Recently found not complying with disability law on access to air travel FlightCentre.co.uk issued an apology to passengers with disabilities.
UK facing branch of Australia's largest travel company, Flight Centre operate a website and 226 store in the United Kingdom. The UK branch of the Flight Centre empire generated 1.07 billion US Dollars in sales in 2012, posting 15.8 million US Dollars in pre-tax profits.
Reduced Mobility Rights audit of travel agents websites found only two out of a total of 27 sites reviewed to date in compliance with disability law protecting the rights of passengers with disabilities traveling by air, Regulation 1107/2006.
On Tuesday, the Civil Aviation Authority issued a statement expressing concern. “We are concerned about the reports of potential failure to comply with various elements of equality legislation highlighted by Reduced Mobility Rights, and considering the issues raised,” a CAA spokesperson said.
The vast majority of noncomplying websites are owned and operated by ABTA members. ABTA is the Association of British Travel Agents. "We work closely with our Members to make them aware of the Code of Conduct and to empower them with best practice guidelines, and we expect them to comply with the Code,” an ABTA spokesperson said.
ABTA member Flight Centre’s website makes no mention whatsoever of information for passengers with disabilities, the Reduced Mobility Rights audit found.
"We are sorry if this has caused any unnecessary concerns to passengers with disabilities and to say that we always ensure that each passenger’s individual enquiries are catered for, even if they choose to research online only," a Flight Centre spokesperson told Reduced Mobility Rights on Friday.
“Visitors to flightcentre.co.uk are unable to book without speaking to one of their consultants as to date and at this time they do not offer online booking. Flight Centre invest in their stores and consultants to offer a personalised service and to assist any customer with their enquiries and requests to ensure their journey is as smooth as possible. Flight Centre will work with ABTA to ensure that any information required will be published on the website to help with any enquiries going forward to help customers in their selection process,” the company’s spokesperson added.
ABTA’s Code of Conduct requires that Members’ websites contain clear, legible, comprehensive and accurate information to enable consumers to exercise informed judgements in making their choice of travel arrangements.
“ABTA are updating guidelines with regards to information on websites and when these become available, Flight Centre will be creating relevant information for their website visitors as required,” the FlightCentre.co.uk spokesperson said.
ABTA’s failure to provide its members compliance guidelines related to a regulation that first came into effect in 2008 is no excuse. FlightCentre.co.uk and all other websites found not in compliance with Regulation 1107/2006 should urgently approach the Civil Aviation Authority to seek remedy to this problem. In the interim, Reduced Mobility Rights are available to provide online travel agents support and guidance to resolve the non-compliance issue.
Reduced Mobility Rights are liaising with the Civil Aviation Authority and the European Commission General Directorate for Mobility and Transport to ensure appropriate actions are taken to amend this unacceptable situation. We will continue to independently monitor online travel agents' websites. Where and when needed, we will entertain all necessary actions to ensure mandatory information is made available to the public.
About the author
Providing Civil Aviation authorities, airports, and airlines strategic guidance, practical advice, and cutting edge solutions to support the evolving needs of passengers with special needs is his mission statement. Roberto is a member of the UK Civil Aviation Authority Access To Air Travel Working Group and the Easyjet Special Assistance Advisory Group.