Photography: Anadolu Agency/Getty Images
Many disabled and less mobile passengers have missed summer flights at Heathrow – one of the world’s busiest airports – due to its poor accessibility performance, the aviation watchdog has found.
Bristol, Leeds Bradford and Luton airports were also criticized, along with Britain’s largest airport, by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) in its interim report on airport accessibility.
The CAA did not say how many passengers missed flights at Heathrow but called the total “unacceptable”.
Its report highlighted the “particularly poor performance” of Terminal 5, where “many passengers” did not make connecting departures.
Some disabled and less mobile passengers at West London Airport’s Terminal 3 were also forced to wait over an hour to be transferred from one facility to another.
Meanwhile, airports in Aberdeen, Belfast International, East Midlands, Edinburgh, Glasgow and London City were rated “very good” for their accessibility performance in the period between early April and end of October.
Paul Smith, consumer director at the CAA, said: “The aviation industry has faced unprecedented challenges, but too many passengers at UK airports have waited too long for help on flights to the arrival.
“We strongly believe that everyone should have access to air travel, and we welcome the substantial improvements made by airports for disabled and less mobile passengers.
“We will continue to review whether we need to take additional action where airports are not delivering an acceptable level of performance and not showing sufficient and sustainable improvements.
“We want to see immediate further improvements, as well as airports that are well prepared to deliver high quality service over the next year.”
Earlier this year, the CAA wrote to underperforming airports demanding improvements throughout the summer.
Although this led to improvements towards the end of the summer, London Luton emerged as the worst performing airport in Britain, failing to meet performance targets and failing to make improvements significant to the assistance provided.
Bristol, Leeds Bradford and London Heathrow are still seen as needing improvement, the regulator said. The report will be followed by an annual performance report which will include all airports handling more than 150,000 passengers per year, which will be published in the summer of 2023.
A Heathrow spokesperson said: ‘We are extremely disappointed with recent service levels which have fallen far short of our expectations. The challenges facing the entire aviation ecosystem this year have set us back, but we are working to restore performance to ensure Heathrow is a welcoming and accessible airport for all passengers.
“We are committed to achieving this in partnership with our service provider, the airlines and their ground contractors, working closely with the CAA and user groups.”
A spokesperson for London Luton Airport said: ‘We are committed to providing a simple and user-friendly experience for all passengers, and we are sorry to have failed on this occasion. Despite all of this year’s post-pandemic challenges, LLA has consistently been one of the top performing airports in the CAA’s customer satisfaction survey, with our special assistance service rated four out of five by our passengers. .
A Bristol Airport spokesperson said: ‘We are disappointed with the results of the CAA’s recent disability survey. We will continue to work with OCS, the special support provider, to provide consistent, high quality support to all customers and put in place corrective plans to resolve issues to ensure we continue to deliver high levels of service and support that our customers have come to expect.
“A record number of customers with disabilities travel through Bristol Airport year on year, and we take it very seriously to provide assistance and help that meets the individual needs of customers.”
Leeds Bradford Airport has been contacted for comment.