Transport CommitteeWritten evidence from Angela Higson (DAT 83)

Thank you for the opportunity to share experiences on accessible travel. I suffer from a debilitating illness and have no mobility. I am entirely dependent on my wheelchair. I believe that I am 90% independent.

In autumn 2012 my husband and I flew from the UK to Vancouver. I was assured by the carrier’s agent that there would be no problem with accessibility. The journey was horrific with no adequate wheelchair access to any of the aircraft toilets. The crew lacked appropriate knowledge but their support was super. BAA failed to provide a constructive response to loss of the arm of my wheelchair at the airport. There were also other significant problems regarding booking and boarding but the detail is unnecessary for this contribution.

On return we complained to the CAA. The response was sympathetic and CAA did send a letter to the airline. The response was banal. There was however no substantive action and no suggestion of any remedial mechanism. It also appeared that no record was maintained of complaints against individual airlines.

We decided to research options in Canada and explored the position of the Canadian Transportation Agency (CTA). The CTA has jurisdiction for Canadian carriers and aircraft entering and leaving Canada. It operates a dispute resolution process—ranging from informal to formal adjudication. Details are available on this link:

http://www.otc-cta.gc.ca/eng/publication/resolution-disputes-through-mediation-a-resource-tool

The CTA also provides a detailed Code of Practice for aircraft accessibility. Link:

http://www.otc-cta.gc.ca/eng/code-practice-aircraft-accessibility

Using the guide we entered the mediation process and encountered excellent and impartial support. The process lasted some 5 months and was conducted by e-mail and telephone conference. The outcome has been a formal (and confidential) agreement providing compensation together with undertakings by the airline “to do better”.

Curiously the CAA position appears to be based on the “Montreal Convention”.

I was entirely satisfied by the outcome. I strongly commend the Canadian model as very appropriate and most relevant evidence for consideration by the Committee.

I would be happy to answer any questions—subject to the confidentially constraints mentioned above.

May 2013

Prepared 13th September 2013