Heathrow to ‘immediately improve access’ after aviation authority scolds UK airports

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Heathrow and Manchester airports have been rated as two of the worst for disabled access by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA), which has told airport operators to immediately improve services and facilities for disabled passengers.

The CAA’s new report assesses the top 30 UK airports on the quality of assistance they provide to passengers with a disability. It comes as the number of air travelers since 2010 has rocketed by 66%.

Of the airports reviewed, six were rated ‘very good’, 20 rated as ‘good’ and four rated as ‘poor’. Those with ‘very good’ and ‘good’ ratings have performed well in areas such as customer satisfaction, waiting times and engagement with disability organisations.

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East Midlands, Exeter, Heathrow and Manchester airports that have been rated ‘poor’ have all now committed to make improvements and the CAA expects work to implement these plans to start immediately.

“UK aviation should be proud that it continues to serve a rapid increase in the number of passengers with a disability. Our surveys, along with the airports’ own studies, have shown high levels of satisfaction among disabled passengers and we have seen some examples of excellent service where assistance is well organised and delays are minimal,” commented Richard Moriarty, CAA director of consumers and markets.

“However, East Midlands, Exeter, Heathrow and Manchester have fallen short of our expectations and we have secured commitments from them to make improvements. We will monitor their implementation over the coming months to make sure that services for passengers with a disability or reduced mobility continue to improve.”

Civil Aviation Authority chart ranking UK airports for disabled access

Meanwhile, transport secretary Chris Grayling stated: “It is vital that everyone can access and use transport services, and the CAA is doing excellent work around this.It is encouraging to see the overwhelming majority of UK airports providing a good service for passengers with a disability, but I am determined to push the aviation industry to do more.

“This autumn, as part of our Aviation Strategy, we will consult on ways to make aviation more accessible for people with both visible and hidden disabilities, such as dementia, autism, loss of sight or hearing, as well as age-related conditions. I also want everyone to take part in the upcoming consultation on our draft Accessibility Action Plan which will look at what more can be done across the entire transport network.”

Earlier this year, Gatwick Airport poured hefty investment into buying hoists, Changing Places facilities and sensory rooms for passengers with disabilities. It is hoped that other UK airports will follow Gatwick’s lead in buying new access solutions and installations.

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