Airports improve help for disabled passengers

The number of disabled passengers travelling by air is up by two-thirds since 2010, helped by a drive to improve assistance at airports.

The majority of the UK’s top 30 airports offer ‘very good’ or ‘good’ service for disabled travellers, a study by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) has found.

However, four airports including Heathrow and Manchester were found to have not met the CAA’s expectations and have been told they must improve.

Overall, the number of people with a disability requesting help when travelling by air reached over three million journeys in 2016. That’s a rise of over 66% since 2010 and well above headline passenger growth for the same period.

Disability framework

The CAA’s framework is the first of its kind in Europe and aims to ensure there is a consistent and high quality service for disabled passengers across UK airports.

Of the airports reviewed, six were rated ‘very good’, 20 rated as ‘good’ and four rated as ‘poor’.

Those with the best ratings performed well in areas such as customer satisfaction, waiting times and engagement with disability organisations.

East Midlands, Exeter, Heathrow and Manchester airports were rated poor but have all now committed to make improvements and the CAA expects work to implement these plans to start immediately.

Hidden disabilities

CAA director Richard Moriarty said the UK aviation industry should be proud that it continues to serve a rapid increase in the number of passengers with a disability.

As part of its aviation strategy, the government has also committed to make aviation more accessible for people with both visible and hidden disabilities, such as dementia, autism, loss of sight or hearing.

This follows research by the CAA that found 23% of people said they had a condition that might affect their ability to travel by air, with 30% of these people defining this as non-physical.

The CAA has asked airports to provide quiet routes and areas, as well as offer passengers the option to wear lanyards or wristbands so that staff can identify and meet their needs without having to ask questions.