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A new report from the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) has found that substantial progress has been made in making airports more accessible for disabled people and passengers with reduced mobility across the UK.

Introduced five years ago, the CAA’s accessibility framework ranks airports on their performance for passengers requiring assistance. The framework was the first of its kind globally and has overseen millions of pounds of investment made by airports toward improving people’s experiences.

According to the regulator’s latest findings, for the second year in a row, no UK airport has been ranked as ‘poor’ for its accessibility services.

Additionally, the CAA reports significant achievements have been made by airports across the UK over the past five years, with improvements made at Manchester Airport in particular. The airport switched from a ‘poor’ rating in 2018 to a ‘good’ rating this year after agreeing on improvements with the Civil Aviation Authority.

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This year’s report, which covers the period from 1 April 2019 to 31 March 2020, also shows that 15 airports have been classified as ‘very good’, with a further 13 classified as ‘good’.

Three airports are listed as requiring improvements. The CAA says this is due to the robustness of how the data was collected during reporting rather than as a result of direct concerns over assistance services at these airports.

Commenting on the new report, Gemma Hope, Director of Policy for Leonard Cheshire, said: “We’re pleased to see the latest CAA report showing continued positive progress in airport accessibility, with only a small number of airports needing improvements.

“But as air travel begins to gradually open up more as we recover from the pandemic, it’s essential that accessibility continues to be prioritised and passengers with disabilities and health conditions have access to the support they need.

“With marked improvements being made across major UK airports over the past five years, we hope this momentum will continue so that all airports meet the highest accessibility standards.”

The regulator has stated that it has worked alongside consumer and disability groups to improve every part of the consumer journey, considering the individual needs of each passenger.

Since 2015, the CAA reported a significant rise in the number of passengers requesting assistance at UK airports, with four million requests in the latest year, highlighting the need for accessible services. This is almost double the amount than was recorded in 2015. In total, UK airports have received more than 10 million assistance requests.

Paul Smith, Director at the UK Civil Aviation Authority, commented: “As the industry looks to recover from the coronavirus pandemic and consumers plan their travel for 2021, we hope that passengers with reduced mobility and hidden disabilities feel confident about the services they will receive.

“It is great to see the level of progress made by UK airports over the last five years, but there are still areas that need further improvement as our ambition as a regulator is for the UK’s airports to be the best in the world for accessibility.”

Initial monitoring conducted throughout the current year by the CAA suggests that the positive trend in access provision is continuing, despite the current global challenges and reduced flying schedules faced by the aviation industry.

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