The Equality and Human Rights Commission has received just 161 calls about accessible travel since EU regulations were introduced in July 2008 to protect the rights of disabled people when travelling by air.
The EHRC said the figures represent first-time callers ringing its helpline who were concerned about airlines not providing help with issues such as seating or assistance at the point of arrival.
The concern is that many of the 8.5 million disabled people in the UK are avoiding travelling by air or are not complaining out of embarrassment.
Some industry figures believe the relatively low number of calls may not necessarily be an indication of the success of The Rights of Disabled Persons and Persons with Reduced Mobility when Travelling by Air regulations.
Leonard Cheshire Disability, which has campaigned for accessible flights, said it had not received any calls on the issue.
Spokesperson Pete Lewis said that no news is not always good news. “People don’t always speak up – many do not wish to make a fuss. We plan to talk to the EHRC, do more research and compile a questionnaire in the next two months,” he said.
Amar Latif, director of Traveleyes which specialises in worldwide holidays for people with visual impairments, said the regulations may have made things worse in some cases.
“One apparent up-shot of this change for blind people has been an increasing tendency for airports, mindful of their responsibility, to place blind travellers in wheelchairs as a safe catch-all policy for all eventualities, despite the fact that the blind passenger concerned may be fully mobile,” he said.
Accessible Travel Leisure managing director Andy Wright said he was cynical about the regulation. He has added a forum to his company website to canvass opinions from disabled passengers. “I don’t think the airport side was ever really bad – it was the airlines that were a shambles,” he said.
He said airlines are still failing on basics such as facilitating access to the lavatory onboard the aircraft and forcing mobility-impaired customers to sit in window seats for safety reasons.
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