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Airlines to Improve Travel for Passengers with Disabilities

  • Publish Date : 2019/06/10
  • Author : IATA (International Air Transport Association)*
  • Contact : www.iata.org

Synopsis: IATA unanimously approves resolution to improve air travel experience for estimated one billion people living with disabilities worldwide. IATA (International Air Transport Association) represents some 290 airlines comprising 82% of global air traffic. Numbers of persons with disabilities travelling by air will increase significantly as populations expand and grow older.

Main Document

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) 75th Annual General Meeting (AGM) unanimously approved a resolution to improve the air travel experience for the estimated one billion people living with disabilities worldwide.

The AGM confirms the commitment of airlines to ensuring that passengers with disabilities have access to safe, reliable and dignified travel, and calls upon governments to use IATA's core principles for accommodating passengers with disabilities.

These principles aim to change the focus from disability to accessibility and inclusion by bringing the travel sector together with governments to harmonize regulations and provide the clarity and global consistency that passengers expect.

"Airlines were ahead of their time when, 50 years ago, we set out standards to ensure passengers with disabilities had access to air travel. But now we need to go further. The numbers of persons with disabilities travelling by air are set to increase significantly as populations expand and grow older. We applaud the UN Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities. With today's resolution the industry is committed to ensure that passengers living with disability can travel safely and with dignity," said Alexandre de Juniac, IATA's Director General and CEO.

The resolution requests that the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) apply IATA's core principles as the basis for its multilateral initiatives on accessibility for passengers with disabilities. This work is vital to help harmonize national legislation and regulations which otherwise could create a patchwork of confusing or even contradictory requirements for passengers and airlines.

Wheelchair Assistance

A man sits in an airport lounge resting his legs on a suitcase while watching a plane takeoff.
A man sits in an airport lounge resting his legs on a suitcase while watching a plane takeoff.

An IATA survey of 48 airlines reported that the requests for wheelchair assistance grew 30% between 2016 and 2017, putting strain onto the quality of the service provided. Airlines and airports are working together to ensure that wheelchair assistance is available to those who need it. In parallel, they are also working to develop other forms of assistance for passengers who are mobile but do not feel comfortable navigating through a large airport.

For passengers with disabilities who travel with their own mobility aids, damage when stowed is a major concern. Airlines are working with associations of passengers with disabilities, airports, ground handlers, and regulators, to look at ways to improve this. One option under consideration is to develop standard procedures related to the loading of passengers' mobility aids.

"We know that many passengers with disabilities rely absolutely on their mobility aids and we recognize that any damage to them can be a serious, even traumatic, issue. Our aim is to ensure that passengers with disabilities can travel with peace of mind knowing that their mobility aids will arrive undamaged and fit for use," said- de Juniac.

IATA Core Principles On Passengers with Disabilities

Persons with disabilities are important to the air transport sector. This is why IATA has developed these practical principles to help airlines work collaboratively with regulators and to provide a safe and satisfying travel experience to their valued customers.

Policy Principles

  • CP1. Accessibility:

    The air transport sector should continue to promote inclusiveness and universal accessibility for all passengers, including for persons with disabilities.

  • CP2. Common Definition:

    National legislation (and supranational regional instruments) should apply a common, inter-operable definition for passengers with disabilities. National law definitions should be consistent with the relevant standards of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), including those under Annex 9 to the Chicago Convention.

  • CP3. Harmonization:

    In keeping with CP2, national legislation on passengers with disabilities should be harmonized to the greatest extent practicable. The principle of harmonization should apply equally to the policies, procedures and practices implemented pursuant to national legislation.

  • CP4. Clarity:

    National legislation should be clear and unambiguous in its terms. Such legislation should not infringe treaty obligations or other obligations of international law.

  • CP5. Consultation:

    Regulators should consult with the airline industry and other air transport sector stakeholders well before legislation, policies, procedures or practices are adopted. Such consultation processes should be transparent and meaningful.

  • CP6. Impact assessment:

    Regulators should undertake a comprehensive impact assessment that deals with the costs and benefits of any proposed regulatory action.

  • CP7. Fair application:

    National legislation should contain safeguards to prevent exploitation of the system for personal convenience.

  • CP8. Assistance:

    Airlines should assist passengers with disabilities in a manner that takes into account the best interests of the passengers, relevant safety regulations and operational realities.

  • CP9. Guidance:

    Airlines should provide clear guidance to passengers with disabilities on their requirements for the carriage of mobility devices and medical equipment.

  • CP10. Training:

    Airline and aviation service staff should be supported by their employers in acquiring and maintaining the proper knowledge, skills and abilities to provide passengers with disabilities a seamless and dignified travel experience.

  • CP11. Reducing burdens:

    National legislation should be balanced in its application and should not impose disproportionate or impracticable burdens on airlines.

  • CP12. Communication:

    Regulators should strongly encourage passengers with disabilities to provide pre-notification of their needs in advance of their travel.

  • CP13. Coordination:

    Air transport sector stakeholders and governments should coordinate their approach in order to deliver consistent end-to-end service to passengers with disabilities regardless of location and national borders.

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