Court ruling means disabled air passengers are not protected, says Commission

The Court of Appeal’s dismissal of two discrimination claims supported by the Equality and Human Rights Commission has narrowed the rights of disabled people when flying. 

The Commission is considering taking the case of Tony Hook against British Airways and Christopher Stott’s case against Thomas Cook to the Supreme Court.

The judges decided that international rules on air travel – the Montreal Convention – should take precedence over domestic law on accessibility and discrimination onboard aeroplanes.

This ruling means that, after boarding the plane, disabled passengers are not covered by UK law and the European Regulation on air travel.  Nor can disabled people seek compensation from the airline if they are discriminated against during a flight. 

The Commission believes that the Montreal Convention, which covers injury, death and loss of baggage, is irrelevant to the claims of disabled travellers.  It does not deal with discrimination, so should not affect disabled passengers’ rights.

John Wadham, Group Director of Legal at the Equality and Human Rights Commission, said:

“The decision renders the regulation regarding air travel for disabled passengers toothless.  It offers no protection for disabled travellers who are discriminated against while flying.  It also means that disabled passengers cannot get compensation even after an airline has been found to be discriminatory by the Courts.”


For more press information contact the Commission’s media office on 020 3117 0255, out of hours 07767 272 818.

For general enquiries please contact the Commission’s national helpline: England 0845 604 6610, Scotland 0845 604 5510 or Wales 0845 604 8810.

Notes to Editors

The disability discrimination claims were made under Regulation 9 of the Civil Aviation (Access to Air Travel for Disabled Persons and Persons with Reduced Mobility) Regulations 2007.  This UK law implemented a European Convention (Regulation (EC) No 1107/2006) about the rights of disabled persons and persons with reduced mobility when travelling by air.

The Equality and Human Rights Commission has guidance on the rights of disabled people and air travel: //

The Equality and Human Rights Commission is a statutory body established under the Equality Act 2006, which took over the responsibilities of Commission for Racial Equality, Disability Rights Commission and Equal Opportunities Commission.  It is the independent advocate for equality and human rights in Britain.  It aims to reduce inequality, eliminate discrimination, strengthen good relations between people, and promote and protect human rights.  The Commission enforces equality legislation on age, disability, gender reassignment, marriage and civil partnership, pregnancy and maternity, race, religion or belief, sex, sexual orientation, and encourages compliance with the Human Rights Act.  It also gives advice and guidance to businesses, the voluntary and public sectors, and to individuals. 

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