Creating a fairer Britain
This free service, which covers your whole journey, is available not only to people who are permanently or physically disabled but also to anyone who has difficulty moving around, for example because of their disability, age or a temporary injury. Just ask for the right service when you book - from your travel agent or tour operator, airline or airport. This can include helping you to board the plane or finding the most suitable seat on your flight.
This short guide gives you an overview of your rights and explains what you can do to ensure your journey runs smoothly from start to finish.
*You will see the term persons with reduced mobility used at some airlines and airports across Great Britain. This is the legal term used to define airline passengers who find it difficult to move around easily because of factors such as disability or age.
Before you travel, consider the kind of assistance you may need.
Airports, airlines, tour operators and travel agents must provide clear and easy to use information and must make information accessible to customers in other formats such as large print and audio. Websites should also be accessible for all users.
Airline safety rules must always be available to the public and can be found on airline websites or by contacting them.
These rules, which may vary from airline to airline, may state that anyone unable to fasten their seatbelt, leave their seat and reach an emergency exit unaided should be accompanied. This also applies to passengers who need lifting, or help with breathing, feeding, assistance in the toilet, or taking medication.
On smaller aircraft, there may be limitations on the number of disabled passengers who can travel for safety reasons.
Airlines can only refuse a booking from a disabled or less mobile passenger if accepting it would break safety rules or if the size of the aircraft or its doors makes boarding or carriage physically impossible.
If a booking is refused, the airline, or its agent, must inform you of the reasons why.
When you book, always tell your airline, travel agent or tour operator if you need assistance when you travel.
You may be asked to provide medical clearance if your health could be affected when you fly. Passengers with a permanent and stable disability do not require this and you should not be asked for medical clearance just to prove you need help.
If it is necessary for you to carry liquid medicines or medical equipment in your hand luggage, please remember to bring a letter from your doctor so you are not prevented from bringing these through the security area. Your doctor may charge you for this letter.
You can find out more about layout and facilities at your chosen airport in advance via their website or by contacting them directly.
Remember to confirm any pre-booked assistance when you check in.
You can take up to two items of mobility equipment with you. Airlines may not be required to compensate you in full if this equipment is lost or damaged so consider separate insurance cover.
Always check beforehand if there are any safety or security restrictions on certain medical equipment such as oxygen cylinders.
Airports are responsible for providing assistance to disabled and less mobile passengers to get you to your flight. This includes, for example, checking in and going through security. You must not be charged for this assistance.
Airport or airline staff must help you to get to the toilet before, during and after your flight but are not required to provide personal assistance in bathrooms.
Disabled and less mobile passengers who have difficulty moving around will normally be called for boarding first. If you are unable to climb stairs, the way you board will depend on the situation and equipment used.
All staff dealing with the travelling public at airports or on planes must have disability awareness training. Some staff, such as those employed to provide direct assistance, will have more specialist training. However, this does not mean that staff will be experts in all types of disability or in using disability equipment. You will need to tell them how they can best meet your needs.
Moving around on an aircraft can be difficult because of limited space.
Newer aircraft are more likely to have better access and to include features such as improved signage, lighting and materials and some wide-bodied airplanes have accessible toilets.
Airlines must communicate essential flight information accessibly to all passengers throughout your journey. If you need a personal briefing in a particular format, tell the cabin crew.
Assistance or guide dogs are allowed in the cabin without charge on approved routes. Larger dogs will normally sit on the floor whilst lighter dogs can be carried in the owners lap. Due to space constraints, it may not be possible for a large dog to sit at the owner's feet so a second seat may be required. The airline may charge for this.
However, under the UK Pet Travel Scheme, dogs are only allowed to enter the UK on certain routes so remember to check the route you wish to fly beforehand.
See DEFRA and Guide Dogs for the Blind Association in our useful links section for more information.
If you require assistance, you will usually be the last to leave as it is easier to move around in an empty cabin. However, if you need to leave quickly, to catch another flight or to get to the toilet, for example, you should request this when you book your flight.
The air travel industry is working hard to meet its obligations under the new law. For more information, please visit the Department for Transport website.
It is important to tell your airline, airport, booking agent or flight operator straight away if you have any problems receiving help. If you are not satisfied with the response or you wish to complain about a breach of the law, the Civil Aviation Authority can advise you on how to do this. For further information please visit the Civil Aviation Authority website..
If you are based in Northern Ireland, please contact the Consumer Council for Northern Ireland (CCNI). If the problem originated outside the UK or on a foreign airline in Europe, please contact the Civil Aviation Authority for advice.
Contact details for relevant organisations can be found in the Useful links section.
The time limit for making a claim to a court is six months less one day, starting from the date the discrimination happened.
See also our Useful links section.