The EU Commission reminds travel agents websites must make information on air travel requirements available to disabled people.
Last August, Reduced Mobility Rights assessed 38 websites of the most prominent online travel agents. The audit found that only ten per cent of all sites provide sufficient information; 70% provide insufficient information; 20% did not provide any information at all.
Article 4.3 of air travel Equality law, Regulation (EC)1107/2006, states that airlines and their agent shall make publicly available the safety rules that apply to the carriage of disabled persons and persons with reduced mobility, as well as any restrictions on their carriage or on that of mobility equipment.
Following Reduced Mobility Rights shocking reports a number of websites including Expedia, LastMinute, Travelzoo, and FlightCentre.co.uk upgraded sections containing information for passengers with disabilities.
At the end of August, ABTA and Reduced Mobility Rights management met to discuss concerns raised by the research. ABTA's senior managers Susan Parsons and Gillian Edwards agreed more needs to be done to improve the quantity and quality of information available to passengers with special needs on members’ websites. However, ABTA they said that the association and its members comply with the minimum requirements of equality law.
On 6 November, Reduced Mobility Rights assessed the website of Glasgow based ABTA member Barrhead Travel. To the great surprise, the website does not feature any information for passengers with special needs.
“With regard to your reference to Regulation 4.3 in relation to Barrhead’s website, it is our understanding that this particular regulation is about making certain information ‘available’ and in accessible formats. As we discussed when we met, it does not appear to make it a specific requirement to have this information on a company’s website,” a spokesperson for ABTA said. “Nevertheless, we are talking to Barrhead Travel about improving their website prompts for PRMs as a good practice.”
On Friday, the European Commission dismissed ABTA’s interpretation, issuing the following statement. “Where an air carrier provides information on its services on a website including the possibility to book and reserve a flight, the relevant information for the transport of PRMs including applicable safety rules should also be provided on the same website,” DG MOVE said.
The EU Commission also reemphasized “the provision of accessible information prior to booking is seen as an essential element to allow PRM passengers to prepare their journey in full knowledge of all safety rules and possible restrictions an air carrier may apply. Air carriers, their agents and tour operators should also develop accessible websites for the use of passengers with a visual impairment alongside other passengers instead of developing separate websites.”
In Reduced Mobility Rights’ opinion, ABTA shall move past complacency and begin proactively pursuing its members' compliance, policing their adherence to air travel Equality law.