CAA guidelines. Check in, Airport Departure & Arrival information board sign; image courtesy of Shutterstock, Copyright: alice-photo

New guidance published by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) will help passengers with hidden disabilities get better support at UK airports and more effective communication ahead of travel, to help reduce stress and anxiety.

Ian Sherriff, Academic Partnership Lead for Dementia at Plymouth University Peninsula Schools of Medicine and Dentistry (PUPSMD) and chair of the Prime Minister’s Dementia Air Transport Group, has contributed to the new CAA guidelines.

Following a wide-ranging consultation with airports and disability organisations the CAA has set out a number of key guidelines which includes providing identity badges, bracelets or lanyards and ensuring information is available is a range of formats including clear pictograms and audio messages.

In addition airports are being asked to consider providing quiet routes and areas, and ensure that airport staff, including security staff, are given enhanced hidden disability training.

The guidelines also insist that people with hidden disabilities should never be separated from those accompanying them on a journey during a security search. Security personnel must explain in advance what screening will take place and make any necessary adjustments.

Airports should also consider facilitating ‘familiarisation visits’ or open days for passengers prior to travel to help them experience the airport and aircraft environment.

UK airports have welcomed the guidance, which clarifies their legal obligations to provide ‘special assistance’ to any person with a disability or reduced mobility – including to those with hidden disabilities such as dementia – when travelling through an airport and boarding an aircraft.

Ian Sherriff commented: 

“As someone who is totally committed to helping our society tackle the many challenges that people with dementia and their carers face daily, I am really excited about the innovative approaches that have been used to develop these guidelines. There is widespread recognition at the highest level of Government of the present and potential future impacts of dementia. The search for ways to enhance the quality of life for those affected is a constant and complex one. Creative projects such as hidden disabilities guidelines have the potential to open up new ways of working in partnerships in the world of aviation. On behalf of the Dementia Air-Transport Group I welcome such ground-breaking solutions that help overcome the challenges faced by people with dementia and their carers in the world of air travel.”
Richard Moriarty, Director of the CAA’s Markets and Consumer Group, added: 

“Everyone should have fair access to air travel and that’s why there are regulations in place to make sure passengers get the assistance they need to be able to fly. Our engagement with disability organisations shows that people with hidden disabilities want to be in control of the assistance they receive, but they do not always get clear information ahead of travel about what support is available.”
He continued: 

“To help reduce stress and anxiety, it is important passengers and their travelling companions have access to illustrative guides, online videos and photos, which explain the airport layout, the processes passengers need to go through, including security scanning, and what types of support are available. We’re really pleased with the support UK airports and disability organisations have provided to help us develop this guidance. However, this is just the start and over the next six months we expect airports to make changes and improvements to the services and assistance they provide passengers with hidden disabilities.”