Disabled people have missed flights at Heathrow due to poor airport performance, CAA notes

Passengers queuing for check-in at Heathrow Airport – HANNAH MCKAY/REUTERS

Many disabled and less mobile passengers have missed summer flights at Heathrow due to the airport’s poor accessibility performance, the aviation regulator has found.

Bristol, Leeds Bradford and Luton airports have also been criticized by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) for their “unacceptable level of service to disabled people”.

The CAA did not specify how many passengers missed flights at Heathrow but called the total “unacceptable”.

In a new report, it highlighted the “particularly poor performance” at Terminal 5, where “many passengers” did not make connecting departures.

West London Airport has previously been criticized for forcing disabled passengers to wait ‘a long time after’ other passengers have left the plane to be helped off the plane.

The report on disabled access at airports comes after a double amputee eight-year-old boy was stranded at Gatwick Airport yesterday without a wheelchair for more than five hours.

The adoptive family of Tony Hudgell, who lost limbs after being tortured by his birth parents as a child, said when the £6,500 chair finally arrived, it was ‘twisted and broken’ after being put on the conveyor belt.

Paula Hudgell posted a photo of Tony, 3am, on social media - three hour wait - Paula Hudgell

Paula Hudgell posted a photo of Tony, 3am, on social media – three hour wait – Paula Hudgell

A Gatwick airport spokesman said the incident was “unacceptable” and apologized “for the inconvenience caused to the Hudgell family”.

The CAA report also found that some disabled and less mobile passengers at Heathrow Airport’s Terminal 3 were forced to wait over an hour to be transferred from one machine to another, in contravention of CAA guidelines.

Aberdeen, Belfast International, East Midlands, Edinburgh, Glasgow and London City airports were rated ‘very good’ for their accessibility performance over the entire period analysed, from early April to late October.

Paul Smith, director of consumer affairs at the CAA, said: “The aviation industry has faced unprecedented challenges, but too many passengers at UK airports have been waiting an unacceptable amount of time for assistance on arriving flights on too many occasions.

“We strongly believe that everyone should have access to air travel and we welcome the substantial improvements that airports have made for disabled and limited mobility passengers.

“We will continue to evaluate whether further action needs to be taken where airports do not deliver an acceptable level of performance and do not show sufficient and lasting improvements.

“We want to see further improvements immediately, as well as airports well prepared to deliver a high quality service over the next year.”

A spokesman for Luton Airport said: “We are committed to providing a smooth and friendly experience for all passengers and we are sorry we fell short on this occasion.

“Despite all the post-pandemic challenges this year, LLA was consistently one of the best performing airports in the CAA’s customer satisfaction survey, with our special assistance service rated four out of five by our passengers.”

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