A LANDMARK law has been passed that will prevent airlines from refusing to accept disabled people onto flights.

The law, pioneered by Harrow MEP Robert Evans, is in force now and will affect seven million disabled, blind and elderly people across the UK and Europe.

Cases that influenced the new law included nine blind and partially sighted travellers who were ejected from a Ryanair flight because there were too many disabled people on the plane.

Another case involved a woman born without limbs being told by an Air France employee that "a torso cannot possibly fly on its own".

Robert Evans MEP said: "It is incredible that people with reduced mobility have suffered neglect and maltreatment in airports as late as 2007.

"Some UK airports have put in place admirable measures to assist people - and I welcome these efforts - but voluntary agreements are not a proper substitute for the law.

"Ryanair and the insulting manner in which they treated disabled passengers are probably the most well-publicised culprit, but there are plenty of others - not just low cost carriers.

"Travelling by air is now almost as common as by car, with up to half the population expected to fly at least once a year. With a large proportion of travel taking place inside Europe, it was vital this law be passed at the European level."

Tom Pey, Guide Dogs' director of public policy, said: "Guide Dogs is delighted with the new EU Regulations on the Rights of Disabled Persons and Persons with Reduced Mobility when Travelling by Air.

"While this first stage of its implementation will outlaw gratuitous discrimination, we are also looking forward to the introduction of the requirement that will prevent airlines from refusing to carry guide dogs in the cabin with their owners, which will be implemented in July 2008."

The additional regulations will come into force next year to ensure passengers requiring assistance are given a designated point of arrival and provided a seamless service from check-in to the departure gate. Additionally, airport staff will have to undertake disability awareness training.