Airport worst in country for disabled access
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.”