Disabled Travel: Airport and airline services for disabled travellers
If you need assistance from airport or airline staff at any stage of your journey, you should always let the airline know at least 48 hours before you fly.
Services for disabled passengers
These services should be available if you have a sensory, physical or learning disability:
* assistance to reach check-in
* help with registration at check-in
* a briefing for you and any escort or companion on emergency procedures and the layout of the cabin
* help with getting on and off the plane
* help with stowing and retrieving baggage on the plane
* an on-board wheelchair (not always available)
* someone to meet you off the plane and help you find your way around the airport
If you need to travel with a companion, the airline may be able to offer a reduced fare for the second ticket. This will usually be a reduction against the full fare.
There may be a limit on the number of reduced fares they can offer on any one flight, especially if it is a holiday package or charter flight. Ask your travel agent or the airline for more details.
The same restriction may apply in cases where the disabled traveller needs to occupy two seats for a reason related to their disability. Airlines may require medical proof of your need to travel with a companion or book an extra seat.
Airlines' requirements if you have assistance or medical needs
If you need any assistance from airline staff or if you have medical needs, the airline may ask you to complete an Incapacitated Passengers Handling Advice (INCAD) form and/or a Medical Information Form (MEDIF). These are standard forms used by many airlines to help staff organise any assistance or equipment you may need during your journey and to decide whether you are fit to fly. With some airlines, the INCAD and MEDIF are two parts of the same form.
You can fill in the INCAD form yourself, but the MEDIF form must be completed by your doctor.
Most people do not have to fill in the MEDIF form, or apply for medical clearance to fly through any other procedure the airline may have. This includes people who have stable, long-term disabilities and medical conditions.
You should contact the airline and discuss your disability or medical condition with them - even if your doctor says you are fit to fly - as different airlines have different policies about carrying disabled passengers and people with medical conditions. The airline will be able to give you any forms they require you to complete. You can also get these forms from some travel agents.
Frequent Traveller Medical Card
The MEDIF and INCAD forms only last for one journey. If you are a frequent disabled traveller, you can get a Frequent Traveller Medical Card (FREMEC). This is available from many airlines and gives the airline a permanent record of your specific needs. This means you won't have to fill in a form and make special arrangements every time you fly. Before you travel with a different airline from the one that issued your FREMEC card, you should check that they will accept it.
Disabled Travelling alone
Airlines are entitled to demand that you travel with a companion, if you are not 'self-reliant'. To travel alone, you must be capable of:
* breathing unaided (not reliant on an extra oxygen supply)
* feeding yourself (although cabin crew will open packaging for you and describe the layout of food trays to blind passengers)
* moving yourself between a passenger seat and an onboard wheelchair communicating with cabin crew and understanding their advice and instructions
* using the toilet without help (although the cabin crew may can push an onboard wheelchair to help you get to the toilet)
* managing your own medication and medical procedures
Proof of your need for special treatment
Some airlines may ask you to prove that you need some facilities - like an extra seat at a reduced rate if you need to travel with a companion, or extra legroom. Different airlines have different requirements, so you should ask the airline or your travel agent what information you will need to give. This could be a letter from your doctor or a Blue Badge parking permit, for example.
Air travel code of practice
The code of practice 'Access to air travel for disabled people' aims to make air travel more accessible to disabled people. (Good luck finding this on their new website)
Published by the Department for Transport, the code is written for people involved in the UK air travel industry including travel agents, tour operators, airlines and airports.
The code sets out the good practice needed to make sure disabled and less mobile passengers enjoy trouble-free journeys by air. However, it will take a while for these standards to be achieved everywhere.
The code includes information for airport operators who are legally bound by the Disability Discrimination Act 1995 (DDA). It also advises airlines on how to provide better services to disabled people on a voluntary basis.
At present, it is a voluntary code for UK companies only but a lot of its content is reflected in European and international documents covering best practice.