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NEWS Last modified on August 11, 2017

UK airports doing a good job on catering for disabled passengers – although Heathrow must improve

UK airports have begun to give their reaction to a new report by the CAA that claims that the majority of them are providing 'very good' or 'good' support for passengers with a disability.

London City Airport, praised by the CAA for its improved quality of service for disabled passengers, stated that its 'good' rating was helped by the introduction of a number of new measures and services.

Melanie Burnley, LCY's director of passenger experience, said: “Ensuring that London City Airport is a welcoming environment for all is extremely important to us.

"We have been striving to better cater for the needs of all passengers, including those with reduced mobility and non-visible disabilities, and our improved CAA rating is testament to this.

"It’s important that those who need a helping hand get the info and assistance they require, and we recommend that passengers contact their airline at least 48 hours in advance, where possible, so we can provide the best possible experience."
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While London Luton Airport, also rated 'good' and was credited for performing well in areas such as customer satisfaction, waiting times and engagement with disability organisations, amidst the airport’s redevelopment work.  

Nick Barton, CEO of London Luton Airport said: “We’re delighted the CAA has recognised the steps we have been taking to make sure all our passengers have an enjoyable and easy experience with us. 

"With more passengers choosing to fly with us every year, it’s important to us that all travellers have a smooth journey. That’s why, as we continue to transform the airport, we have worked with various partners, including Luton Dementia Action Alliance, The National Autism Society and RNIB, to introduce a number of new services for passengers who need assistance. 

"We have also instigated training programmes for our staff to better help those who need support and we’ll continue making improvements across the airport.”

Omniserv provide the Special Assistance service on behalf of the Airport at Liverpool and the report shows that they and the Airport company have performed well in areas such as customer satisfaction, waiting times and engagement with disability organisations.
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It stated: "LJLA has particularly focused on the needs of those passengers who are often deterred from travelling by air due to a range of disabilities. Whilst well established procedures are in place at all airports to assist passengers with reduced mobility, the Airport Company believed more could be done to give those passengers with hidden disabilities greater opportunities to travel by air too.

"By establishing partnerships with a diverse mix of hidden disability organisations including, Autism Together, Liverpool Dementia Action Alliance, Stomawise and The Brain Charity, new procedures have been put in place along with staff training and familiarisation visits in order to give passengers with hidden disabilities greater confidence to travel through the Airport."

The CAA report itself published today assesses the top 30 UK airports on the quality of assistance they provide to passengers with a disability.

It shows that the number of people with a disability requesting extra help when travelling by air continues to grow significantly and has now reached over three million journeys in 2016 - a rise of over 66 per cent since 2010.  

Only four airports have not met the CAA's expectations and have been told they must improve.
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The CAA's framework, the first of its kind in Europe, was introduced to ensure there is a consistent and high quality service for disabled passengers across UK airports.

The CAA assesses airports against a number of measures to establish how well they are performing for disabled passengers. Where airports regularly under-perform, the CAA can take enforcement action to ensure services are improved.

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

Those with 'very good' and 'good' ratings have performed well in areas such as customer satisfaction, waiting times and engagement with disability organisations.

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

Richard Moriarty, CAA director of consumers and markets, said: “UK aviation should be proud that it continues to serve a rapid increase in the number of passengers with a disability.  
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"Our surveys, along with the airports' own studies, have shown high levels of satisfaction among disabled passengers and we have seen some examples of excellent service where assistance is well organised and delays are minimal.  

"However, East Midlands, Exeter, Heathrow and Manchester have fallen short of our expectations and we have secured commitments from them to make improvements.

"We will monitor their implementation over the coming months to make sure that services for passengers with a disability or reduced mobility continue to improve.”

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Transport Secretary Chris Grayling, said: “It is vital that everyone can access and use transport services, and the CAA is doing excellent work around this. It is encouraging to see the overwhelming majority of UK airports providing a good service for passengers with a disability, but I am determined to push the aviation industry to do more.

"This autumn, as part of our Aviation Strategy, we will consult on ways to make aviation more accessible for people with both visible and hidden disabilities, such as dementia, autism, loss of sight or hearing, as well as age-related conditions. I also want everyone to take part in the upcoming consultation on our draft Accessibility Action Plan which will look at what more can be done across the entire transport network.”

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