BA CW policy for disabled passengers

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  • DNAdams
    Participant

    I recently booked a BA flight to Cape Town in CW. BA offer a free seating policy for passengers with disabilities. My partner is visually impaired and we have declared that on the booking.

    When it came to choosing the seats we are only allowed to choose ones on the main deck and all the seats on the UD are unavailable. However if I make the same booking without the disability declaration I am able to choose seats on the UD albeit for a fee.

    I have complained to BA and sent an email directly to Mr Cruz which resulted in a phone call from one of the customer service team ( I am sure you all know this but apparently they have to call you within 24 hours if you write directly to [email protected]). They informed me that due to their health and safety policy disabled passengers are not allowed to sit on the UD regardless of what their disability may be. Personally I think this is a bit harsh and smacks discrimination. We have never had this problem with other airlines. On another booking with BA to Tegel they moved our allocated seats in row 5 to the very last row of the A320 and we were not allowed to change them. I wonder where their H&S policy was then.

    Anyway, I just wanted to share this experience with BA and wonder what other members think about it and am I just being unreasonable or perhaps you may have had a similar experience with BA

    1 user thanked author for this post.
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    rferguson
    Participant

    DNAdams i’m not aware of the policy at booking stage and it’s a shame, as it is a better experience upstairs on the 747.

    I know in terms of seating restrictions on the U/D of a 747 once onboard is that anyone that cannot independently negotiate the stairs in a normal scenario or in an emergency evacuation cannot sit on the upper deck. This is because although the UD of a 747 has emergency exits these are only to be used for a land evacuation. In the even of a ‘landing on water’ the primary escape route is down the stairs and out of a main deck door. This is different to the A380 where all doors on both decks are used in both a land and water evacuation.

    I guess the only way around it would be to remove the disability notification from the booking although i’m not sure how visually impaired your partner is and whether the crew will need to be aware for assistance in flight. And obviously in such a case you’d have to pay for the UD seats.

    Hope you sort it out.


    DNAdams
    Participant

    Thank for your comments and reply rferguson.

    We have stairs at home which have never been a problem and in the 20 years we have been together there have been no accidents so negotiating stairs independently is certainly not a problem.

    My partner also works full time and negotiates the London Underground and central London alone on a daily basis so to be told that a few stairs to the UD means we can’t travel in it is just plain insulting. When to get on the flight to CPT I know that it will be ruined knowing that this happened. It does leave a extremely bad taste.

    I won’t be wasting my money with BA anymore, they don’t deserve our custom. They are hypocritical and clearly treat disabled people differently. As mentioned in my original post this is not the first time this has happened.

    1 user thanked author for this post.

    TimFitzgeraldTC
    Participant

    I think this is reasonable. Airlines will have assigned seating for each aircraft for those travelling with Disabilities. They won’t then be sub-dividing each travelling disability/impairment as to whether they can sit anywhere or in only seats they have identified as being most suitable for Disability Travel. That would become an Operational Minefield and probably lead to far more issues down the line (with possible Safety implications).

    I can understand the frustration in not getting the seat you would like. But this wouldn’t be because BA are trying to make it purposely difficult (unlike other situations!)

    The most important thing is that the Airports know in advance all those who are travelling that require assistance so they can then provide the necessary resource to get you from airport arrival & check in to the plane door (legally it is the airports responsibility and not the airline).

    7 users thanked author for this post.

    DNAdams
    Participant

    Thank you for your comments TimFitzgeraldTC,

    We are able to select any seat on the main deck so unsure which seats are allocated as most suitable for “Disability Travel” as you put it, apart from not being allowed on the the UD. So potentially passengers with disabilities could be spread though out the main deck.

    As I mentioned before on a flight to TXL they moved us from the front row of ET to the last row of the ET cabin on a A320 so expecting someone with a visual impairment to negotiate the whole length of the plane when embarking and disembarking and to make matters worse whilst checking in online they removed the facility to change seats purely because we had declared a disability. This resulted in me spending over an hour on the phone to get it sorted out but all the other seats were taken and we were force to sit at the back. That is not the experience an able bodied person would have had so they do treat disabled passengers differently. The Equality Act 2010 is there to ensure that disabled people have equal access to good and services and should have the same experience as an able bodied person and these ‘barriers’ form BA make it unacceptable. I do understand that safety is key but BA are not consistent with dealing with this.


    rferguson
    Participant

    The only restrictions as to where a person with a disability can sit on BA aircraft are – the upper deck of a 747. Emergency exit rows. Some bulkhead rows (those directly adjacent to emergency exits). The upper deck restriction is for the reasons I gave upthread.

    Disabilities cover an entire spectrum from say the autistic child of a customer, to someone that has reasonable movement with the help of a walking frame to the hard at hearing/visually impaired, to someone suffering dementia to someone that may be completely paralysed. AFAIK BA adheres to all the regulations required for those that are not able bodied, especially as we operate so many flights to the USA (where laws are far more stringent regarding the rights of those not able bodied). I doubt they would negate these as the fines are huge, not to mention the bad PR.

