Should this be a barrier to air travel?
Many people do not book assistance as they don’t see themselves as disabled (even if they could do with a helping hand). EU regulations states that assistance is available to disabled persons and persons of reduced mobility. This service is free of charge. Given the often long walking distances at airport terminals, airlines and airports recognise that there is an increasing need to provide these services to non-disabled passengers. Even in America, South Western airlines commented that up to 90% of passengers booking assistance at Fort Lauderdale airport did not normally use a wheelchair.
It’s not just disabled people that could do with assistance. But if you do need help how do you go about getting it?
The current system has been developed in a response to EU legislation, with each airline and airport developing their own versions of pre-notification systems frequently leading to communication breakdowns. Unfortunately the current pre-notification system leaves the passenger feeling frustrated, confused, and unsure as to whether they will receive the assistance requested.
Airlines are responsible for recording the assistance needs of their passengers. They will then notify the relevant airports 2 days before the date of departure.
On arrival at the airport all airports will offer the facilities including;
- Special assistance teams
- Special seating areas
- Help points
- Accessible toilets
The airport’s own website will have this information, but it can be difficult to find. The following websites have been developed to make the information more accessible:
- The EU website explaining passenger rights.
- www.ego.net which details the facilities at each UK airport, and has useful contact numbers.
- www.reducedmobility.eu has accessibility reports on airlines and airports.
- www.able2fly.com useful contacts pages link directly to the special assistance pages of airlines and airports.
If you are flying somewhere in the near future (or know someone who is) the best advice is the pre-notify the airline of your needs as soon as possible.
Watch the following short video by able2fly a free online booking assistance system, and see how the service can be improved by better communication.