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Airports ordered to improve ‘unacceptable’ accessibility for disabled passengers

John Fitzsimons
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John Fitzsimons

A number of airports have been slammed by the UK Civil Aviation Authority for delivering an “unacceptable level of service” to disabled passengers and those with reduced mobility.

Earlier this year, the CAA wrote to airports, warning them that the experience received by such passengers was unacceptable, and outlined its expectations that more needed to be done to improve the quality of assistance on offer.

It required several airports to put action plans in place, and issued guidance to help airports improve the service provided.

While the CAA said it had seen improvements, it nonetheless called out London Luton as the worst-performing airport, having failed to reach performance targets or to make significant improvements between 1 April and 31 October 2022. It was ranked as ‘poor’.

Eight airports were ranked as poor in the early months of the reporting period, on account of too many passengers with reduced mobility left waiting “unacceptably long periods” for assistance on arrival. 

Bristol, Leeds Bradford and London Heathrow were all deemed as still needing improvement, though Birmingham, London Gatwick, London Stansted and Manchester had seen their ratings move to either ‘good’ or ‘very good’ as a result of changes made.

Only Aberdeen, Belfast International, East Midlands, Edinburgh, Glasgow and London City were rated as ‘very good’ for the entire period under review.

East Midlands and Liverpool were given special praise for introducing schemes which allow for personalisation of the assistance on offer, for example requesting assistance only at certain stages of the journey.

Paul Smith, director of consumers at the UK CAA, said that the regulator welcomed the “substantial improvements” that airports have made for disabled and less mobile passengers, but cautioned that too many passengers have been left waiting for lengthy periods for help.

He said: “We will continue to consider whether we need to take further action where airports are not delivering an acceptable level of performance, and not showing sufficient and sustained improvements. We want to see immediate further improvements, as well as airports being well prepared to provide a high-quality service during next year.”

Hanging around

Even if you don’t have issues with mobility, you may find that your airport experience involves excessive amounts of hanging around.

A study last month from Which? identified the worst airports for security queues, with holidaymakers flying from Leeds Bradford reporting average wait times of 35 minutes. This was just ahead of Bristol on 30 minutes and Birmingham at 24 minutes.

By contrast, if you’re flying from London City airport you’ll have an average of just 12 minutes to wait.

While it can be difficult to claim compensation if you miss your flight due to a lengthy security queue, you may be able to make a claim should you miss the flight because of long queues at the check-in desk.