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The UK Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) says it has seen an improvement in accessibility at airports across the nation, though it warns that there is still work to be done.
The findings in the CAA’s latest report on disability access at the UK’s airports show there were a record 3.7 million requests for assistance in 2018/19 – a rise of 80 per cent since 2010.
There was largely a marked improvement across the board, with 14 airports rated ‘very good’ for accessibility and a further 16 ranked as ‘good’. However, four hubs that were classified as ‘very good’ in last year’s report dropped to ‘good’ this year – Cardiff, Inverness, Liverpool and Southend.
Manchester airport showed improvement, rising to ‘needs improvement’ this year from ‘poor’ last year, but the CAA says it expects the hub to take “immediate action” to reverse a decline in performance since the end of the reporting period and that it will be monitoring progress.
Birmingham, Gatwick and Stansted, which all received a ‘needs improvement’ rating last year, were classified as ‘good’ in the latest report after taking steps to decrease waiting times for disabled passengers. At Birmingham in particular, the airport was quick to rectify issues identified during an inspection, according to the CAA.
At Heathrow, the CAA warns that if a drop in performance seen in the second half of the year continues, the airport risks not meeting the standards for a ‘good’ rating in the 2019/20 report.
In a positive turn of events, for the first time since the CAA launched the accessibility framework in 2016, no airports received a rating of ‘poor’ on disability access.
The news comes after the UK government said it would write an air passenger charter as part of its aviation strategy aimed at providing clarity for those with mobility issues on what assistance should be provided to them.
But the CAA says the report still shows there is room for improvement, with research showing that nearly a quarter of disabled and less mobile passengers said they requested assistance because the airport environment is becoming more difficult to navigate on their own.
Paul Smith, consumers and markets director at the CAA, commented: “These results show significant improvements to the experience many disabled passengers faced before our reporting began. We hope this will help passengers to feel confident and empowered to travel from UK airports.
“While it is good to see the general improvements, airports will need to continue to work hard to improve so that they are able to meet the more demanding performance standards that we have now introduced. Where we see examples of bad practice, we will not hesitate to hold airports to account and take the necessary action.”
Aviation minister Baroness Vere said: “It is encouraging that almost all of our main airports are rated highly, but there is much more to do. The UK Civil Aviation Authority has introduced more demanding performance measures for airports, and the sector will continue to work to improve the experience for disabled passengers at every stage of their journey.”
View the full report here