The treatment of disabled passengers who are forced to wait hours to disembark from flights at Heathrow Airport has been branded “discriminatory”.
A survey of almost 1,200 passengers who use Heathrow’s assistance service found 62% rate it as “poor” or “very poor”, with some having had to wait up to two hours for assistance.
The executive director of the Equality and Human Rights Commission, Melanie Field, said: “For disabled passengers to be treated as second class citizens and having to wait hours to leave a plane is not only bad service, it is discriminatory.
The aviation regulator found instances of passengers not being met on board and not being treated with “dignity and respect”.
Some disabled passengers were encouraged to make their own way through the airport due to lack of staff or equipment.
Airports where the assistance service for disabled passengers was judged to be “poor” by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA)
More than one million passengers requiring special assistance travel through Heathrow every year – more than any other European airport.
Its assistance service is provided by US-based firm OmniServ.
A statement from Heathrow apologised to customers affected by the poor service and pledged to address the issues raised.
The airport announced that it will amend its contract for providing passenger assistance to ensure waiting times are reduced.
A spokeswoman for OmniServ said the company is “investing significant sums in staff training” and will “continue evaluating our performance… to provide the best service to all of Heathrow’s passengers”.
The report found that six airports provide “very good” assistance support, while 20 were described as “good”.