Northern Ireland news

Aviation watchdog praises Belfast International but slams Heathrow over service for disabled passengers

London Heathrow has been criticised by an aviation watchdog over access for disabled passengers. Picture: Steve PArsons/PA Wire =
Allan Preston

HEATHROW and Luton airport in London provided an “unacceptable” level of service for disabled passengers this year, an aviation watchdog has found.

Belfast International however was among airports praised for its track record in helping passengers.

The report by Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) examined 16 of the UK's largest airports between April and October.

While some airports made improvements after a challenging summer for the aviation industry, the CAA said some where still providing “an unacceptable level of service” to disabled people and passengers with reduced mobility.

Earlier this year, the regulator told several underperforming airports they needed to make improvements.

Despite this, London Luton still ended up being ranked as the worst-performing airport.

Belfast International was among the only airports who were rated as “very good” for the whole period under review, along with Aberdeen, East Midlands, Edinburgh, Glasgow and London City.

Liverpool and Newcastle were rated as a mixture of “good” and “very good” across the period.

Eight airports were ranked as “poor” in the early months with passengers waiting “unacceptably long periods for assistance on arrival,” but made substantial improvements to be rated as “good” or “very good” by the end of the reporting period – Birmingham, London Gatwick, London Stanstead and Manchester.

Bristol, Leeds Bradford and London Heathrow were still deemed as needing improvement as passengers have not seen sufficient improvements.

The regulator highlighted Eastlands and Liverpool for introducing schemes which allow for personalisation of the assistance journey, such as requesting assistance at certain 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.”