The UK Civil Aviation Authority is calling for views on a proposed framework to improve airline experiences for disabled and less mobile passengers.
The regulator’s framework would rank the performance of airlines based on their service for disabled and less mobile passengers, from booking flight tickets and assistance at the airport, through to their onboard experience and complaints handling.
Ratings would include consideration of access around requesting assistance, onboard facilities including seating and toilets, as well as boarding and disembarking.
The framework also sets standards for bringing assistance dogs onto flights, along with providing guidance on how airlines should handle mobility equipment and providing compensation when it is lost or damaged.
In developing the proposals, the regulator has significantly engaged with disabled people, as well as major airlines.
Anna Bowles, Head of Consumer at the UK Civil Aviation Authority, said:
“Our proposals to introduce this new framework are about holding airlines to account in meeting their obligations to disabled and less mobile passengers across all aspects of their journey.
“Consumers should have confidence that the standard of support they receive when flying will meet their needs. Assessing airlines against a standardised framework will ensure that disabled and less mobile passengers will be better informed when they choose which airline to fly with, and will highlight areas where airlines need to do better.
“To make the framework as effective as possible, we’re asking for feedback from individuals, disability rights groups and the industry to help shape our plans.”
Josh Wintersgill, Founder and Director of Able Move, said:
“This consultation is a great opportunity for people to share their constructive feedback to help influence and shape the framework further. A tremendous amount of work has gone into it thus far, and the framework is very much welcomed.
“Whilst only guidance, it is hoped it would enable the UK Civil Aviation Authority to better monitor airline performance and hold airlines to greater public accountability just like UK airports are today, which has shown improvements, but perhaps not at the pace which people expect.”
A consultation launched today is now seeking further feedback from disability rights groups, individuals, and the aviation industry, particularly around what best practice looks like.
The initiative would carry out assessments on all UK and non-UK airlines which operate to the UK, with the outcome of these assessments being made public.
It follows the introduction of a similar framework for airports in 2014, which has driven airports to spend millions of pounds improving experiences for passengers with reduced mobility.
The UK Civil Aviation Authority has also helped deliver other significant improvements for passengers over the last decade in its access to air work, including developing guidance for UK airports on helping people with non-visible disabilities such as autism, dementia and hearing loss as well as many other conditions that are not immediately obvious.
The consultation is running until 21 July 2023.
Notes to editors
The UK Civil Aviation Authority is the UK’s aviation regulator. We work so that the aviation industry meets the highest safety standards and consumers have choice, value for money, are protected and treated fairly when they fly.
Suggested subject areas for assessment in the framework include:
- Website accessibility and provision of essential information before flying
- Requesting assistance and pre-notification
- Access and medical clearance
- Accompanying passengers
- Boarding and disembarking
- Seat allocation and armrests
- Seating for accompanying passengers
- Supplementary seating
- Access to toilets
- Storage of manual wheelchairs onboard
- Assistance dogs
- Carriage of mobility and medical equipment
- Assistance during flight disruption
- Complaint handling
- Compensation for lost, delayed or damaged mobility equipment.