International Disability Day: UK Civil Aviation Authority reports on accessibility progress at UK airports
Created: 3rd Dec 2020
To mark International Disability Day, the UK Civil Aviation Authority has highlighted the progress that airports have made since the introduction of the regulator’s airport accessibility framework five years ago.
We strongly believe that everyone should have access to air travel, and we welcome the substantial improvements that airports have made for those passengers that are living with a disability or reduced mobility. The industry has worked alongside consumer and disability groups to improve every part of the consumer journey, considering the individual needs of each passenger.
Since 2015, there has been 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 in the past five years.
Our ambition is to encourage even more passengers with reduced mobility and hidden disabilities to feel confident to fly as the industry looks to recover from the coronavirus pandemic and consumers begin to once again think about booking future flights.
Part of this effort has stemmed from the introduction of the Civil Aviation Authority’s accessibility framework, which ranks airports on their performance for passengers requiring assistance. The framework is a first of its kind globally and has overseen millions of pounds of investment made by airports toward improving consumers’ experiences.
These improvements are illustrated in the latest findings from the Civil Aviation Authority, which show that for the second year running, no UK airport has been ranked as ‘poor’ for their accessibility services provided to passengers living with a disability. The report covers the period from 1 April 2019 to 31 March 2020, mostly the period prior to aviation being significantly impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.
This year’s report also shows that 15 airports have been classified as ‘very good’, with a further 13 classified as ‘good’. Three airports have been listed as requiring improvements, though this is due to the robustness of how the data was provided to the Civil Aviation Authority during reporting rather than due to direct concerns over assistance services at these airports.
The past five years have shown significant achievements made by airports across the UK, with notable improvements at Manchester Airport, which has improved from a ‘poor’ rating in 2018 to a ‘good’ rating this year. The airport agreed previously to undertakings with the Civil Aviation Authority which has led to significant improvements without the need for enforcement action.
We are also pleased to note that initial monitoring throughout the current year suggests that the positive trend in access provision is continuing, despite the current global challenges and reduced flying schedules faced by the aviation industry. We will work with the industry and passenger representatives during next year to help understand and address any specific challenges that arise as the recovery from the impact of Covid-19 pandemic develops.
Reflecting on the past five years of improvements, Paul Smith, Director at the UK Civil Aviation Authority, said:
“We want 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.
“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.”
Dave Lees, CEO, Bristol Airport said: “We are delighted to have gained the rating of ‘very good’ in the CAA’s disability access report. It is vitally important everyone who travels through Bristol Airport feels confident, and extra help and assistance is available when needed. In recent years we have made significant investment improving the facilities available to customers and this work includes creating a Changing Places toilet to support passengers with complex health care needs; invested £400k in an improved waiting area in the departure lounge; continued investment in training including a Dementia Friends awareness programme across the business; and in Spring 2021 an experiential facility for autistic travellers will open to enhance their experience when travelling.
“Working in collaboration with our special assistance partner OCS we regularly engage with local disability forums and national charities to review the service and facilities we provide and discuss how we can improve the facilities for the future and we look forward to continuing this work ensuring a seamless journey through the airport for all customers.”
John Wright, Director of Aviation & Gateways, OCS Group UK said: “This CAA rating is the result of the fantastic work that OCS and Bristol Airport carry out day after day in true collaboration. Our local team are constantly working to innovate within the boundaries of the service and I’m delighted that this has been recognised in this way. We have a strong relationship with Bristol Airport, and the passengers who enjoy our services. We very much look forward to continuing to evolve, as proven partners of this vital service, into the future.”