    But there does sometimes have to be lines. Can we position someone completely paralysed and travelling alone in an aisle seat with two customers next to him/her in the middle and window seat? Of course not. And it’s for perfectly reasonable safety requirements not because BA wants to discriminate.

    There is absolutely no reason why you should allow this to ruin your flight to Cape Town. And I agree if your partner is able to negotiate London Underground than absolutely a set of stairs is hardly going to cause any grief! Hence, if you are travelling together and you feel you can be independent simply remove the disability notification and select the seats of your choice. You are of absolutely no obligation to notify BA of a disability – unless you feel you will need special assistance in the airport and onboard.


    TimFitzgeraldTC
    Participant

    Actually I found this video on travelling with disability really useful – and where I am are making it a core part of training to better understand processes of dealing with disability travel – some of my colleagues are industry leading (and changing) experts in this area.

    https://qef.org.uk/our-services/qef-accessible-aviation/flight-video-guides


    Bath_VIP
    Participant

    All I can say is that as someone who is registered blind, I have never been prevented from sitting on the upper deck of the 747 on BA or Virgin. This has been the case whether I travel on my own or with someone.

    I never bother to flag my disability during the booking so it will only become obvious to BA when they see my white cane as I board the flight. I don’t have any issue with not being allowed to sit in emergency exit rows as people there are required to operate the doors in an emergency.

    When it comes to designated sitting areas for disabled passengers, the only time I saw that was a Ryanair where I was required to sit in the front row. Go figure.

    1 user thanked author for this post.

    farmerslodge
    Participant

    I rarely comment on such posts, but find myself asking the same question all of the time – Why do disabled persons feel they should get something for free that able bodied persons have to pay for?

    Not a problem going on the upper deck, pay the money like the rest of us.

    Just to put the record straight I have a disabled wife, so have a little understanding on this subject.

    Disability discrimination works both ways in my eyes. Sure park near the entrance, but pay like others have to, same for prime seating on aircraft, if you can fully meet the needs for evacuation then you can’t claim your disability allowance, if you can’t no problems follow the rules and sit on the lower deck, where the crew are expecting you to be.

    As I said before I don’t wish to be seen as discriminating and hope I haven’t given that impression just trying to say it as I see it.


    Bath_VIP
    Participant

    farmerswife, I agree with you that disabled should pay the same as ablebodied passengers for the same service. It doesn’t make sense otherwise.

    The issue though is the availability of the same service for disabled people. On Easyjet and many others, you can pay extra for extra legroom seats. Those seats are usually denied to disabled passengers because they are usually in emergency exit rows. So it is discriminatory not to offer the same facility elsewhere on the plane to disabled in non-emergency exit rows. Similarly to deny the upper deck to disabled passengers on spurious grounds is also discriminatory.

    1 user thanked author for this post.

    mkcol74
    Participant

    Thank you for your comments TimFitzgeraldTC,

    We are able to select any seat on the main deck so unsure which seats are allocated as most suitable for “Disability Travel” as you put it, apart from not being allowed on the the UD. So potentially passengers with disabilities could be spread though out the main deck.

    As I mentioned before on a flight to TXL they moved us from the front row of ET to the last row of the ET cabin on a A320 so expecting someone with a visual impairment to negotiate the whole length of the plane when embarking and disembarking and to make matters worse whilst checking in online they removed the facility to change seats purely because we had declared a disability. This resulted in me spending over an hour on the phone to get it sorted out but all the other seats were taken and we were force to sit at the back. That is not the experience an able bodied person would have had so they do treat disabled passengers differently. The Equality Act 2010 is there to ensure that disabled people have equal access to good and services and should have the same experience as an able bodied person and these ‘barriers’ form BA make it unacceptable. I do understand that safety is key but BA are not consistent with dealing with this.

    I strongly suspect your A320 Berlin experience was nothing whatsoever to do with disability and much more to do with the Club Europe curtain being moved back a row.

    If you do believe it was due to being discriminated against what did BA tell you when you challenged them about it?
    Did you also remember to report it to the police as a Hate Crime?


    DNAdams
    Participant

    Just for the record at no point did I say that I did not want pay or that we are entitled in any way. I am quite shocked at how angry people are on this forum, it is certainly not inclusive.

    BA offer this free seating policy to passengers with a disability, that is their policy not mine and do doubt complies with the basic requirements of the discrimination act. It probably has something to do with equal access to goods and services. Some disabilities are barriers to people not being able to do things themselves such going to the cinema as they need someone to go with then if they are blind/partially sighted etc. This means that they have to pay for two cinema tickets just so they can go themselves. Most cinemas offer a free ticket for the carer to make it more accessible. This is the same as what BA offer, I don’t get a free seat allocation it is is only offered to my partner – the person who may need assistance.

