Airport Assistance - Airline Accessibility

“It is estimated that 39% of people aged 70-plus in Great Britain have a mobility difficulty”

Source: AgeUK, Transport topic briefing, January 2011

Accessibility and assistance information can be found on Silver Travel Advisor’s holiday company pages and also on our Accessible Holidays page.

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Should this be a barrier to air travel?

Airport AssistanceMany people do not book assistance as they don’t see themselves as disabled (even if they could do with a helping hand). EU regulations states that assistance is available to disabled persons and persons of reduced mobility. This service is free of charge. Given the often long walking distances at airport terminals, airlines and airports recognise that there is an increasing need to provide these services to non-disabled passengers. Even in America, South Western airlines commented that up to 90% of passengers booking assistance at Fort Lauderdale airport did not normally use a wheelchair.

It’s not just disabled people that could do with assistance. But if you do need help how do you go about getting it?

The current system has been developed in a response to EU legislation, with each airline and airport developing their own versions of pre-notification systems frequently leading to communication breakdowns. Unfortunately the current pre-notification system leaves the passenger feeling frustrated, confused, and unsure as to whether they will receive the assistance requested.

Airlines are responsible for recording the assistance needs of their passengers. They will then notify the relevant airports 2 days before the date of departure.

On arrival at the airport all airports will offer the facilities including;

  • Special assistance teams
  • Special seating areas
  • Help points
  • Accessible toilets

The airport’s own website will have this information, but it can be difficult to find. The following websites have been developed to make the information more accessible:

  • The EU website explaining passenger rights.
  • which details the facilities at each UK airport, and has useful contact numbers.
  •  has accessibility reports on airlines and airports.
  • useful contacts pages link directly to the special assistance pages of airlines and airports.

If you are flying somewhere in the near future (or know someone who is) the best advice is the pre-notify the airline of your needs as soon as possible.

Watch the following short video by able2fly a free online booking assistance system, and see how the service can be improved by better communication.


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Other Members' Thoughts - 4 Comment(s)

  • Ceejay
    about 2 years ago
    I have travelled many times through Gatwick and never had a problem with assistance there. The system at Heathrow, however, leaves a lot to be desired.
    about 7 years ago
    Flew Bournemouth to Paphos last October. The assistance within the airport was excellent. However, getting to the terminal building is extremely difficult. The airport has been designed to ensure everyone dropping passengers off or collecting passengers has to enter the car park and pay a minimum charge of £2.50. As it's a long walk from the car park to the terminal, my husband had intended to drop me at the entrance then park the car, but this was not possible. We had pre-booked our parking, so had paid considerably more than their £2.50 charge. If Bournemouth airport insists on not allowing people to be dropped off near the terminal, it should be obliged to provide transport for those who need it from the car park to the terminal. What a shame that an otherwise excellent service is marred by the airport's excessive measures to inflict extra £2.50 levies.
  • barnwood
    over 7 years ago
    This will be very useful. I shall register early next year when hopefully mr consultant will say the magic words "yes your OK to fly". Any other info or tips or experiences regarding flying with a heart problem, either from the team or members would be gratefully received.
  • HarryK1947
    over 7 years ago
    What many people don't realise is that "special assistance" starts and stops at the door of the terminal. Passengers who have reduced mobility are being increasingly disadvantaged by airports which make access to the terminal buildings very difficult, unless they opt to use the franchised (meaning "exorbitantly expensive") taxi operators or "permitted" coach operators such as National Express. At Gatwick South, us "ordinary" taxi drivers have to drop passengers at the lowest level, leaving them to negotiate ramps or lifts up to Departures. At Stansted, the airport now require us to pay £2 to park for up to 10 minutes (£5 for 15 minutes and £50 if you go over 15 minutes!) in a car park which is much further away from the terminal. In both cases, if we have passengers with mobility issues, we have to help them to get to the terminal building where special assistance may or may not be immediately available. Airports cite "security" and "encouraging use of public transport" as the reasons for introducing these restrictions, but the real reasons are commercial - more people using the car parks and higher franchise payments from "approved operators" are a nice additional source of revenue for them. The last thing on their minds is the convenience of their passengers.