The IATA’s 2023 Global Passenger Survey (GPS) related to accessibility of air transport to passengers with disabilities, showed significant satisfaction levels among passengers who used special assistance services, with 80 per cent of travellers using special assistance services saying their expectations were met.
The survey also aligned with airline experience that more travellers 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.
IATA’s assistant director for external affairs Linda Ristagno said: “As demand for special assistance grows, we will need to find more tailored ways to meet the needs of travellers with special needs. At present, a special assistance request is almost always met with wheelchair services – but the actual requirement of the traveller may be very different. The traveller 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 traveller needs.”
The survey also highlighted the need for clear information, with 20 per cent of travellers highlighting that improved website accessibility for booking and reservations should be a priority.
In response, IATA recently issued guidance material on ensuring airline websites provide easy access to all necessary information for travellers with disabilities. These includes developing a user-friendly gateway to the dedicated accessibility area of airlines’ websites, clarifying the criteria for assistance entitlement, and emphasising the importance of passengers requesting assistance early, preferably during the booking process.
The guidance will also enable travellers with disabilities to access crucial information with just one click from the homepage, providing 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,” noted Ristagno.