The Department for Transport has outlined the first measures of its upcoming aviation strategy consultation, including a new ‘passenger charter’ to be adopted by airlines and airports.

The plans are intended to promote ‘best practice’ and required service levels for passengers, with a major focus on disabled travellers. The charter will provide clarity for those with mobility issues on the assistance that should be provided to them.

The government says it has worked with the industry to put together the charter. Measures include strengthening accessibility standards for airports and introducing new ones for airlines, as well as ensuring better training for airport and airline employees.

In addition, the plans aim to raise awareness among disabled passengers of their rights to assistance and how to obtain it, and improving storage standards for wheelchairs and waiving limits for compensation payments.

The government will also continue to work with the industry to reach the long-term goal of allowing passengers to fly in their own ‘air-worthy’ wheelchairs.

The UK Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) will monitor airlines’ and airports’ performance against the charter and carry out regular reviews. The governing body will also be given extended enforcement powers to take action if improvements aren’t made voluntarily.

In July, the CAA ranked the UK’s airports based on their performance for disabled passengers, with Manchester ranked last and regional hubs such as Edinburgh and Southend labelled ‘very good’. The report recognised major improvements at Belfast International, Heathrow, London City and Luton, among others.

For all UK air passengers, the government plans to implement service level standards for the resolution of complaints and compensation claims when flights are disrupted. It will also incorporate work already started by the CAA around transparency on airline terms and conditions, such as allocated seating policies and other charges.

Aviation minister Liz Sugg said: “Our fantastic aviation industry connects passengers to destinations across the world with some of the best fares available. But we are determined to work with industry to continue to drive up service levels and the new passenger charter aims to improve the experience of all passengers when they fly.”

Accessibility minister Nursat Ghani added: “We need to address the fact that 57 per cent of disabled passengers say they find flying and using airports difficult. That’s why our proposed passenger charter includes measures designed to make real changes that will improve the accessibility of flying, building on the ambitions set out in our Inclusive Transport Strategy earlier this year. We are committed to continuing the progress the industry has already made in making the aviation network truly open to all.”

The aviation strategy consultation will be open for 16 weeks, with the final policy to be set in 2019.

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