luton airport interior

London Luton found to be the worst UK airport for accessibility

Image credit: Dreamstime

A number of airports have provided “an unacceptable level of service” to disabled people and passengers with reduced mobility, the UK Civil Aviation Authority has said.

The regulator has released a new report where it assessed performance for 16 of the largest UK airports over a seven-month period between 1 April and 31 October 2022.

Earlier this year, the regulator wrote to airports informing them that the experience passengers received was unacceptable and told those who were underperforming that it expected them to do more to improve the quality of assistance throughout the rest of the summer.

It required several airports to put in place action plans, together with airlines, which saw marked improvements in performance.

The regulator ranked London Luton as the worst-performing airport as it had failed to reach performance targets and for failing to make significant improvements to the assistance it provided.

Only Aberdeen, Belfast International, East Midlands, Edinburgh, Glasgow and London City were rated as ‘very good’ for the whole period under review. Liverpool and Newcastle were rated as a mixture of “good” and “very good” across the period.

A total of eight airports were ranked as ‘poor’ in early months of the reporting period as too many disabled passengers and passengers with reduced mobility were waiting for unacceptably long periods for assistance on arrival.

However, following significant progress, Birmingham, London Gatwick, London Stansted and Manchester were rated as either ‘good’ or ‘very good’ by the end of the reporting period.

Bristol, Leeds Bradford and London Heathrow are still deemed as needing improvement, as passengers have not seen sufficient improvements in the provision of service. Only London Luton airport continues to be ranked as poor.

The regulator’s report has praised those achieving a ‘very good’ rating and commended in particular East Midlands and Liverpool airports for introducing schemes which allow for personalisation of the assistance journey – for example requesting assistance only at certain required stages of travel.

Paul Smith, director of consumers at the UK Civil Aviation Authority, said: “The aviation industry has faced unprecedented challenges, but too many passengers at UK airports have been waiting for unacceptable amounts 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 less mobile passengers.

“We will continue to consider whether we need to take further action where airports are not delivering an acceptable level of performance, and not showing sufficient and sustained improvements. We want to see immediate further improvements, as well as airports being well prepared to provide a high-quality service during next year.”

A spokesperson from London Luton Airport (LLA) said: “We are committed to providing a simple and friendly experience for all passengers, and we’re sorry that we have fallen short on this occasion.

“Despite all of the post pandemic challenges this year, LLA has consistently been one of the top performing airports in the CAA’s customer satisfaction survey, with our Special Assistance service being rated four out of five by our passengers.

“We have been working with our service provider Wilson James, to improve assistance times for arriving passengers with reduced mobility, the one area in which we missed the CAA target. A number of improvements have already been made and we’re now focused on working with our partners to achieve the highest standards.”

The spokesperson added that it met three of the four target areas around wait times, and service provision was rated as good prior to the pandemic.

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