Research by the UK’s leading flight comparison website highlights inconsistent levels of care for disabled air passengers
Everyone deserves a break in the sun, and Cheapflights.co.uk passionately believes people who require special assistance are no exception.
Living with reduced mobility often means getting from A to B can be a stressful experience. Underscoring the confusion for special needs passengers, research by Cheapflights.co.uk has found the facilities provided by the UK’s main airports and airlines vary greatly.
The findings paint a mixed picture of the state of special needs services, with some carriers charging for amenities that others provide for free. Bmi, Monarch and Ryanair, for example, impose a hefty £100 levy for supplementary oxygen – something that British Airways, Virgin Atlantic and Thomsonfly offer at no extra charge.
The situation is no better in the UK’s seven largest airports, where the availability of personal assistance points and vital services such as induction loops remains sporadic at best. Myriad policies for disabled parking only add to the confusion.
Legislation drafted in Brussels last year spelled out the burden of responsibility for operators. Central to the EU directive is the idea that disabled travellers are treated with dignity at every stage of their journey – from airport check-in through to their hotel – and yet Cheapflights.co.uk is frustrated to find many passengers remain dissatisfied.
“When last year’s EU directive came into force I was sceptical about how much difference it would really make,” admits Francesca Ecsery, Global Sales Director for Cheapflights.
“Unfortunately those fears were well founded. The past 12 months has, if anything, seen an upsurge in the number of complaints our community members are voicing about special assistance services, with most problems being completely avoidable.”
She cited the case of one passenger who arrived at the airport to discover there was no wheelchair available, despite reserving one 48 hours in advance in accordance with standard industry regulations. That flier only narrowly made her flight.
In another case, a traveller was left feeling humiliated and belittled after a simple request to stow his mobility device was met with indignation by cabin crew.
“These incidents are an embarrassment to the industry,” says Ecsery.
“They turn what should be a happy occasion into a nightmare for passengers.