Amid the summer travel surge, the Department for Transport is pressuring airlines to provide more reliable and fair service to all passengers.
Transport Secretary Pete Buttigieg on Friday announced two initiatives aimed at giving all travelers a better experience in the air: a bill of rights for passengers with disabilities and a notice urging airlines to prioritize families sitting together.
What is the Disabled Passengers Bill of Rights?
The Bill of Rights is a summary of existing laws that protect disabled airline passengers. It outlines their rights and the responsibilities of the airlines to accommodate them. These include:
- The right to be treated with dignity and respect – a summary of the protections against discrimination that cover air passengers.
- The right to receive information about services and aircraft capabilities and limitations – a requirement for airlines to provide accessibility information about their aircraft to travelers with disabilities.
- The right to receive information in an accessible format – a requirement that airline websites are accessible and that accommodations are made in the airport for hearing and visually impaired travellers.
- The right to accessible airport facilities – a requirement for airports and aircraft to be physically navigable for travelers with disabilities.
- The right to assistance at airports – a requirement that travelers receive assistance getting on and off the aircraft, and to and from the gate if necessary.
- The right to assistance on the plane – a requirement for airlines to allow pre-boarding for passengers who need more time, and to help get to and from their seat if needed .
- The right to travel with an assistive device or service animal – the requirement that these animals or devices be accepted on board.
- The right to be provided with seating – these may include a moveable armrest to facilitate access for wheelchair users, partitioned seating to accommodate service animals or an adjoining seat for an assistant.
- The right to accessible aircraft features – these include priority wheelchair storage on large aircraft and at least one accessible bathroom on most aircraft in passenger service.
- The right to resolution of a disability-related issue – a requirement for airlines to make available complaint resolution officers at the request of the passenger.
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What is the requirement for families sitting together?
Although not an enforceable law, the new DOT policy “urges” airlines to seat travelers 13 and under with their guardians at no additional cost. This is an increasingly publicized issue as basic economy class tickets, which usually do not include advanced seat selection, have become more common.
Handling consumer complaints
In the announcement, the DOT also acknowledged that consumer complaints against airlines have increased 300% from pre-pandemic levels. The two main categories of complaints are difficulty obtaining refunds and “flight issues”, including cancellations and delays.