    I strongly suspect your A320 Berlin experience was nothing whatsoever to do with disability and much more to do with the Club Europe curtain being moved back a row.

    If you do believe it was due to being discriminated against what did BA tell you when you challenged them about it?
    Did you also remember to report it to the police as a Hate Crime?

    Yes, you are right it was to do with moving the CE curtain back. What you fail to understand is how the experience was different for a passenger with a disability than for an able bodied person. When we checked in online we discovered our seats had moved and we could not move our new seats (now 28b&C, the last row. due to BA seating policy even though we could see that row 6 was available – that would not have happened to an able bodied passenger. After spending an hour on the phone we were told that we would need to check at the airport which added to the stress of travelling and we ended up in row 28 C & D – still the last row – great for someone with a severe visual impairment. that is not treating people equality. That is discrimination.

    Bath_VIP stated above that he is allowed to sit on the UD even when using his white can. Now where is BA health and Safety policy then. Where was BAs health & safety policy when they made us sit in the last row of ET?.

    I need to mention mkcol74 extremely flippant and ignorant remark about hate crime. It really is an insult to compare this to a hate crime and insult to people how suffer that kind of behavior. Discrimination is about treating people differently and in this context allowing their experience of booking a flight and where they sit to be different to someone without a disability, a different race, sexuality etc. mkcol74 I have no idea if you have ever been discriminated against but I do hope it never happens to you.

    farmerswife,
    The issue though is the availability of the same service for disabled people. On Easyjet and many others, you can pay extra for extra legroom seats. Those seats are usually denied to disabled passengers because they are usually in emergency exit rows. So it is discriminatory not to offer the same facility elsewhere on the plane to disabled in non-emergency exit rows. Similarly to deny the upper deck to disabled passengers on spurious grounds is also discriminatory.

    Thank you Bath_VIP for these comments, it is clearly from someone who understand these challenges rather than simply mocking them.


    Bath_VIP
    Participant

    DNAdams, thanks for clarifying the seat reservation fee point which was confusing me. You are absolutely right that in a number of instances, a disabled person pays the same fee as an ablebodied person but if they need a carer with them, the carer goes free. For example, I can buy a rail ticket in the UK and a carer can travel for free with me. This only applies to Anytime tickets and disabled railcard discounts don’t apply so it is not always the best deal and I haven’t done it for a long time. In your instance, your partner was paying the seat fee and you get to sit next to them as a carer.

    1 user thanked author for this post.

    capetonianm
    Participant

    It is always hard for an airline to establish the degree of ‘disability’ and to assess the resultant risk. In the old days when I dealt with this on a regular basis at the office of the airlines I worked for, we would often see the passenger face to face, if not we’d get a medical certificate and then we’d use our common sense. These days, common sense is anything but common and Jobsworths rule.

    I get very annoyed when I see people parking in spaces reserved for the disabled. A friend of mine who is disabled but still able to drive keeps some printed notes in his car to use when appropriate. One side says :
    “If you want my parking space, please have my disability”
    and the other says :
    “This space is for people who are physically disabled, not for those who are suffering from terminal stupidity or selfishness, or both.”

    3 users thanked author for this post.

    rferguson
    Participant

    Discrimination…..

    If Joe Bloggs and myself are both calling Direct Line for an insurance quote and we both have exactly the same car, live in exactly the same area and yet I am 19 and Joe is 57 and I am quoted £1719 per annum and Joe is quotes £567 per annum is it discrimination? Yes. Is it based on some statistical risk factors? Yes.

    Is BA discriminating in the case of not allowing those that notify BA of a disability (note the difference between those WITH a disability and those NOTIFYING BA of a disability) seating in certain areas – yes. Is this based on risk factors? Yes.

    This page from ba.com lists the assistance provided by BA for those that notify of a disability:

    https://www.britishairways.com/en-gb/information/disability-assistance/assistance-available

    I have no idea to what level the OP’s partner would need assistance from the crew and do not want to make assumptions. But if you read what extra care and attention BA crew and ground staff can provide if you have a disability versus whether you need this assistance then one can draw their own conclusions. Do you need help from the crew to put away your belongings? Do you need a personal safety briefing by the crew? Do you need an escort to and from the aircraft? Do you need help finding your seat, stowing your hand baggage, moving between your seat and the washroom, identifying your food? The exact same person with a disability may need to notify BA on one flight but not the next as flight one s/he may be travelling alone and on flight two travelling with a companion.

    My recommendation for anyone with a disability wanting to sit on the UD would remain the same as I mentioned upthread. If you do not require any of the special assistance as listed on the ba.com disability pages (pretty much summarised in the paragraph above) then there is no need to notify BA of your disability and thus just choose whatever seat you want.

    3 users thanked author for this post.
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