Violation of the rights of air passengers with disabilities

Violation of the rights of air passengers with disabilities

Despite the progress achieved as regards accessibility for persons with disabilities and persons with reduced mobility, such individuals continue to encounter obstacles in their daily life.

Recently in Spain, there was a serious violation of the rights of a visually impaired passenger accompanied by a guide dog, who was denied boarding by Ryanair for having failed to submit a vaccination card, an obligation from which such passengers are exempt on domestic routes.

This constitutes a failure by Ryanair to comply with Article 7 of Regulation (EC) No 1107/2006 concerning the rights of disabled persons and persons with reduced mobility when travelling by air, and Article 7 on the duty to make ‘all reasonable efforts (…) in such a way that the person concerned is able to take the flight for which he or she holds a reservation’. It is also an intolerable form of discrimination contrary to Article 21 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union.

On 10 September 2020, Spanish Member of the European Parliament Jordi Canas of the Renew Europe Group            tabled a parliamentary question to the European Commission. MEP Canas asked the European Commission “does it view this incident as a violation of the rights of air passengers with disabilities, as recognised by European legislation?” and “how does it intend to reinforce the provisions of Regulation (EC) No 1107/2006 and ensure their implementation?”

On 09 November, Transport Commissioner Adina Valean responded on behalf of the European Commission. She declared that “Annex II of Regulation (EC) No 1107/2006 obliges air carriers to carry recognised assistance dogs subject to national legislation” and that “if a national legislation requires the proof of vaccination for the carriage of such dogs, airlines are allowed to check the compliance with this requirement”.

The Commissioner added that “Regulation (EU) No 576/2013 imposes proof of vaccination requirements before a dog can travel cross-border, and airlines are also allowed to check the compliance with those requirements”. She also stated that “in accordance with Regulation (EC) No 1107/2006, Member States have already designated national enforcement bodies to monitor compliance with this Regulation” and added that “it is the competence of these bodies to investigate incidents such as the one mentioned by the Honourable Members and impose penalties if necessary”.

Commissioner Valean clarified that “the Commission is currently evaluating Regulation (EC) No 1107/2006” and that “the evaluation will be concluded in 2021 and it will contain statistics about the number and types of complaints received and penalties imposed by national enforcement bodies”. She further declared that “the results of the evaluation will allow the Commission to decide what actions are necessary to reinforce the provisions of Regulation and ensure their implementation”.

Finally, Commissioner Valean underlined that “the Commission is currently preparing a new and strengthened Disability Rights Strategy to be presented next year” and that “in the framework of the elaboration of the new Strategy, issues related to the protection of the rights of passengers with disabilities will be evaluated in any case”.

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