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Progress towards aviation industry’s commitment to passengers with disabilities

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2023 Global Passenger Survey aligned with airline experience that more travelers than ever are requesting assistance. With aging populations in many key air transport markets, this trend is likely to continue, and aviation, like many other industries, will struggle to find the resources needed to cater to this important demographic.

CHICAGO – The International Air Transport Association (IATA) announced the results of its 2023 Global Passenger Survey (GPS) related to accessibility of air transport to passengers with disabilities, showing significant satisfaction levels among passengers who used special assistance services: 80% of travelers using special assistance services said that their expectations were met.

“In 2019, the IATA Annual General Meeting adopted a resolution reflecting our members’ commitment to ensure that every traveler has access to safe, reliable and dignified travel. While we all have more work to do to support the needs of our passengers with disabilities, we believe this survey result demonstrates progress towards that commitment,” said Conrad Clifford, IATA Deputy Director General and Corporate Secretary.

“As demand for special assistance grows, we will need to find more tailored ways to meet the needs of travelers with special needs. At present, a special assistance request is almost always met with wheelchair services. But the actual requirement of the traveler may be very different. The traveler may simply need help with wayfinding through crowded airports, or only have difficulty negotiating stairs, or may be totally mobile but visually impaired. We are working on ways to ensure that wheelchairs are available when needed as well as the right options for the diversity of traveler needs,” said Linda Ristagno, IATA’s Assistant Director for External Affairs.

Critical Need for Clear Information

The survey also highlighted website accessibility as an area for improvement. Twenty percent of travelers highlighted that improved website accessibility for booking and reservations should be a priority.

Recognizing this, IATA has recently issued guidance material on ensuring airline websites provide easy access to all necessary information for travelers with disabilities. With the aim to ensure equal access for all passengers, this includes:

  • Developing a user-friendly gateway to the dedicated accessibility area of airlines’ websites,
  • Clarifying the criteria for assistance entitlement, and
  • Emphasizing the importance of passengers requesting assistance early, preferably during the booking process.

The guidance stresses a streamlined approach, enabling travelers with disabilities to access crucial information with just one click from the homepage. It provides best practices on creating clear and intuitive information pathways on airline websites for passengers with disabilities or reduced mobility, ensuring they have direct access to essential details about air travel arrangements and passenger rights.

“Clear information is crucial for anybody who wishes to travel. This is particularly relevant for persons with disabilities who require assistance and must carefully prepare their travel arrangements. While airlines have made strides in providing extensive guidance on their websites, there remains room for improvement, particularly in easing the search for specific information,” said Ristagno.

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Theodore is the Co-Founder and Managing Editor of TravelDailyNews Media Network; his responsibilities include business development and planning for TravelDailyNews long-term opportunities.

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