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Air Services.

Dáil Éireann Debate, Wednesday - 25 January 2006

Wednesday, 25 January 2006

Questions (794)

David Stanton


900 Mr. Stanton asked the Minister for Transport the measures in place to ensure that people with disabilities are not prevented from travelling as passengers on commercial airlines to and from the State; the restriction that he is aware of in this regard; if he has had discussions with airlines and other interested bodies on this issue; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2454/06]

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Written answers (Question to Minister for Transport)

Currently in Europe there are criteria laid down by the joint aviation authorities, JAA, for the carriage of persons with reduced mobility, PRMs, by airline operators. Those criteria mean that airlines must: establish procedure for the carriage of PRMs, follow the guidelines on the locations of PRMs, and ensure that the aircraft commander is notified of PRMs on board.

In designing their procedures for dealing with PRMs airline operators take into account emergency and evacuation situations and particular conditions applicable to their flight operations including different types of aircraft, equipment on board and crewing levels.

Each airline's procedures for the carriage of PRMs form part of their operating manual, and are approved by the Irish Aviation Authority, IAA, as part of the IAA's safety regulation of the airline. Airlines can therefore carry PRMs up to the limit allowed under their procedures.

Under a new European regulation, expected to be approved by Council in March 2006, and which was strongly supported by Ireland, new rights will be put in place to ensure that PRMs are given assistance at airports and while embarking and disembarking aircraft. This legislation will ensure that PRMs can only be refused carriage on aircraft in order to meet applicable safety requirements established by international, Community or national law, in order to meet safety requirements established by the authority that issued the air operator's certificate to the air carrier concerned, or if the size of the aircraft or its doors makes the embarkation or carriage of that disabled person or person with reduced mobility physically impossible.

These rights in the regulation will come into force in early 2007, while other parts of the regulation will come into force one year later. The proposed regulation envisages that each national aviation authority can establish common rules for aircraft on its register regarding the number and manner of carriage of PRMs on different aircraft. My Department has already written to the IAA about this new regulation, to ensure that Ireland and the IAA will be in a position to comply fully with its requirements from the beginning of 2007 onwards. The proposed new regulation also provides for a national enforcement body to be put in place in each member state. When the regulation is formally adopted and becomes law, I will finalise my consideration of which body should be designated, and designate that body in due course.

Under the Disability Act 2005, I, along with five other Ministers, am obliged to prepare and publish a sectoral plan on matters specified in the Act. The sectoral plan must be laid before the Houses of the Oireachtas by 28 July 2006. My Department held a seminar and workshops on accessible transport in Dublin Castle on 13 January 2006, to launch a discussion paper on the sectoral plan, and comments received will be taken into account when finalising the plan for presentation to the Oireachtas.