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Air charter offers hope for disabled passengers

Air charter offers hope for disabled passengers
14th December 2018 Ian Streets

Drones notwithstanding, disabled passengers could face a brighter future with air travel under new measures being considered by the government.
Accessibility minister Nusrat Ghani said a new charter which has now gone out for consultation will be designed to make real changes in an industry which has come in for fierce criticism during the last year.
She said: “We are committed to continuing the progress the industry has already made in making the aviation network truly open to all.”
More than half (57 per cent) of passengers with a disability say they find flying and using airports difficult, according to a survey by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA).
The BBC reminded its online readers that disabled flyers have long complained of lost or damaged wheelchairs, struggles with access on planes and in airports, and poor customer service.
Frank Gardner, the BBC security correspondent who has used a wheelchair since being shot in Saudi Arabia in 2004, was stranded on an empty aircraft for almost two hours in March after staff said they had lost his wheelchair. He spoke of airports having a “casual disregard” for disabled passengers.
The BBC reported that some airports are already introducing measures to improve the experience for disabled flyers.
At Gatwick, one of the airport lounges has been specifically designed for passengers who require assistance and some security lanes are now accessible for passengers with a range of disabilities and staffed by people trained to recognise and respond to their needs.
The new charter is part of the government’s aviation strategy which will be considered in a 16-week consultation and is due to be finalised next year. The aviation strategy has been supported by Airlines UK, an association representing 13 airlines, including British Airways, EasyJet and Virgin Atlantic.
If adopted, the charter would remove the £2,000 limit on payouts for damaged wheelchairs. It would also enforce better training for airline crews and baggage handlers.
In the longer term, the charter would encourage the industry to look at ways to allow people to take their own wheelchairs into aircraft cabins.
Industry experts told the BBC the consultation and subsequent improvements will be welcomed by disabled people and by those who have been campaigning for change. However they added that it is unclear how the charter will work and there is no indication of how long it will take to introduce the changes.
Chris Wood, from campaign group Flying Disabled, said the charter was what they had been working towards.
He said: “My aspiration is to have people flying in their own wheelchairs to a destination within two years and it looks as if the UK could lead the way in making this happen.”

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