Passengers with hidden disabilities are to get better support at UK airports and more effective communication ahead of travel under new guidelines published by the aviation regulator.
The Civil Aviation Authority wants to see improving identification of people that need extra help and to ensure information is available in a range of formats including clear pictogram images and audio messages.
Airports should consider providing quiet routes and quiet areas and must ensure employees, including security staff, are given enhanced hidden disability training.
UK airports have welcomed the guidance, which clarifies their legal obligations in providing ‘special assistance’ to any person with a disability or reduced mobility, which includes those with hidden disabilities, when travelling through an airport or on board an aircraft.
CAA markets and consumer group director Richard Moriarty said: “Everyone should have fair access to air travel and that’s why there are regulations in place to make sure passengers get the assistance they need to be able to fly.
”Our engagement with disability organisations shows that people with hidden disabilities want to be in control of the assistance they receive, but they do not always get clear information ahead of travel about what support is available.
“To help reduce stress and anxiety it is important passengers and their travelling companions have access to illustrative guides, online videos and photos, which explain the airport layout, the processes passengers need to go through, including security scanning, and what types of support is available.
“We are really pleased with the support UK airports and disability organisations have provided to help us develop these guidelines, however this is just the start and over the next six months we expect airports to make changes and improvements to the services and assistance they provide passengers with hidden disabilities.”
Transport secretary Chris Grayling said: “We welcome the CAA’s tailored guidance which provides a great opportunity for all UK airports to better meet the needs of people with hidden disabilities.
“I would encourage airports to learn from each other, consult with charities and specialist groups and deliver great services, to help ensure passengers with hidden disabilities enjoy the huge benefits of air travel.”
Jeremy Hughes, chief executive of Alzheimer’s Society, said:
“Everyone has the right to be able to travel comfortably and with ease, and we all have a role in helping air passengers with dementia feel like they’re able to continue flying.
“Sadly, we know that airports can be a daunting or frightening experience for many people affected by dementia – this can put people off travelling and in turn lead to them feeling socially isolated.
“This new guidance from the CAA will provide clear guidelines to help UK airports become more dementia friendly and transform the air travel experience for people with dementia and their carers.”
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