Sumburgh Airport ‘taking steps’ to improve disabled access

Sumburgh Airport has been urged to better communicate the help it offers to passengers with disabilities or reduced mobility.

A survey carried out by the Civil Aviation Authority suggested the airport needed to take steps to make air travel more accessible to those in difficulty.

The CAA assessed Sumburgh as one of 12 airports in a “taking steps” category, which is one rung up from “poor”. That means the airport has not met one or more of the criteria for a “good” performance standard.

However, the airport has made moves during the year to improve its performance.

Managing director of Highlands and Islands Airports Limited (Hial), Inglis Lyon, says the airport has performed well, but has failed to pass on to customers the services it offers to people with disabilities.

“We are grateful that the ‘taking steps’ rating for Sumburgh Airport in the report reflects some initial gaps around data collection and the communication of what we have been and are doing in respect of accessibility at the airport in what has always been an important area of consideration for everyone at Hial.

“The team at Sumburgh are already taking steps to improve communication around accessibility on our website and other communication channels and we are confident that those changes will be reflected in a much higher rating next year.”

The survey, which was the first of its kind, checked the quality of assistance provided to disabled users from 1st April last year to 31st March this year.

The report states: “For many airports, meeting the Quality Standards framework has involved the implementation of a number of new processes and changing of others.

“Some of these airports have experienced problems embedding the framework, resulting in them submitting and publishing data either late or not in full.

“The CAA has worked closely throughout the year with these airports to help them embed the framework and over the year they have put in place processes to improve performance. This includes London Heathrow, Cardiff, Exeter, London Luton and Sumburgh.”

Only one airport, Edinburgh, was assessed as being poor.

The CAA’s head of consumer enforcement, Matthew Buffey, said: “Our research shows passenger satisfaction with special assistance at UK airports is high with 85 per cent satisfied or very satisfied.

“However, high standards are not always universal, and occasionally things go wrong for disabled people and those with reduced mobility. These passengers are very much dependent on airport staff providing the appropriate assistance so it’s a really important task for airports to get right.

“We have worked closely with airports to help drive improvements and provide practical guidance where needed. Overall we are pleased that performance has generally been good, with some excellent examples of airports supporting their passengers who have mobility needs.

“Providing a consistently high-quality assistance service to disabled people and those with reduced mobility should be a top priority for the senior management of UK airports, and we do not expect standards to slip.

“To ensure that this is the case, we will continue to monitor performance standards and, where any issues do arise, take action quickly to protect the rights of disabled people and those with reduced mobility.”


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