A CCESSIB ILIT Y
questions include “details of the chair:
battery, etc. Of course, when you have
already done this, you assume this has
migrated across the systems – and it rarely has.
This is not the sort of information held to memory,
so there is a panic to attain the relevant details.
Additionally, this can be the point at which an airline
tells the passenger that the height of their chair will
not fit in the aircraft hold, and is thus refused to fly.”
can take a substantial amount of time, and is often
“The check-in process should last no longer than five
minutes for any passenger, but questions surrounding
battery-powered mobility equipment often extends
wheelchair users’ check-ins to an hour or more,” says
Morris. “The USA provides a great example of
streamlined check-in for wheelchair users, as I have
never spent more than 10 minutes at the desk there.
There is great concern about batteries, but the vast
majority of wheelchairs produced in the last decade
use dry or gel-cell batteries, which are safe to fly while
attached to the wheelchair.”
Morris suggests that, given the amount of time this
process can take, a standardised lane for passengers with
disabilities and those with reduced mobility – including
wheelchair users – be implemented in order to assist
According to a market study by the Open
Doors Organisation (a non-profit organisation
focussed on disabled access in travel and
tourism), in 2015, American adults with
disabilities spent US$17.3 billion on their own
travel. These travellers are clearly an important
economic demographic, especially when taking
into account that these individuals typically
travel with one or more other adults, making
their economic impact more like US$34.6
billion. It seems that improving air
travel for passengers with reduced
mobility is not just good for humanity,
but for airlines’ bottom lines.
ensure proper handling of wheelchairs
checked into the hold. In the US alone,
in December 2018, 38 airlines damaged
or lost some 26 wheelchairs a day,
according to the February 2019 Air
BA SETS UP DEDICATED ACCESSIBILITY SUPPORT TEAM
The 50,000 British Airways (BA) customers a
month that require additional assistance in
their journey are now supported by a team
of 20 dedicated accessibility experts, available
via a direct phone line. The team has received
specialist training, including sessions with
accessibility consultants and charity groups
such as the Queen Elizabeth Foundation,
Guide Dogs UK and Open Doors, to help enable
them to answer any questions customers
have when they get in touch via phone or
email and to help these guests understand
what to expect during their journey.
028 NOVEMBER 2019
The team can also help customers make
flight, hotel and car hire bookings, pre-book
seating, and can arrange special assistance
procedures, if required. The team also informs
airport staff and cabin crew about any specific
requirements of incoming passengers.
Earlier this year BA began the Beyond
Accessibility Programme, a training scheme
for almost 30,000 of its customer-facing staff.
Since the introduction of the programme, the
carrier has reported a “significant increase”
in customer satisfaction from travellers who
require additional assistance.
BA has also become the first airline to
produce a Visual Guide to Flying to help
autistic customers prepare for their flight. The
guide uses simple icons and text to explain
the sights, sounds, smells and experiences
typically encountered during a journey.
manual, power, weight, height, type of
This second process, which should not be necessary,
Moreover, work needs to be done to
Travel Consumer Report.
These chairs are the equivalent of passengers’ legs, and
to lose or damage them is simply unacceptable. Through
the airport, too, travellers are often poorly served.
“I frequently hear stories of disabled passengers being
left at the gate following a gate change, or in the lounge,”
Morris says. “It is important for assistance staff to
perform regular wellness checks when leaving an
immobile passenger unattended.”