RIGHT OF PASSAGE
Business Traveller UK|March 2020
How accessible is air travel for persons of reduced mobility?
JENNI REID

We all put up with inconveniences to jet around the world – hurried walks across labyrinthine airports, onerous security checks and being crammed with hundreds of others into a small metal tube for several hours.

Few of us, however, will have deliberately dehydrated ourselves before a flight because we know there will be no way to access a toilet on board. Or watched from our seat as every other passenger disembarked, waiting for our assistance to arrive. Or been left immobile in a new city because our wheelchair has been damaged or lost in transit.

For “persons with reduced mobility” (PRMs) with a permanent or temporary physical disability, the whole experience of flying – from passing through the airport and getting on to the aircraft, to travelling in a cramped seat and then getting off on the other side – can be fraught with difficulty. In a recent survey of disabled people commissioned by Which?, almost half of respondents said that a lack of confidence in accessibility services had limited their ability to fly in the past two years.

A Business Traveller reader who regularly flies using a wheelchair told us that while Emirates provides excellent service when getting PRMs on and off the plane, once luggage has been collected from the carousel at Dubai International, porters will not provide assistance unless paid in cash. On a recent trip, not having any money on him, he was refused help and had to be aided by police. He described the experience as “unbearable”. Emirates, which manages the service at the airport, confirmed to us that porters require a fee, adding that last month it introduced card payments.

The Which? survey highlighted that it is not just PRMs for whom accessibility is a concern. A traveller who is blind and has Alzheimer’s was reportedly told at Manchester airport that he could not use the priority queue as he did not use a wheelchair, and was then left humiliated when a staff member shouted to a colleague that the passenger “couldn’t cope” with the boarding pass scanner.

Another of our readers, Brian Pope, struggles to walk long distances because of his age. He says that on a recent London-Bangkok trip – despite assurances from his airline that he would be assisted with a buggy while transiting – he was offered a wheelchair on his outbound journey, which he did not want to use, and no assistance at all on the inbound one.

ACCESS FOR ALL

Passenger numbers are on the rise, and they include not only PRMs but older people who may find airports overwhelming and planes uncomfortable; people with conditions such as dementia, autism or anxiety; people with visual or auditory impairments; or those recovering from an operation or stroke. According to the UK’s Civil Aviation Authority (CAA), passenger numbers have increased by 25 per cent since 2014, while the number of people asking for airport assistance has risen by 49 per cent.

Adjusting to this demand is no small task. As Sara Marchant, Heathrow’s customer relations manager, points out, the airport is the size of a small city. Marchant is responsible for ensuring that the 80 million passengers moving through it each year come out with a positive impression, and at the latest count, about 1.5 million of them required special assistance.

In 2017, the CAA told Heathrow it was failing these people. In the regulator’s second annual Airport Accessibility Report, it ranked the airport’s service “poor”, along with that at Manchester, Exeter and East Midlands. Marchant accredits Heathrow’s rise to “good” in the 2019 report to measures such as establishing an advisory committee and extra staff training. She also chairs meetings several times a year with 12 other UK airports for sharing best practice.

East Midlands was also ranked “good” last year, and Exeter “very good”. Manchester was judged “needs improvement”, amid reports that disabled passengers had been left waiting on planes for more than an hour for assistance to help them off. Last year the airport told Business Traveller that it was working with its own disability engagement forum to improve service, and has hired a new external special assistance provider.

Continue reading your story on the app

Continue reading your story in the magazine

MORE STORIES FROM BUSINESS TRAVELLER UKView All

THE YEAR IN REVIEW

We round up the finest watches released in 2020 – and look ahead to 2021, which may prove to be as unpredictable a year as the one that has just passed…

9 mins read
Business Traveller UK
November 2020 - January 2021

PEAK OF PERFECTION

Blessed with sunshine, good looks and superb skiing and hiking, Arosa is now taking the lead on sustainability, too

6 mins read
Business Traveller UK
November 2020 - January 2021

SAFE TRAVELS

What are airlines doing to reassure passengers about flying amidst the pandemic?

9 mins read
Business Traveller UK
November 2020 - January 2021

QUITE A JOURNEY

It has been an unprecedented time for the rail industry, both in the UK and across Europe. Here we look over the year’s developments.

5 mins read
Business Traveller UK
November 2020 - January 2021

HOT DESKING

As the pandemic moves into 2021, countries are offering options so you can set up your remote office somewhere more appealing

7 mins read
Business Traveller UK
November 2020 - January 2021

Go with the flow

If you have varicose veins and travel frequently, you’d be well advised to get them checked – it could help to prevent you getting DVT.

