Manchester Airport
Manchester Airport has significantly improved accessibility for disabled passengers.

Substantial progress has been made in improving the UK’s airports for disabled passengers, according to new findings by the Civil Aviation Authority.

The Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) last week highlighted the substantial improvements it has made in helping passengers with a disability or reduced mobility.

An airport accessibility framework was introduced by the regulator five years ago ranking airports on their performance for passengers requiring assistance.

The framework was the first of its kind globally and has overseen millions of pounds of investment made by airports toward improving consumers’ experiences.

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For the second year running, the CAA found that no UK airport has been ranked as ‘poor’ for its accessibility services provided to passengers living with a disability.

Significant achievements have been made by airports across the UK over the past five years, with improvements made at Manchester Airport in particular. The airport switched from a ‘poor’ rating in 2018 to a ‘good’ rating this year after agreeing on improvements with the Civil Aviation Authority.

This year’s report, which covers the period from 1 April 2019 to 31 March 2020, also shows that 15 airports have been classified as ‘very good’, with a further 13 classified as ‘good’.

Three airports are listed as requiring improvements. According to the CAA, this is due to the robustness of how the data was collected during reporting rather than as a result of direct concerns over assistance services at these airports.

The regulator has stated that it has worked alongside consumer and disability groups to improve every part of the consumer journey, considering the individual needs of each passenger.

Gemma Hope, Director of Policy for Leonard Cheshire, said: “We’re pleased to see the latest CAA report showing continued positive progress in airport accessibility, with only a small number of airports needing improvements.

“But as air travel begins to gradually open up more as we recover from the pandemic, it’s essential that accessibility continues to be prioritised and passengers with disabilities and health conditions have access to the support they need.

“With marked improvements being made across major UK airports over the past five years, we hope this momentum will continue so that all airports meet the highest accessibility standards.”

The demand for high accessibility standards has never been higher. Since 2015, the CAA reported a significant rise in the number of passengers requesting assistance at UK airports, with four million requests in the latest year. This is almost double the amount than was recorded in 2015. In total, UK airports have received more than 10 million assistance requests.

Reflecting on the half a decade of improvements, Paul Smith, Director at the UK Civil Aviation Authority, said that it wants all passengers to feel confident with the flying experience.

“As the industry looks to recover from the coronavirus pandemic and consumers plan their travel for 2021, we hope that passengers with reduced mobility and hidden disabilities feel confident about the services they will receive,” he said.

“It is great to see the level of progress made by UK airports over the last five years, but there are still areas that need further improvement as our ambition as a regulator is for the UK’s airports to be the best in the world for accessibility.”

Initial monitoring conducted throughout the current year by the CAA suggests that the positive trend in access provision is continuing, despite the current global challenges and reduced flying schedules faced by the aviation industry.

The pandemic has led to a reduction in the number of passengers with reduced mobility willing to fly in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.

 

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