Britains most accessible airports
27th June 2017
This news article is from Handicare UK. Articles that appear on this website are for information purposes only.
No matter how much you plan the perfect summer break, the thoroughly researched accommodation and activities, the luggage packed with military precision, there will always be stress at the airport. Over excited kids and an awful lot of people all add up to travel turmoil. The perfect balance of timings, queues and hours of waiting sandwich any holiday abroad, however if carefully planned, the airport you use can be as important as where you go on holiday.
The Civil Aviation Authority is part of an ongoing campaign to improve the facilities for those with disabilities, both visible and invisible, ensuring those who need stairlifts at home, have access to lifts or level access. They also released an Accessible Air Travel Report which ranks airports on the services they offer to their disabled customers. While only one airport (Edinburgh) did poorly, some are making incredible efforts. Under European regulations, airports and airlines must provide help and support to disabled passengers and those with reduced mobility, but these are the Airports that have had the most success.
Birmingham Airport has one of the largest catchment areas of any UK airport with many people choosing to use this airport for short haul flights or as the first step in a long haul flight. The success in the assistance you receive is through the planning, often having to tell both airport and airline. Birmingham Airport requests you inform them of necessary special assistance a minimum of 48 hours before.
Accessible bus services are on offer, as well as disabled parking bays available in many of the car parks. There are help points scattered outside the terminal designed to navigate you to the OCS reception desk. Electric mobility scooters are available, and do not need to be booked in advance, though there can sometimes be a shortage.
Security is often a concern, especially for those who cannot stand unassisted. Birmingham has a private search area, and there are practices in place for liquid medication that has to be in hand luggage. A changing places facility is available( alongside standard disabled facilities), however if you require this, you should make this clear 48 hours before you fly, when you notify the airport of your special assistance.
Manchester Airport uses the same company as Birmingham Airport (Outsourced Client Solutions) to ensure their assistance to their disabled passengers is pleasant and seamless. Similar expectations apply, such as the airport being informed of any assistance required at least 48 hours before, while the airline should be informed when you book.
There are assistance points located outside the terminals that are there to ensure you reach the OCS reception desk, while Manchester Airport also supplies maps of the various car parks so you can plan your route accordingly. Manchester Airport has also worked tirelessly with Disabled Go to create a detailed guide that is available here.
An Eagle 2 Hoist is also available, though pre booking may be necessary as it is subject to availability. There are also specialist changing facilities in each terminal, along with standard disabled toilets, the former must be requested when you inform the airport of your special assistance requirements.
Heathrow Airport is a titan of aviation and the busiest airport in the UK by the sheer volume of passengers it caters for every day. Accordingly it also has more special assistance points in each terminal and at various points throughout your airport journey, as well as help points outside the terminals that allow you to call for assistance.
Omniserv provide the assistance at Heathrow, and similar to other airports, Heathrow should be informed of your required special assistance 48 hours prior to your flight. Reserved seating in the terminal is clearly marked in an effort to provide all the necessary information for passengers and therefore assuage any anxiety, these include low screens of flight information, induction loops and space for wheelchair users.
Heathrow gives you the option of a private security check if you prefer, and asks the passenger not to hesitate to request this service. Due to the size of the airport it can be quite a distance from security to the departure gates. Though if you have requested assistance, this will not be a problem, if you are managing alone or with a companion, ensure you allow yourself enough time to get comfortably to your gate.
The second busiest airport (behind Heathrow) has some innovative ways to help their less mobile passengers. The wonderful thing about Gatwick is the volume of information they have collated into guides for their passengers. A Walking Distance Guide breaks down the trip through the airport all the way from the car park to boarding your plane, while the Making Your Journey Easier Guide is packed with tips and is very reassuring.
There are changing places facilities in both terminals that do not require pre booking, just notify someone at one of the many special assistance desks or through one of the multitude of help points. There are also Eagle Hoists available, but these do need to be booked at least 24 hours in advance, and as always you should inform the airport of requiring assistance 48 hours prior to your flight.
Grain Store Service is available to all special assistance customers as they can deliver your choice of food to you in the Special Assistance Area and avoid the balance act of returning with a tray. You can browse the menu prior to your trip or simply vie the fresh sandwiches and snacks available on the day.
London Southend Airport
Though smaller than the other airports, London Southend Airport does its bit to remain accessible and you can find out more information here. The ticket desk doubles as the special assistance meeting point, and from there, staff will help you throughout the airport and onto the plane.
Private rooms are available for security checks however these will have to be requested. Ambi-lifts are also available if necessary to help you on and off the plane, however these should be requested when you inform the airport that you need special assistance, at least 48 hours before your flight or when you book.