9 mins read
Business Traveller UK
November 2020 - January 2021

BACK TO BUSINESS

While our ways of working may have changed forever, our research shows that most of you remain convinced of the need to meet face-to-face

2 mins read
Business Traveller UK
November 2020 - January 2021

Ask the pilot

Our undercover captain reveals what it’s like to fly for a living

3 mins read
Business Traveller UK
November 2020 - January 2021

A novel time

We’ve all got one in us – and if lockdown doesn’t drive you to write that book, nothing will

3 mins read
Business Traveller UK
November 2020 - January 2021

4 HOURS IN... Munich

Hot-foot it around the German city’s new and historic sights

3 mins read
Business Traveller UK
November 2020 - January 2021
RELATED STORIES

NICE KNOWING YOU: LONDON HEATHROW'S FAREWELL TO BA'S JUMBOS

British Airways’ last two Boeing 747 planes at the airline’s historic base of London’s Heathrow Airport made their final flight Thursday, the fleet’s retirement having been brought forward by the coronavirus pandemic.

2 mins read
Techlife News
Techlife News #467

DUBAI AIRPORT CEO: GLOBAL TRAVEL STILL UP IN AIR OVER VIRUS

The CEO of the world’s busiest airport for international travel wants to get the globe flying again, but even he acknowledges everything remains up in the air during the coronavirus pandemic.

4 mins read
Techlife News
Techlife News #446

BAD JOKE?

THERE IS NOTHING FUNNY ABOUT THIS INSURANCE MARKET

4 mins read
Flying
March 2020

The Art of Second Chances

In Emily St. John Mandel’s disaster-steeped fiction, a derailed life can take multiple forms.

10 mins read
The Atlantic
March 2020

2020 Año de la Gran Transformación – Cáncer

El 2020 es un año clave en el tema de la pareja. Asimismo, el Universo te impulsa a sanar tus relaciones interpersonales. Será muy importante que haya un equilibrio entre lo que das y lo que recibes.

7 mins read
Vanidades México
Diciembre 25 - 2019

'Mis implantes de seno me provocaron cáncer'

Imagina escuchar que tienes cáncer y, por si fuera poco, sentir que es tu culpa porque decidiste hacerte una cirugía cosmética. Esa es la difícil realidad que enfrenta un creciente número de mujeres, a las que se les diagnostica un tipo raro de cáncer, causado por los implantes de seno texturizados. Una de ellas ayuda a WH a investigar esta pesadilla.

10+ mins read
Women's Health en Español
Noviembre 2019

El de Sinaloa, un cártel aún sólido

El rescate de Ovidio Guzmán López el jueves 17 en Culiacán evidenció que el Cártel de Sinaloa sigue teniendo fuerza, pese a su fragmentación. Comandado por El Mayo Zambada y los hijos del Chapo, el grupo criminal mantiene una extensa red de alianzas y pingües negocios en gran parte del mundo. Sin embargo, el día en cuestión los sicarios a su servicio se excedieron, lo que tendrá consecuencias para la organización que durante años intentó que la gente tuviera una impresión positiva de ella.

10+ mins read
Revista Proceso
October 27, 2019

Culiacán, la decisión precipitada

Un cuerpo de vigilantes del Grupo de Análisis e Información del Narcotráfico –dependiente de la Sedena– montaba guardia cerca de un domicilio en Culiacán al que se suponía que podría llegar Ovidio Guzmán, contra quien hay una orden de aprehensión con fines de extradición a Estados Unidos. Poco antes de las dos de la tarde del jueves 17, en efecto, el objetivo arribó a esa vigilada casa y el grupo de élite decidió actuar “en caliente”, aun antes de obtener la indispensable orden de cateo. El resultado, de todos conocido, fue la captura y liberación del hijo del Chapo, en una violenta y confusa tarde culiacanense.

10 mins read
Revista Proceso
October 27, 2019

La vida sexual después del cáncer de mama

Sentirte bien con tu cuerpo, aun cuando haya cambiado a consecuencia de este padecimiento, te ayudará a vivir tu sexualidad con libertad y plenitud, igual o mejor que como lo hacías antes.

5 mins read
Cosmopolitan en Español - México
Octubre 20 - 2019

Confrontación de vida

El tiempo es el mayor enemigo durante una enfermedad, es indispensable llegar antes que él para combatir un Cáncer de Mama.

4 mins read
Marie Claire México
Octubre 2019