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Today (Friday 3 December 2021) is the International Day of Persons Living with Disabilities. To mark this important day in the calendar, our Consumer Director and Chair of the Civil Aviation Authority's Diversity and Inclusion Board, Paul Smith, looks at the CAA's #AccessToAir campaign and how air travel for passengers living with disabilities has developed over recent years.
We strongly believe that everyone should have access to air travel, and our ongoing #AccessToAir campaign looks to build confidence among passengers as the aviation sector continues to recover from the coronavirus pandemic.
We expect all passengers from the UK to have the best possible journey from the airport to the air. We of course appreciate the challenges that the industry continues to face due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, as well the emergence of new challenges such as the omnicron variant. However, we have been seeing an increase in passenger desire to travel, and there is a lot of demand from people wishing to visit their friends and family overseas. This return to flying provides the aviation industry with an opportunity to further enhance its services to passengers living with disabilities.
To support the recent increase in passenger numbers, we are reminding consumers with physical, hidden or learning disabilities of the support they can receive both at the airport and onboard their flights. With extra measures in place at airports at the moment, if you are a passenger with reduced mobility, remember to ask for assistance either when you book, or at least 48 hours before travel. You can do this over the phone or online and your travel provider will be pleased to help you.
Support provided by the aviation industry includes:
transfers from a designated point, such as car park or bus stop, to the terminal building
the use of an airport wheelchair to get to the gate
extra help getting through security searches
assistance with boarding the aircraft and getting seated
specific seats on the aircraft
providing extra care and attention
We also spoke to accessibility champion Chris Wood MBE about his views on the sector:
“The past ten years has seen a strong improvement in air travel for passengers flying with a disability. Despite these improvements, it's important that airlines and airports continue to work closely with the Civil Aviation Authority to enhance their offering to passengers. As the industry recovers from the pandemic, this is an opportunity for operators to advance their accessibility services even further.”
Going forward, we all have a part to play in improving services. Although there are ongoing challenges across the sector, it is important that we don't let consumers down. Consumers will not thank any of us across the industry if we score an own goal by not having the right resources in place to deal with challenges such as ground handling and accessibility service provision.
The past ten years have seen strong improvements in air travel for anyone flying with a disability and we hope that this empowers consumers to feel confident to fly. We will continue to work with the industry and disability groups to put in place the right resources and services during the recovery and encourage further improvements towards greater access to air as the aviation and travel industries continue to recover.
Consumer Director and Chair of the Civil Aviation Authority's Diversity and Inclusion Board
UK Civil Aviation Authority
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