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Passengers with reduced mobility are sometimes being left humiliated and physically hurt when travelling through airports, putting them off flying altogether, according to a new survey from Which? and the Research Institute for Disabled Consumers (RiDC).

The research revealed that many disabled passengers are left in degrading situations due to inconsistency in the assistance provided, accessibility staff not doing their jobs properly and poor communication between airlines, airports and service providers.

All UK airports must, by law, provide free support to any disabled passenger who needs it. In the same way, people with reduced mobility should have the same opportunities for air travel as anyone else.

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However, a survey conducted by the RiDC for Which? found that 46 percent of passengers with reduced mobility felt unable to travel by air because of their disability in the past two years.

Additionally, the survey found that of respondents who had used special assistance at an airport, a quarter said that they were dissatisfied – meaning misery for thousands of passengers each year.

Despite having a ‘good’ rating by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA), the special assistance service at Heathrow was deemed the worst overall in the RiDC survey, with 28 percent of respondents saying they were dissatisfied. The RiDC survey respondents found Manchester to be the second-worst airport for disabled access, with one in five feeling dissatisfied.

One passenger discovered that while there was a wheelchair waiting for him upon arrival at Manchester, no staff were available to push it. His wife reluctantly did it herself, after being assured the route to the plane was flat, but lost control of the wheelchair on the slope of the air bridge and it crashed at the bottom, leaving him dazed and shocked.

Which? says that whilst many people receive excellent assistance at UK airports, it regularly hears from passengers who have experienced distress or humiliation as a result of poor levels of assistance from airport or airline staff.

Now, the consumer champion is calling for more to be done to ensure better communication between airline, airport and special assistance staff as well as extra training to make sure all passengers are cared for in a dignified manner.

Rory Boland, Which? Travel Editor, said: “Not one single person should have to suffer the indignities and pain we heard about in the course of this investigation. But it seems these experiences of inadequate airport accessibility services are all too common, so it’s unsurprising that thousands of disabled travellers feel unable to fly.

“It’s also unacceptable. Airports have a legal responsibility to provide these services and more needs to be done to ensure no passenger is made to feel this way just because they wanted to take a holiday.”

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