Customer rights

The main customer rights related risks in the international transportation industry are data privacy and accessibility for customers with disabilities.

Data privacy

Due to fast progress in digitalization and a strong increase in online bookings, international transport companies dispose of vast quantities of (confidential) customer data, including personal details, credit card numbers, travel history details, as well as health-related information. These data are increasingly becoming the focus of cybercriminals seeking to steal or access data for various reasons, such as financial goals or to attack the reputation of a company. Travel companies must make sure that customer data is stored safely and according to international guidelines and inform their customers in the case of a data breach.

Accessibility

Accessibility for all customers is another main issue for transport companies. Accessibility concerns vehicles such as planes, trains, buses or ferries but also associated transport infrastructure such as airports, ports, train and bus stations. Mostly it is people with disabilities who are restricted in their rights, for instance by not receiving sufficient assistance to reach and board a vehicle or airplane, access lavatory facilities, or receive necessary information in case of a hearing or visual impairment. Furthermore, travellers with disabilities may face prejudice, receive misinformation or be required to pay higher prices than other travellers.

Almost 10 million passengers were affected by a data breach at Cathay Pacific airlines in 2018. Hackers have exposed Cathay customers’ passport and credit card numbers and captured a variety of personal data including names, nationalities, dates of birth, phone numbers, physical addresses, and historical travel information, according to the airline. 

British Airways informed the public that personal and financial data from 380,000 customers was stolen by hackers in summer 2018.

A passenger with a cerebral palsy waited for United Airline’s wheelchair to help him off the plane. After waiting for about 30 minutes without receiving adequate support by the airline staff, he decided to crawl off the plane to reach his own wheelchair. The airline reached out to him after the incident to apologize and offered compensation. The passenger was pleased with the airline’s response.

The link below recounts several stories of disabled air passengers whose wheelchairs have been damaged during transport. Airlines were reported as not offering sufficient compensation for the damages, or only offering them after legal action on behalf of the passengers. Furthermore, as some of the wheelchairs took a long time to repair, the affected people were restricted in their mobility or forced to pay extra expenditures for car rentals, taxis or other kinds of assistance. 

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Take action

Policy and process

  • Integrate accessibility and data privacy in Supplier Code of Conduct to be signed by business partners in transport (airlines, railway, bus companies, ferries).
  • Partnering transport companies should dispose of a company disability policy.

Training and capacity building

  • Train sales staff on accessibility and data privacy.

Grievance mechanism

  • Transport companies should provide a grievance mechanism for complaints.
  • If needed, provide information to customers about specific disability policies and contact points of international transport companies (cf. overview on Wheelchairtravel: Report air carrier access act violations).

Find more information on potential measures to take on the "take action" site. 

Learn more

Find more information in the Resource Centre.