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For some, flying with a disability is a daunting prospect and as a result people with disabilities only make up a small percentage of the total number of air passengers in the UK. Recently, a report from the CAA found that of the 260 million passengers that flew in and out the UK in 2016, only 3.1 million passengers used special assistance services. This makes up only 1.52% of all passengers, suggesting barriers for people with disabilities remain.
Following this report, Heathrow has taken proactive steps to transform its services; establishing the HAAG and investing £23 million in an improved contract with their Special Assistance partner Omniserve. Special Assistance Services are a legal requirement for all UK airports and cover everything from car parking to moving through security, boarding the plane and transferring a passenger to their seat.
Graham Race runs QEF’s Tryb4uFly service, helping people with disabilities to access air travel with confidence. This service provides free information to people thinking about flying with a disability, as well as enabling people to experience the challenges of air travel; such as boarding, wheelchair transfer and seating; in a safe and realistic aircraft cabin setting.
In joining HAAG Graham joins some of the leading experts in this field who are all working to achieve the objective of helping to make Heathrow the leading airport in the world for accessibility and inclusion. HAAG will look to bring a consumer perspective to all aspects of Heathrow’s decision-making and planning processes, and QEF will contribute expertise in this area.
Roberto Castiglioni, chairman of the Heathrow Access Advisory Group said:
“The HAAG’s vision is to improve the passenger’s journey by keeping accessibility and inclusion at the forefront of thinking. In this view, I am delighted Graham Race from QEF accepted the invite to join the Group. Graham’s unparalleled experience in helping people living with disabling conditions gain access to air travel is a true asset for the HAAG.”
QEF Tryb4uFly recently worked with Heathrow Airport on a Special Assistance Open Day.
This open day included presentations about flying with a disability and tours of the terminals to allow visitors to experience the airport environment, and the proccesses to go through when travelling, and the assistance provided.
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To support their Paralympics coverage the Channel 4 News has been carrying a piece entitled No Go Britain, which looked at the accessibility of public transport, both on the ground and in the air.
On Tuesday 4 September the 5 minute feature on the 7 o’Clock News focused on disabled peoples negative experiences of flying, but also featured our TravelChair test pilot Azaria using the TravelChair at the QEF Try b4u Fly test rig, which we hope will greatly improve disabled children’s experience of flying. You can read more about Azaria’s test flight in the TravelChair here
The feature was also linked to an article called ‘No Fly Britain: are disabled passengers being grounded which you can read here
Now the Tryb4uFly assessment service is underway we are offering a hire service for our support seating systems.
So if the airline that you are flying with do not have the support seating you need then you can both hire and buy the items from QEF Mobility Services.
The price you pay to hire the items is calculated at a daily rate plus an initial administration charge. Currently you can only use these items on UK registered airlines.
You will always need to give the airline a minimum of 48 hours notice if you wish to bring equipment on board. It is best to organise this when first making the flight booking.
Please contact QEF Mobility Services to book an assessment or hire equipment on 0208 770 1151 or email on firstname.lastname@example.org
In order to be allowed on aircraft the MERU TravelChair required certification from the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA). TravelChair underwent some rigorous tests to ensure that its performance would not compromise passenger or aircraft safety in any way.
Happily we can announce that the EASA have now approved and certified the TravelChair so that it can be sold to airlines for their use.
A number of airlines; British Airways, Virgin Atlantic and Monarch, have already expressed their interest.
Sir Richard Stilgoe and Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen joined representatives from the travel industry, disability groups and major airlines at the Gatwick headquarters of the UK Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) to witness the launch of TravelChair, an innovative chair for disabled children for use in passenger aircraft.
The TravelChair has been designed by the children’s disability charity MERU to replace a cumbersome older version. Virgin Atlantic has already placed orders and MERU are currently in negotiations with several other major airlines.
The TravelChair’s postural support to physically disabled children was amply demonstrated by Azaria and Leo who, with their mums Carolyn and Tracey, thoroughly enjoyed the celebrity attention. Thousands of disabled children are potentially being denied the opportunity to travel by air because not all airlines currently offer suitable postural support systems on board. The chairs are portable, fit into standard airline seats and can be stored in the overhead lockers.
Parents simply advise the airline of their need to use the TravelChair at point of booking and the airline ensure it is on board for both outbound and inbound flights – at no extra charge. Virgin Atlantic has been quick to purchase the new, improved version, available from summer 2012.