The International Air Transport Association (IATA) announced the results of its 2023 Global Passenger Survey (GPS) on the accessibility of air transport to passengers with disabilities, revealing high levels of satisfaction among passengers who used special assistance services, with 80% of passengers who used special assistance services reporting that their expectations were met.
“In 2019, the IATA Annual General Meeting adopted a resolution reflecting our members’ commitment to ensuring reliable, secure, and dignified travel to all travellers.” While we all have more work to do to support the needs of our passengers with disabilities, we feel this survey result demonstrates progress towards that commitment,” said Conrad Clifford, IATA Deputy Director General and Corporate Secretary.
The survey also aligned with the airline reports that more travellers than ever are requesting assistance. This trend will likely continue as many key air transport markets’ populations age, and aviation, like many other companies, will struggle to find the resources needed to cater to this important demographic.
“As the demand for special assistance grows, we will need to find more tailored ways to meet the needs of special-needs travellers.” At present, a request for special assistance is almost always met with wheelchair services. However, the real needs of the traveller may be completely different. The traveller may want to help to navigate busy airports, may have difficulties managing stairs, or maybe wholly ambulatory but visually impaired. “We are working on ways to ensure that wheelchairs are available when needed, as well as the appropriate options for a broad spectrum of traveller needs,” said Linda Ristagno, IATA’s Assistant Director for External Affairs.
Critical Need for Clear Information
The poll also identified website accessibility as a potential development area. Improved online accessibility for booking and reservations should be a priority, according to 20% of travellers.
Recognising this, the International Air Transport Association (IATA) has provided information on ensuring airline websites give simple access to all relevant information for disabled travellers.
Developing a user-friendly gateway to the specific accessibility portion of airlines’ websites, defining the requirements for assistance entitlement to ensure equitable access for all passengers.
Emphasising the importance of passengers requesting assistance early, preferably while searching.
The recommendations emphasise a simplified approach, allowing disabled passengers to access crucial details with a single click from the webpage. It outlines best practices for providing clear and intuitive information pathways on airline websites for passengers with disabilities or limited mobility, ensuring they have direct access to critical information on 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 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.