Bosses at Exeter Airport say they are disappointed after being labelled ‘poor’ for the service they provide for wheelchair users and other disabled passengers.
The Civil Aviation Authority states that disabled accessibility at Heathrow,
Manchester, East Midlands and Exeter airports were found to be lacking.
Matt Roach, Managing Director of Exeter Airport, (pictured) said: “We’re disappointed with our ranking because our service provision for people with disabilities actually scores highly but we have been marked down for not consulting with user groups frequently enough. We have already taken steps to address this by setting up an accessibility forum and the feedback from the CAA has been positive.”
Exeter Airport’s quality standards performance figures from October 2016 – March 2017 show that all targets were met to ensure that no passengers with reduced mobility were left waiting for assistance.
The CAA said disabled passengers arriving at Heathrow are being forced to wait up to two hours for assistance disembarking aircraft, after carrying out a survey of almost 1,200 passengers who use that airport’s assistance service.
Of those 62% rate it as “poor” or “very poor”.
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The CAA recorded instances of passengers not being met on board arriving aircraft and not being treated with “dignity and respect”.
On some occasions passengers have been encouraged to make their own way through the airport because of a lack of staff or equipment.
CAA consumer enforcement manager James Fremantle said: “Our view is disabled passengers shouldn’t wait any longer than other passengers.”
More than one million passengers requiring special assistance travel through Heathrow every year – more than any other European airport. Its assistance service is provided by OmniServ.
The CAA found that East Midlands Airport has had a “challenging year” with some disabled travellers suffering “unacceptably long waiting times” on arrival, particularly last summer.
Manchester and Exeter were found to have failed to carry out consultations with disability organisations.
All of the “poor” airports have pledged to make improvements and the CAA said it will closely monitor them to ensure improvements are made in the coming months.
The report found that six airports provide “very good” assistance support, while 20 were described as “good”.
CAA director of consumers and markets Richard Moriarty said: “Our surveys, along with the airports’ own studies, have shown high levels of satisfaction among disabled passengers and we have seen some examples of excellent service where assistance is well organised and delays are minimal.
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“However, East Midlands, Exeter, Heathrow and Manchester have fallen short of our expectations and we have secured commitments from them to make improvements.”
Heathrow said in a statement that it was “extremely disappointed” with the CAA’s findings, apologised to customers affected by the poor service and pledged to address the issues raised.
The airport announced that it will amend its contract for providing passenger assistance to ensure waiting times are reduced.
It has committed to become the world’s first “dementia-friendly” airport and is holding open days for passengers to ask questions about its special assistance service.
A spokeswoman for OmniServ said the company is “investing significant sums in staff training” and will “continue evaluating our performance… to provide the best service to all of Heathrow’s passengers”.
More than three million journeys were made by passengers requesting extra help in the UK last year, up 66% on the figure for 2010.
Source: Devon live