Major UK airports slammed for not doing enough to help disabled passengers

UK

For a second year, Manchester Airport has been rated as “poor” in the help that it provides for disabled passengers.

The Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) has also said its sister airport, Stansted, has not met expectations and has been told it must improve – as have Gatwick and Birmingham.

But Britain’s biggest airport, Heathrow, has been classified as “good” following its “poor” rating in 2017. 

Manchester Airport is criticised for “long waiting times for assistance”.

The CAA has a target of 20 minutes for assistance reaching disabled passengers on planes. But Paul Smith, the authority’s consumers and markets director, said some passengers at Manchester were having to wait over an hour, which he described as “simply not good enough”. 

Assistance services are provided by private companies which are contracted by the airlines, independently of the airport.

Manchester Airport says its security officers have been given disability awareness training, “ensuring they are aware of sensitivities regarding disabilities”. 

The airport says it is also tackling hidden disabilities, saying: “We are working on ways to identify how we can improve the airport experience for our vulnerable passengers who may not want to share details of their hidden disabilities or use our assistance service.”

The CAA’s annual report on the accessibility services provided by the top 30 UK airports has rated 16 as “very good,” 10 more than last year. They include Edinburgh Airport, which was rated “poor” two years ago.

The report says there are more than three million requests for assistance at UK airports annually. The rate of increase is around 10 per cent per year.

Two planes collide at London’s Stansted airport

More than half the passengers surveyed say they are “very satisfied” with the service provided, with only one in six not satisfied with their treatment. 

Aviation minister Baroness Sugg added: “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.”

In March this year, the BBC security correspondent, Frank Gardner, launched a furious attack on Heathrow Airport after his wheelchair went missing following a flight from Addis Ababa.

The Independent has asked for responses from the airports criticised by the CAA.

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