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Survey reveals how airlines and airports need to improve for disabled passengers

October 21, 2019

A press release:

Survey reveals how airlines and airports need to improve for disabled passengers

265 disabled people from the UK took part in a survey – run by online magazine Disability Horizons – to find out their experiences of accessible air travel within the last five years.

64% of the disabled people we spoke to found it difficult to locate information about flying as a disabled passenger when booking a flight.

Nearly 50% of respondents said they couldn’t access the toilets during flights.

For the 71 people we spoke to who haven’t flown in the last five years, the majority said that it was because “it’s too much hassle to fly”.

Booking flights as a disabled traveller

The first challenge for disabled passengers when booking a flight is finding information. Of the people who experienced issues with this:

· 37% struggled to find information on arranging assistance for disabled passengers getting onto and during the flight.

· 32% found it difficult to find details on checking in mobility equipment.

Many disabled people told us they would like to see more airlines have a dedicated accessible booking line.

One person commented: “Airline websites should have a dedicated section/page on issues relating to disability. It is often impossible to book through a third party and therefore not eligible for online booking discounted travel.”

Checking in at the airport with a disability

When checking in, of those who experienced some sort of difficulty, the biggest was the staff not knowing how to handle their medical equipment or mobility aids being checked in – 14% of people discovered this.

A passenger needing to travel with a wheelchair said: “They were concerned about my wheelchair. It was a new, fold-up power chair, but there was concern about what kind of battery it was and whether just disconnecting it was good enough.”

Boarding the plane and experiences during the flight

18% of people said that there were delays caused by lack of assistance when boarding the plane.

For example, one person told us: “I was boarded last due to having to use the ambulift and the aisle chair. In lots of airports abroad, disabled people are loaded first, which is much less stressful than trying to get to your seat whilst all the other passengers are faffing about in the lockers. I believe this to be the cause of most take off delays at UK airports”.

Disabled people also experience unsafe and discomforting transfers by staff, which can cause pain and injury.

One passenger said: “So-called ‘assistance staff’ were employees of the airline not an Assistance Team. I was manhandled in a painful and undignified manner and I was left physically and mentally traumatised.”

The worst experience during a flight is not having access to a toilet. 49% of disabled people said the toilet on the plane wasn’t accessible.

Collecting equipment at the airport

When collecting luggage, 12% of disabled passengers found that their mobility aids or equipment was damaged.

A wheelchair user said: “My wheelchair was scratched and part of the control damaged, which could only have happened due to it being thrown about or not handled and stored carefully.”

Airline and aircraft ratings

Overall, 31% found the experience with the airline ’good’, but 28% said it was ’OK’ and 17% rated it as ‘poor’.

Moreover, 29% said their experience with the airport was ’OK’, with the same percentage said it was ‘good’. But 14% said it was ‘poor’.

Martyn Sibley, co-founder of Disability Horizons said: “At Disability Horizons we believe in getting the voice of disabled people heard. This survey has certainly achieved that. I’m hopeful airlines and airports will now engage with disabled people to create actual solutions. Flying, like any transportation, should be for every human being. Let’s see an end to this avoidable discrimination.“

Accessible air travel panel debate

On Monday the 21st of October 2019, Disability Horizons will be launching its first digital panel debate, discussing accessible air travel.

Hosted by disabled influencer Martyn Sibley, five guests – who all have personal and professional experiences in accessible air travel – will talk candidly about what the airlines and airports need to do to improve.

· Roberto Castiglioni – Director of Reduced Mobility Rights Limited

· Josh Wintersgill – Founder of the easyTravelseat

· Carrie-Ann Lightley – Travel blogger and Marketing Manager at AccessAble

· Chris Wood – Founder of FlyingDisabled

· Graham Race – Accessible Aviation expert at QEF

The digital panel will be published on Disability Horizons on Monday 21, with snippets posted on its social media channels – Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube – throughout the week.

On Friday 25 October at 5pm, it will be aired in full on Facebook, where Martyn will join the Disability Horizons community to discuss the findings and their experiences.



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