Passengers with Reduced Mobility (PRM)

Air passengers with reduced mobility (PRM) still represents a very small percentage of the total number of air passengers. For example, in the UK a total 3.8 million of PRM assistance were registered, which represented 1.3% of the 290 million passengers that used UK airports in 2018. However, the levels of PRM in 2018 represented an increase of 80%, compared with 2010 and some European airports registered annual PRM growth, six times greater than the overall rate of passenger growth and represents one of the fastest growing passenger segments (Budd and Ison, 2020).

In response to this growing passenger segment, different countries around the globe have started to introduce new regulation, protecting air passengers with reduced mobility. Budd and Ison (2020) researched the passenger rights of 20 different markets and concluded “by recommending the formation of more harmonised global policy making to better support the needs of special assistance passengers and facilitate their greater mobility by air”. One example, the European single aviation market (27 countries) passed a new regulation back in 2006 (EC, 2006), which was fully implemented in 2008. The main rights and responsibilities, highlighted by Greave (2020), are the following:

  • The right for the PRM not to be refused embarkation or reservation by the airline
  • The right for the PRM to be provided with assistance at airports, at not additional cost, in order to allow access to the flight.
  • Responsibility for provision of assistance to PRMs at airports is placed with the airport management company; previously, these services were usually contracted by airlines.
  • The cost of providing assistance at airports can be recovered from airlines through transparent and cost-effective charges levied for all passengers.

The Regulation (EC) No 1107/2006 includes a clear definition of disabled person or person with reduced mobility, which says as follows:

‘Any person whose mobility when using transport is reduced due to any physical disability (sensory or locomotor, permanent or temporary), intellectual disability or impairment, or any other cause of disability, or age, and whose situation needs appropriate attention and the adaptation to his or her particular needs of the service made available to all passengers; (EC, 2006, article 2a).

A more restricted definition (as does not refer to the “permanent or temporary” dimensions of the disability) was updated in 2017 by the 15th edition of ICAO’s Annex 9 to the Convention on International Civil Aviation – Facilitation (ICAO, 2018). It says the following:

“Any person whose mobility is reduced due to a physical incapacity (sensory or locomotor), an
intellectual deficiency, age, illness or any other cause of disability when using transport and whose situation needs special attention and the adaptation to the person’s needs of the services made available to all passengers.”

Passenger with Reduced Mobility (PRM) often have specific rights. For instance, taking the EU as one example the Regulation (EC) No 1107/2006, defines the rights of disabled persons and persons with reduced mobility when travelling by air. As a consequence of this regulation,  all the European airports provide now a service that assist passengers with reduced mobility across the airport. The service needs to be requested at least 48 hours before the flight and needs to be provided free of charge to passengers.

Facilitating mobility and equality of access represents and important operational challenge for both airports and airlines (Budd and Ison, 2020), which also has cost implications. Ancell and Graham (2016) identied nine functional key factors to help airlines and aviation policy stakeholders to audit PRMs costs:

  1. PRM’s transfers (e.g. extra fuel due to extra weight)
  2. Mobility aids (e.g. heavy and technically complex electrical scooters)
  3. Aircraft delay/diversions for PRMs (e.g. one diversion caused by a PRM emergency)
  4. Staff training (e.g. ground staff on dismantling /reassembling wheelchairs)
  5. Staff health, safety and welfare (e.g. lift immobile passengers into and out of their seats)
  6. Aircraft fixtures and equipment costs (e.g. onboard wheelchairs or accessible toilet installations)
  7. Airport costs (e.g. cost to provide the service to assist PRM to navigate the airport)
  8. Transaction costs (e.g. to attend the cost associated to passenger rights)
  9. Opportunity costs (e.g. when extra seat of space is required and not allocated for other uses)

The term “Passenger with Reduced Mobility (PRM)”, although is a term widely used by the air transport industry, has started to adopt different names with a wider scope. For example, Heathrow Airport (2020, pag. 21) has now adopted the term “Passengers with Special Requirements (PSR)” and when informing passengers at their website uses the title “Assistance and accessibility” (Heathrow Airport, 2021); British Airways informs passengers under the heading “disability and mobility assistance” (British Airways, 2021); and Finnair informs in English with the heading “special assistance and health” (Finnair, 2021).


Related Topics


Ancell, D., & Graham, A. (2016). A framework for evaluating the European airline costs of disabled persons and persons with reduced mobility. Journal of Air Transport Management, 50, 41–44.

Budd, L., & Ison, S. (2020). Supporting the needs of special assistance (including PRM) passengers: An international survey of disabled air passenger rights legislation. Journal of Air Transport Management, 87, 101851.

British Airways. (2021). What assistance is available? | Disability assistance | British Airways.

EC. (2006). Regulation (EC) No 1107/2006 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 5 July 2006 concerning the rights of disabled persons and persons with reduced mobility when travelling by air [Website]. Publications Office of the European Union.

EC. (2012). Interpretative Guidelines on the application of Regulation (EC) N° 1107/2006 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 5 July 2006 concerning the rights of disabled persons and persons with reduced mobility when travelling by air.

Finnair. (2021). Special assistance and health. Finnair.

Heathrow Airport. (2020). Heathrow Airport Limited Conditions of Use including Airport Charges from 1 January 2021.

Heathrow Airport. (2021). Accessibility and mobility help | Heathrow. Heathrow Airport.

ICAO. (2018). Standards and recommended practices Annex 9 to the convention on international civil aviation facilitation, fifteenth ed. ICAO, Montreal. October 2017. uments/Meetings/2018/FAL-IMPLEMENTATION/an09_cons.pdf

Kujala, H., & Joutsiniemi, J. (2019). Inclusive and accessible travel: Case Finnair Oyj.