Flying as a wheelchair user: it’s time for airlines to listen and make changes – Disability Horizons

Flying is supposed to be an exciting experience, travelling to your favourite locations and taking a relaxing holiday in a beautiful resort. However, for wheelchair users, this experience can be quite the opposite and sometimes distressing.

At present, wheelchair users can not remain in their wheelchairs on flights and are instead manhandled into a standard, non-supportive, aeroplane seat. This can, in many cases, cause injury and anxiety for disabled customers.

AbleMove, who created the EasyTravelseat, along with Flying Disabled, undertook a survey of 336 wheelchair users to help understand the significant concerns wheelchair customers have when travelling by air, to hopefully influence the legislation going forward.

Having asked both powered (65%) and manual wheelchair (35%) users in the US, UK, Europe, Asia and Africa, the biggest concerns were:

  • wheelchairs being lost or damaged
  • toileting at airports and onboard the aircraft
  • transferring on and off the aircraft
  • seating in the cabin
  • boarding and disembarking processes
  • carriage of medical equipment.

One in four wheelchair customers rates their overall experience flying by air as good, very good, or extremely good. But 43% of wheelchair customers said they are no longer choosing to fly (unrelated to Covid).

The aviation industry has seen incredible advancements with regards to accessibility, it’s had enhanced regulatory frameworks and best practices around the globe for people with reduced mobility (PRM) in recent years.

We believe that everyone should have access to air travel, and we welcome the significant improvements in accessibility made by UK airlines and airports in recent years. – Sir Stephen Hillier, Chair of the UK Civil Aviation Authority.

The findings support the urgent need for a globally harmonised standard that ensures the same level of service at every airline and airport. Whilst providing guarantees wheelchairs will not be lost or damaged, improve timing and dignity when boarding and disembarking.

There is also a real need for a solution that enables wheelchairs in the cabin, and accessible toilets so that wheelchair customers can explore the world like everybody else who take it for granted.

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