Air­port worst in coun­try for dis­abled ac­cess

Manchester Evening News - - NEWS - By CHAR­LOTTE COX char­lotte.cox@trin­i­tymir­ror.com @ccox­men­media

MANCH­ESTER Air­port is the worst hub in the coun­try when it comes to ac­cess for dis­abled pas­sen­gers, with some pas­sen­gers wait­ing on in­com­ing planes for more than an hour be­fore be­ing helped off, ac­cord­ing to a watch­dog.

It is the only air­port to re­ceive a ‘poor’ ac­ces­si­bil­ity rat­ing from the Civil Avi­a­tion Au­thor­ity (CAA).

Lon­don Gatwick, Lon­don Stansted and Birm­ing­ham were told they ‘need im­prove­ment.’

It is the se­cond year run­ning that Manch­ester has re­ceived the low­est grade. Dis­abled pas­sen­gers and those with re­duced mo­bil­ity took ‘sig­nif­i­cantly longer’ to move through the Manch­ester than other pas­sen­gers, the report said.

Some pas­sen­gers on in­com­ing flights at Manch­ester were left wait­ing on planes for more than an hour be­fore as­sis­tance ar­rived, the re­search found.

“This is not an ac­cept­able sit­u­a­tion,” the CAA said. “This has been ac­knowl­edged by Manch­ester and it has im­ple­mented a per­for­mance im­prove­ment plan to bring the qual­ity of the as­sis­tance it pro­vides into line with the ex­pec­ta­tions of users of the ser­vices and the CAA.

“We will mon­i­tor closely Manch­ester’s per­for­mance and con­tinue to hold it to ac­count for im­prov­ing.”

The report noted the steps Manch­ester Air­port has taken to im­prove - in­clud­ing work­ing with its provider OCS and set­ting up a fo­rum with pas­sen­ger groups. But bosses were ad­vised to in­vest more in mon­i­tor­ing tech­nol­ogy and en­sure ‘ma­jor im­prove­ments to the cus­tomer ex­pe­ri­ence’ with the £1bn up­grade.

Liver­pool John Len­non Air­port and Lon­don Heathrow, the UK’s busiest air­port, were among 26 air­ports clas­si­fied as ‘good’ or ‘very good’ this year.

Of­fi­cials at Lon­don Gatwick, Lon­don Stansted - also run by Manch­ester Air­ports Group - and Birm­ing­ham, mean­while, failed to pro­vide the reg­u­la­tor with suf­fi­cient in­for­ma­tion about the stan­dard of ser­vice at their air­ports. Heathrow was rated ‘poor’ in last year’s study.

Dis­abil­ity char­i­ties ex­pressed con­cern. Neil Hes­lop, chief ex­ec­u­tive of Leonard Cheshire, said: ‘It is not ac­cept­able’ that some ma­jor gate­ways to the UK re­main poor for their treat­ment of pas­sen­gers with dis­abil­i­ties. Phil Tal­bot, head of com­mu­ni­ca­tions at dis­abil­ity char­ity Scope, urged the CAA to ‘con­tinue to work with air­ports to bring those lag­ging be­hind up to scratch.’

Paul Smith, CAA con­sumers and mar­kets di­rec­tor said: “The im­proved per­for­mance of many air­ports means dis­abled pas­sen­gers should have even more con­fi­dence to travel from UK air­ports.

“How­ever, there are still too many oc­ca­sions where things go wrong. Where we see ex­am­ples of bad prac­tice, we will not hes­i­tate to hold air­ports to ac­count and take the nec­es­sary en­force­ment ac­tion.”

CAA data shows that more than 3 million re­quests for as­sis­tance are made at UK air­ports an­nu­ally, up al­most 80pc since 2010. Some 83pc of these pas­sen­gers say they are ‘sat­is­fied’ with the ser­vice, and 54pc are ‘very sat­is­fied.’

Avi­a­tion Min­is­ter Baroness Sugg called for pas­sen­gers with re­duced mo­bil­ity or hid­den dis­abil­i­ties to ‘get the ser­vice they de­serve.’

Manch­ester Air­port said it ac­knowl­edged the CAA’s find­ings and was ‘com­mit­ted to mak­ing fur­ther im­prove­ments to en­sure we meet the re­quired stan­dards.’

A spokesman said the report high­lighted pos­i­tive steps bosses had taken to im­prove their ser­vice for pas­sen­gers with dis­abil­i­ties.

These in­clude the in­tro­duc­tion of sun­flower lan­yards for pas­sen­gers with hid­den dis­abil­i­ties and set­ting up a ded­i­cated air­port ‘dis­abil­ity en­gage­ment fo­rum.’

He added: “We have also worked with our ser­vice provider, OCS, and our air­line part­ners to in­vest in the pro­vi­sion of ad­di­tional re­sources and equip­ment across the air­port. Our pas­sen­ger sur­vey re­sults have demon­strated the ben­e­fits of this in­vest­ment.”

Manch­ester Air­port

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