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Airlines urged to ‘show more empathy’ for customers with disabilities

photo_camera Wheelchair at airport (Pic: Adobe stock)

Airlines are being pressured to offer carers and personal assistants of customers who have disabilities up to half price discounts off the price of tickets.

An investigation by the UK’s national broadcaster, the BBC, has found that nearly 30 carriers it asked require assistants to pay full price for a second seat.

This is despite EU guidance, which the UK has retained following Brexit under aviation regulator the CAA, that airlines should subsidise the cost.

Campaigners said failure to offer a discount is discriminatory and is preventing them from taking flight to see relatives overseas or go on international holidays.

Of the 100 airlines the BBC asked, including all the fly out of Heathrow, 28 including Emirates, Etihad Airways, American Airlines and Virgin Atlantic, Easyjet, Ryanair, Jet2 and Eurowings said they require the assistant to pay full price.

Forty of the airlines contacted do provide information on their websites related to requirements for travel with an assistant but do not state whether they should pay. A further 33 airlines that did not reply had no information on their websites.

The BBC found some discounted seats for domestic flights are offered by some airlines in Australia, Malaysia, Canada and India while Aegean said it assesses requests individually. Pakistan International Airlines offers discounts on international and domestic flights.

Speaking on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme Chris Wood, a campaigner who founded Flying Disabled, called for legislation to compel airlines to offer discounts. He said concessions of 50% would be what he’d like to see and urged carriers to show some “empathy”.

Anne Bowles, CAA head of consumer policy and enforcement, told the BBC that wile airlines are not legally required to provide free or discounted seats it is the regulator’s view that it is best practice to do so.

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