The Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) has said four of the UK’s 30 biggest airports are failing to provide access for disabled travellers.
In a report published this week, Manchester Airport was placed at the bottom of the list for the second consecutive year and was rated as ‘poor’ when it comes to helping disabled passengers.
Birmingham Airport and London Stansted also need to improve their airport assistance for disabled passengers, while the CAA said that London Gatwick is failing to meet expectations.
The corporation said the lack of an appropriate service has a significant impact on individuals with reduced mobility and other disabilities and has urged airports to work on improving their journeys.
Speaking to the BBC’s Today Programme, disability rights campaigner Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson said she had received several complaints about inefficient services in airports and on trains. She added that the inconsistency of such services was the most common reason for complaints, with passengers lamenting a lack of certainty when travelling.
The CAA’s list saw Heathrow climb back up into the top 10 airports offering good airport assistance for disabled after being labelled as ‘poor’ last year. “The passenger journey on arrival is now much quicker and generally seamless from aircraft to final point,” the CAA said about the London hub in its report.
But the corporation criticised Manchester Airport’s “long waiting times for assistance and issues with the recording and reporting of performance data,” which, it said, are the main factors responsible for the airport’s low performances.
The CAA said it had received reports from Manchester Airport passengers who waited for assistance for over an hour. The situation, which was labelled as ‘not acceptable’ by the authority, has now been acknowledged and the northern England hub will launch a performance improvement plan.
Gatwick, Stansted and Birmingham have been marked down for being unable to provide sufficient information about their standards of services. “In addition, for Stansted, we have concerns about potential delays to passengers’ journeys on arrival from inbound flights,” the CAA reported, adding that all three airports are taking action to improve their services.
Overall, the CAA saw an improvement in airport assistance for disabled compared to past services at airports. The corporation found ‘very good’ disability access in 16 of the UK’s 30 major airports, ten more than in 2017.
The CAA now receives over three million requests for disability assistance at UK airports every year, an almost 80% increase since 2010. Over half of the passengers surveyed said they were ‘very satisfied’ with the help received, while only one in six was ‘unhappy’ with their treatment. “The vast majority of passengers’ journeys go smoothly and disabled passengers should have even more confidence to travel from UK airports,” the authority said.
Aviation minister Baroness Sugg said: “It’s essential that passengers with reduced mobility or hidden disabilities get the service they deserve every time they fly. I welcome the progress made by airports to improve accessibility and will continue to work with all of the aviation industry to make flying easier for disabled passengers.”