The Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) has ranked the UK’s 30 busiest airports for their ability to provide assistance to disabled passengers, with four found to be falling short of expectations.

Manchester airport was ranked the worst for disabled passengers, with the CAA identifying long waiting times for assistance and issues with the recording and reporting of performance data.

The CAA says it raised these issues with Manchester’s management earlier this year and that the airport has acted to address them. The airport has worked with its airline partners to release extra funding for OCS, its service provider, to make more staff available at peak times. It has also set up the Disability Engagement Forum made up of organisations and groups representing disabled people to advise them on accessibility matters. The airport has also committed to implementing a new system of oversight of OCS to ensure better reporting of issues with the quality of service to address them sooner rather than later.

However, the CAA says the airport needs to do more to meet the needs of disabled passengers, such as investing in its iBeacon queue-tracking technology or bringing in a third party to help with wait times. The governing body says it expects the airport to make more improvements as part of the £1 billion Manchester Airport Transformation Programme.

Airports that could do with improving their services for people with disabilities include Stansted, Birmingham and Gatwick, none of which the CAA says provided enough information to rank them as ‘good’ or better.

The CAA raised concerns about “potential delays to passengers’ journeys on arrival from inbound flights” at Stansted due to the introduction of a ‘transition area’ where there was a break point in some disabled passengers’ journeys through the airport after arrival.

The CAA’s CAP1228 states that an airport has to set targets for wait times if it utilises ‘holding’ areas for people with reduced mobility who require assistance.

The organisation claims Stansted has not provided enough data for it to come to a conclusion about whether these waiting areas “unduly” delay disabled passengers’ journeys despite the airport’s claims that only 40 per cent of those requiring assistance use these areas and that fast tracking passengers through the UK border allows them to make up time.

Similarly, the CAA found OCS was not sufficiently recording how long it took to move people who had requested assistance through the airport. This lack of data meant the CAA could not determine if the needs of disabled passengers were being met. However, both airports have made commitments to utilise new technology to gather better data.

Belfast International, Bournemouth, Bristol, East Midlands, Heathrow, Leeds Bradford, London City, Luton and Newcastle airports were all ranked as ‘good’, with Heathrow showing improvement after being ranked ‘poor’ in the 2017 report. The airport has invested £23 million in its assistance service, covering new equipment, technology and additional resources.

At London City, although it ranked the airport as good overall, the CAA expressed concerns about some of the assistance equipment it uses, which it says can be uncomfortable for passengers.

Meanwhile, 16 airports were ranked as ‘very good’ – Aberdeen, Belfast City, Cardiff, Derry, Doncaster, Edinburgh, Exeter, Humberside, Inverness, Liverpool, Cornwall Newquay, Norwich, Glasgow Prestwick, Southampton, Southend and Sumburgh.

The CAA says all airports in this category demonstrated efficient processes and data reporting, as well as maintaining close ties with the disabled community to ensure their needs are met.

Despite some improvements at airports, the CAA commented in the report that it is disappointed at the lack of guidelines from airlines and airports on the standards for providing assistance to passengers with reduced mobility. It says it intends to follow up on the issue.

Subscribe to the BBT Newsletter

Join the Buying Business Travel newsletter for the latest business travel news.

Thank you for signing up!