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Thursday, 22 November, 2001, 17:06 GMT
Aircraft wheelchair access campaign
The entrance doors to Cardiff Airport
Disabled air travellers face problems at Cardiff Airport
Disabled rights campaigners have been meeting management at Cardiff Airport to call for equal rights for people who use wheelchairs.

The airport prides itself on the ease with which disabled people can gain access to its terminal and pass through to passport control and the departure lounge.

But that ease of access disappears when they
Dr Kevin Fitzpatrick
The disability rights commissioner for Wales Dr Kevin Fitzpatrick
attempt to board many of the planes which operate out of the airport, particularly to Scotland, as the aircraft are either not designed or insured to take wheelchairs.

The result is that disabled passengers who want to fly from Wales to Scotland have to travel to airports in England to make the trip because their chairs are considered a safety hazard.

Disability Rights Commissioner for Wales Dr Kevin Fitzpatrick, and MEP Glenys Kinnock have visited the airport to call on bosses to sort out the problem.

"To travel from west of Swansea to Bristol Airport, bypassing Cardiff on the way, to get a flight to Scotland just seems crazy," said Dr Kevin Fitzpatrick.

Labour MEP Glenys Kinnock added that draft legislation being drawn up by the European Commission would make it clear what rights disabled people could expect when they travel by air.

Glenys Kinnock MEP
Kinnock: 'A fundamental human right'

"There is clearly a need to discuss these concerns with the management of Cardiff International Airport, in order that we can try to ensure that these issues of fundamental human rights are dealt with seriously and urgently," she said.

"The vast majority of airlines have signed up to a voluntary European Charter which focuses on better access to facilities for disabled passengers, information in different formats including Braille, disability training for airport staff and the transport of guide dogs free of charge.

Enormous difficulty

"The reality in Cardiff Airport is that enormous difficulty is being encountered by disabled passengers."

Jon Horne, the airport's managing director, said he was in discussion with the airlines to ensure the process of improving disabled access was speeded up.

He said: "If there's something we can bring in the intervening period, before larger aircraft are employed, then clearly we will do that."

Last month the Cardiff-born Paralympic gold medallist, Tanni Grey Thompson, was prevented from flying from Scotland to London because the airline was not insured to carry her in the aircraft.

BBC Wales's Rhodri Lewis reports
"Cardiff Airport prides itself on the facilities it offers people with disabilities."
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