Why is this important?
Rights of disabled air travellers – at the airport
If you're disabled or have reduced mobility that affects your ability to get about, you have certain rights under the Equality Act 2010 and also European Union law when you're travelling by air. If you're travelling outside the European Union, you should find out what help will be available from the airline and the airport where you're travelling.
Read this page to find out more about the help you can expect to receive when you arrive at the airport.
What's meant by disabled or reduced mobility?
The law says you're considered disabled if you have a physical or mental impairment which has a substantial and long-term negative effect on your ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities. For example, if you are:
- blind or partially sighted
- profoundly or severely deaf
- without speech
- have a disability, or have suffered an injury, which has a substantial and long-term effect on your ability to walk
- don’t have arms or have long-term loss of the use of both arms
- have a learning disability.
There are also special rules for people with cancer, HIV and multiple sclerosis.
You don't have to be permanently disabled to get help when you're travelling. For example, you may have reduced mobility because you find it difficult to get about because of your age or a short-term injury or illness.
At the airport
UK airports are covered by the rules in the Equality Act 2010. This means that they must provide facilities and information that can be used by everyone whatever your needs to help you move quickly and easily around the airport. For example, if you're in a wheelchair or you're visually impaired, you should be able to read departure boards easily or be able to access all areas of the airport.
Contact customer services at the airport if you need help to move through the airport from check-in, through security to the departure gate. You shouldn't be charged for this assistance.
For staff to help you, you must give at least 48 hours notice before you are due to fly, turn up at the agreed time, and give yourself enough time to move through the airport. It's recommended you turn up at the terminal at least two hours before your flight or you can arrive at check-in at least one hour before you're due to fly.
If you don't give at least 48 hours notice or turn up late, staff only have to make a reasonable effort to try and help you.
If your flight is changed, the airport should still make reasonable efforts to try and help you.
Moving through the airport
The airport has a legal duty to help you with the following things when you arrive:
- make sure airport staff know you have arrived and if necessary meet you at an agreed meeting point. This could be either inside or outside the terminal
- help you move from the meeting point to check-in
- help you check in your baggage
- help you get from check-in to the plane, taking you through passport control, customs and security checks
- board the plane with assisted help if you need it
- settle into your seat
- help with your cabin baggage
- help to get from your seat to the aircraft door
- help you get off the aircraft, with assisted help if you need it
- help you get to baggage reclaim and go through passport control, customs and security
- help you get to a point where you can carry on with your journey
- help with connecting flights
- help you to reach a toilet.
How to complain
You may have a problem with the help you've got from an airline or airport because of your disability or reduced mobility. If you want to complain, you should first do this directly with them and try and sort out the problem.
If you can't manage to sort out the problem, you can complain to the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA).
How to contact the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA):
Passenger Advice and Complaints Team
Other useful information
- The Equality and Human Rights Commission has produced a step-by-step guide: Your Rights to Fly – What you need to know, giving you lots of tips to think about and what to expect when you're travelling by air.
- The Department for Transport has published Access to air travel for disabled persons and persons of reduced mobility -- Code of Practice, which airlines, travel agents and package holiday organisers should follow when advising and helping disabled air travellers.