The Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) has launched a consultation to gather views on ways to improve airline access for disabled and less mobile passengers. THIIS Magazine reports that the consultation will run until the 21 of July 2023 and will seek feedback from individuals, campaign groups and members of the aviation industry. 

There has been strong criticism of the attitude of major UK airlines towards disabled passengers in recent years. There have been cases where passengers have been stranded on board a plane for hours because there was no transport in place to transfer them from the plane to the terminal.

The CAA is the UK’s airline regulator, and is proposing to introduce a framework for best practice for disabled passenger services. The regulator also intends to establish a public ratings system that passengers can refer to when selecting their airline. 

This would encompass everything from the booking experience to the onboard facilities and the embarking and disembarking process. The system would include non-UK airlines that operate within the UK. The CAA have said that they aim to assess the 20 largest airlines within the next two years.

Josh Wintersgill, Founder and Director of Able Move, said: “This consultation is a great opportunity for people to share their constructive feedback to help influence and shape the framework further. A tremendous amount of work has gone into it thus far, and the framework is very much welcomed.”

“Whilst only guidance, it is hoped it would enable the UK Civil Aviation Authority to better monitor airline performance and hold airlines to greater public accountability just like UK airports are today, which has shown improvements, but perhaps not at the pace which people expect.”

Anna Bowles, Head of Consumer at the UK Civil Aviation Authority, said: “Our proposals to introduce this new framework are about holding airlines to account in meeting their obligations to disabled and less mobile passengers across all aspects of their journey.”

“Consumers should have confidence that the standard of support they receive when flying will meet their needs. Assessing airlines against a standardised framework will ensure that disabled and less mobile passengers will be better informed when they choose which airline to fly with and will highlight areas where airlines need to do better.”

“To make the framework as effective as possible, we’re asking for feedback from individuals, disability rights groups, and the industry to help shape our plans.”

The campaign group Disability Rights UK has been strongly critical of the past performance of UK airlines with regard to disabled passengers. Last year, Frank Gardner, the BBC’s security correspondent who uses a wheelchair, described the way airlines treat disabled passengers as “nothing short of discriminatory”.

He had spoken publicly about his experiences, saying that in the last four years, he has been left stranded on an aircraft long after all the passengers have disembarked five times. He called for extra investment, more staff and better planning and communication to remedy the situation. 

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