air travelers that they will not be denied reservations or boarding because of age or disability.

Airports will be responsible for the services, but will be able to charge the airlines to cover the costs.

Each Member State of the European Union will adopt the agreements, and set up penalties for airlines and airports that do not comply with the new regulations.

Robert Evans, a British Member of the European Parliament, suggested that about a million European air travelers and commuters with disabilities would be impacted by the new measures.

"In this day and age where air travel is as common as the car, it is archaic that disabled and elderly people are being maltreated and discouraged from flying just because the airline isn't legally obliged to meet their requirements," he told eTurboNews.

"Disabled passengers get new rights to fly; Ryanair criticized" (eTurboNews video)

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Posted on October 19, 2005