Apr 20: The EU is under pressure to enforce equality rules on airlines as increasing numbers of disabled people, including a UN disability rights monitor, are being refused travel because they are in a wheelchair.
Shuaib Chalklen, the UN's "special rapporteur on disability" has complained to the European Commission after he was denied boarding on a flight from Heathrow to Geneva because he is a wheelchair user.
Mr Chalklen's ticket was booked by the UN but he was told that he would not be allowed on Swiss International Airlines flight LX 353 if he planned to travel unaccompanied. The airline insisted that travelling alone, on the one hour and 40 minute journey, he would not be able to use the in-flight lavatory facilities.
"I think it is absurd. I am a paraplegic frequent flyer for the last 15 years and I've travelled around the world on my own," he told The Daily Telegraph.
After Mr Chalklen protested that, as a UN human rights monitor, he regularly travelled alone the airline finally relented and allowed him to travel five days later than originally planned.
"I have had this experience before. It is spreading. Something has gone wrong. They are not applying European law," he said.
A spokesman for Swiss airlines said: "We transport many wheelchair users. We have looked into this and our medical department gave him the OK to fly with us."
Last week, a disabled woman successfully sued Ryanair after her husband was forced to carry her onto an aircraft using a fireman's lift after a wheelchair life failed to arrive and the couple faced missing their flight. Wheelchair-bound Jo Heath, who suffers from multiple sclerosis, won ￡1,750 compensation for Ryanair's failure to provide the assistance and breach of disability discrimination laws.
Aurelien Dayde, a spokesman for the European Disability Forum, said that complaints were coming in on a daily basis, including a case that involved denied boarding for Jean-Luc Simon, the paraplegic chairman of the Disabled Peoples' International.
"It is happening every day and with most airlines. We need the EU to strengthen the law and make sure it is enforced," he said.
Siim Kallas, the European commissioner for transport, is planning to issue new guidance on the law to Britain before the 2012 Olympics and is planning to increase the powers of the national bodies that enforce passenger rights.
"It is not enough for people to have rights on paper if they don't work on the ground. We know there are still far too many cases where people with disabilities are being refused basic access to flights," he said.
"The Commission will bring forward new guidelines before the end of the year to close loopholes."