The UK Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) is calling for views on a proposed framework to improve airline experiences for disabled and less mobile passengers.
The CAA’s proposed framework would rank the performance of airlines based on their overall services for disabled and less mobile passengers.
This would range right through from the booking flight tickets and assistance at the airport, to their boarding and in-flight experience. It would continue through the disembarking process and post flight complaints handling processes.
Ratings would include consideration of access around requesting assistance, onboard facilities including seating and toilets, as well as boarding and disembarking.
Guidelines for assistance dogs
The framework will also set out standards for bringing assistance dogs onto flights, along with providing guidance on how airlines should handle mobility equipment and providing compensation when it is lost or damaged.
In developing the proposals, the regulator has significantly engaged with disabled people, as well as major airlines.
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.”
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.”
A call for feedback
A consultation launched today is now seeking further feedback from disability rights groups, individuals, and the aviation industry, particularly around what best practice looks like.
Consideration may be given to any matters with respect to the carriage of disabled passengers and those with reduced or limited mobility. Other areas not touched on above may also include the in-flight storage and handling of disability devices such as wheelchairs. It could also include factors like supplementary seating in the carriage of related medical equipment and devices.
The initiative would carry out assessments on all UK and non-UK airlines which operate to the UK, with the outcome of these assessments being made public.
It follows the introduction of a similar framework for airports in 2014, which has driven airports to spend millions of pounds improving experiences for passengers with reduced mobility.
The CAA consultation process is running until 21 July 2023.