LONDON – After weeks of intense negotiations, several UK airports announced a deal last week that will limit the abandonment and mistreatment of disabled passengers to no more than 2 hours per trip.
Earlier this year, an irate UK Civil Aviation Authority sent a strongly worded letter to several airports and airlines regarding the severe conditions many disabled travelers have found themselves in while traveling. With multiple reports of grossly understaffed airports abandoning disabled travelers for hours upon hours on planes or in airports emerging, the CAA demanded airports get it together.
Last week, leaders from several major UK airports met in a closed-door session to address the situation and held a press conference shortly thereafter announcing revised plans.
Under the terms of the new deal, airports have agreed to hire at least one more employee per airport to help deal with the onslaught of travelers. They are also committed to limiting the abandonment of disabled passengers to no more than 2 hours per trip and have agreed to try to take passengers to the bathroom at least once during their visit to the airport.
As airport traffic has surged, airports have been caught flat footed unable to sustain the deluge of passengers with current staffing levels, having fired most of their staff during the darkest days of the pandemic. Now, airports seem rather surprised people still want to travel and disabled travelers have borne high levels of mistreatment as their airports quietly admit they really don’t care about them (and never did).
Under terms of the new deal, disabled passengers will still be required to crawl on and off the plane, and will have to get through customs on their own.
Disabled advocacy groups largely cheered the move, although some expressed concern that it didn’t go far enough, noting that it would have been nice if the airports would agree to buy a few more wheelchairs too – expressing frustration at having to share the single wheelchair that currently exists at each airport.