Frequently asked questions

Below we provide answers to some FAQs. If your question isn't covered here, see our Step by step guide to your rights to fly, our case studies or contact the Civil Aviation Authority  for advice.

What are my rights as a disabled person in relation to air travel?

Under the regulation, you have the right to assistance appropriate to your needs throughout your journey. Under the Equality Act 2010 you have other rights which prevent discrimination in the way services are provided.

For more information see our step by step guide to your rights to fly.

Is it legal for airlines to charge to take oxygen on board?

Currently airlines set their own policies on oxygen. Some allow passengers to bring their own, while some only carry oxygen they have provided. Most airlines charge for either of these options. It is not clear if this charge is contrary to the law. The Commission believes airlines should not charge.

Can an airline refuse to carry my wheelchair?

Airlines are obliged to carry wheelchairs subject to:

  • advance warning of 48 hours
  • possible limitations of space on board the aircraft and
  • the application of relevant legislation concerning dangerous goods.

Can an airline refuse to allow my assistance dog on the plane?

Carriage of recognised assistance dogs in the cabin is subject to national regulations. More information on these rules can be found at: //www.defra.gov.uk 

There is a growing number of routes approved for carrying assistance dogs.

Will I need a PETS passport for my assistance dog?

Yes. More information on PETS passports can be found at: //www.defra.gov.uk

What assistance am I entitled to at the airport?

You are entitled to assistance from your point of arrival at the airport, through check-in, immigration, customs and security procedures, and with boarding the aircraft and reaching your seat. This assistance will also be given when you land, from helping you to get off the plane your seat to leaving the airport.

Do I need to notify the airport in advance that I need assistance?

You should notify the airline as soon as you know you will need assistance. They will pass the information to the arrival and departure airports. It is recommended you do so at least 48 hours in advance.

If you do not notify them, they must still make all reasonable efforts to provide assistance, but they may find it more difficult to do so.

What am I entitled to if my flight is delayed or cancelled?

You are entitled to reimbursement or re-routing if your flight is cancelled. Depending on the extent of the delay, two telephone calls, meals and refreshments, hotel accommodation, and transport between the airport and place of accommodation may be offered. In providing this assistance, particular attention must be paid to the needs of disabled passengers and passengers with reduced mobility.

I was told that it is my responsibility to get to the terminal. Is this correct?

Full question: I arrived at the airport last week and called for special assistance from a help point in an offsite car park. I was told that it is my responsibility to get to the terminal. Is this correct?

No. Airports must designate points of arrival and departure within the airport boundary or at a point under the direct control of the managing body, both inside and outside terminal buildings, at which disabled persons or persons with reduced mobility can, with ease, announce their arrival at the airport and request assistance. You should be able to communicate your arrival and request for assistance at the designated points. The fact that there is a help point in the car park strongly suggests passengers should be able to use it to request assistance. Assistance should be in place to help you move from a designated point to the check-in desk.

Can I complain if only normal wheelchairs are available?

Full question: When I booked my holiday, I explained to my travel agent that I required an oversized and high-backed wheelchair at the airport I leave from and arrive at, both within Europe. When I arrived at the airport, only a normal wheelchair was available and at my destination, none at all. I spoke to the handling agent at my departure airport and she said only standard wheelchairs were available. The arrival airport denied all knowledge of the regulation. Can I complain?

Yes. Assistance provided must, as far as possible, be appropriate to the particular needs of the individual passenger. The new law states that 'In order to give disabled persons and persons with reduced mobility opportunities for air travel comparable to those of other citizens, assistance to meet their particular needs should be provided at the airport as well as on board aircraft, by employing the necessary staff and equipment'. The Commission's view is that it is reasonable for airports expecting to provide assistance to thousands of passengers with reduced mobility each year, with the variety of needs that includes, having have a mix of wheelchairs: manual, attendant-propelled, and high-backed ones, with removable armrests, adjustable footrests, and varying seat widths.

I could not board the plane. Can you advise?

Full question: My husband and I recently booked a mini break and were due to fly out on a private aircraft to Paris. We arrived on time and ensured we had the right documents to take a flight on a small aircraft. We informed the travel agent of my assistance needs but the airline claims that these were not correctly passed on and if they had been told sooner, they would have informed us that the aircraft entrance was unsuitable for an ambulift so I could not board the plane. I am very angry as our break was ruined. Can you advise?

Assistance requests should ideally be made at least 48 hours before the departure of the flight. If this was the case, it appears that there was a problem with passing the information from the travel agent to the airline. Both organisations should take all measures necessary for the receipt of assistance requests. It is correct to say that where the size of the aircraft or its doors makes boarding or carriage impossible, airlines may refuse boarding. In this case the air carrier, its agent or the tour operator should have made reasonable efforts to propose an acceptable alternative to you.

I am my son's carer and had to pay for an upgraded seat. Can you advise?

Full question: My son is deaf, blind and disabled and so needs to be accompanied by a carer when we travel. When we recently went on holiday, our airline upgraded him free of charge to an upper deck seat. He explained that he needed to be accompanied by a carer, (in this case me), to help him get to the toilet, explain the safety rules and provide any other information to him before and during the flight.  The airline offered me a seat in the upper deck but at the normal price for that seat. As I didn't want to cause any fuss, I paid for the upgrade. I now wish to complain. Can you advise me?

You are right that your son would need a carer to fly with him in order to give the help you describe. Airline staff are required to give assistance with moving to toilets, but not to lift passengers or to help them use the toilet facilities. They should also communicate essential information concerning a flight in an accessible way. Assuming your son's upgrade was for reasons relating to his need for an appropriate seat, they were correct to provide this for him. The airline must make all reasonable efforts to give carers a seat next to the person they travel with, and all assistance must be without charge.

Is there a time limit on making a complaint against an airport, airline, travel agent or tour operator?

An infringement of the rights provided by EC Regulation 1107/2006 may be made the subject of civil proceedings by an individual. However, the courts take the view that litigation should be the last resort. Alternative means of dispute resolution, such as conciliation, should be considered by parties.

Courts will not consider claims under this regulation unless proceedings are begun within six months less one day of the infringement.

When the dispute concerned is referred to conciliation before the end of the six months period, the period may be extended by three months.

A court may consider any claim which is out of time if, in all the circumstances of the case, it considers that it is just and equitable to do so.

Last Updated: 25 Jun 2009