Spike in assistance requests for airline passengers with special needs following Travelport’s awareness campaign

Requests for assistance for airline passengers with intellectual disabilities have nearly doubled since Travelport rolled out a global campaign to raise awareness of a dedicated Special Service Request (SSR) booking code.

Since the launch of Travel Unified in March this year, use of the DPNA (Disabled Passenger with Intellectual or Developmental Disability Needing Assistance) SSR code on flights booked through Travelport have increased globally by 89 per cent year-on-year, said the travel technology company.

Help requests for airline passengers with special needs have surged following Travelport’s awareness campaign

At a regional level, use of the code on flights is now up 273 per cent in Asia, 259 per cent in Africa, 94 per cent in Europe and 22 per cent in Oceania. Use remains low in both North and South America.

SSR codes are used in the airline industry to communicate traveller preferences or needs to airlines. They are delivered through standardised four-letter codes defined by the IATA.

The DPNA SSR code can be used by travel agents, among others, to alert airlines when a passenger has an intellectual or developmental disability and needs assistance. The code needs to be accompanied by additional descriptive free text, so the airline understands the support required. Once an IATA member airline has received the code, a response acknowledging the request is mandatory.

Many airlines, as well as airports and hotel groups, have initiatives in place to meet travellers’ individual needs if they are made aware via the SSR code at the time of booking that they require additional support.

As part of its campaign to raise awareness of the DPNA SSR code, Travelport has shared educational “sign-on alerts” and graphical “prompts” more than 10 million times with hundreds of thousands of travel agents across the world through Travelport Smartpoint, its flagship point-of-sale solution that is used by travel agents, among others, to search and book airline seats, hotel rooms and more. The digital media used to reach travel agents is typically sold by Travelport to travel providers, like airlines and hotels, as advertising space.

Fiona Shanley, chief customer and marketing officer at Travelport, said: “We’re encouraged by the results we’ve seen so far and our decision to extend Travel Unified until at least the end of 2019 should enable us to reach even more travellers and travel agents. We’d like to call on all airlines, airports, hotels and other members of the travel family to do more to ensure everyone has the travel experience they deserve, including the 200 million people worldwide with intellectual disabilities.”

Linda Ristagno, external affairs manager at IATA, said: “Air travel is an integral means of transport in today’s world and all those with disabilities – visible or not – should have access to safe, reliable and dignified travel. With the approval of the IATA AGM Resolution in June, our airline members are committed to improve the air travel experience for the estimated one billion people living with disabilities worldwide.

“The Travel Unified awareness campaign is an excellent example of a company taking a leadership role in this space, and a reminder of how the travel experience can be improved for passengers through a simple four-digit code. The correct use of DPNA provides airlines with the relevant information that they need to support passengers with intellectual disabilities. We encourage the travel industry to continue to raise awareness of the code and for passengers with disabilities to know that they are always welcome on board.”

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