HIAL airports among nation’s best for disabled access

Image: Brian Gray

Two of HIAL’s island airports have been recognised for their high levels of service delivery and engagement with disabled and mobility restricted passengers in a Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) national survey.

Shetland’s Sumburgh Airport retained its position in the top band classification for accessibility for a second year. Kirkwall Airport, in Orkney, appears for the first time in the elite group of 14 UK airports classified as Very Good.

Kirkwall and Sumburgh were both recognised for providing vital links for their communities to visit hospitals on the mainland and overcoming the challenges involved with dealing with smaller aircraft, particularly boarding.

Sumburgh’s “effective” consultations with a variety of groups from Shetland, the NHS and national Scottish groups to gain feedback on its service was also noted in the report.

In order to be classed Very Good airports must achieve benchmarks:

  • Consistently exceeds, meets, or is very close to meeting, monthly ‘waiting time’ performance targets
  • Scores a rating of ‘good’ or better in the satisfaction survey of users
  • Engages very effectively with disability groups
  • Publishes on its website monthly information on its performance (by a specified time and in the correct format). Submission to the CAA of the same data
  • Robust processes in place for overseeing how it measures its performance; or, where relevant, the airport has committed to strengthen this oversight.
  • Pro-actively promotes the satisfaction survey of users of the service.

Inverness Airport was also included in the survey receiving a rating of Good with the CAA noting a change in guidance requires the airport to expand on its engagement with disability forums.

HIAL managing director Inglis Lyon, said: “HIAL’s commitment to access for all passengers has been recognised for a third year by the CAA, acknowledging the hard work by all our staff to ensure our airports are as inclusive as possible. As an organisation, we work with local disability organisations and individuals to ensure we are always improving our offerings to better meet their needs and provide assistance where required.

“For Kirkwall to be listed as Very Good in its first year of reaching the required passenger threshold is a testament to the hard work staff put in to accommodate disabled and mobility restricted passengers.

“Kirkwall has made several upgrades to its facilities for those with additional needs in recent years including changing the flooring in the security area from carpet to lino and adding additional counter space in disabled toilets.

“We continue to invest and improve and will provide staff with additional disabilities training.

Mr Lyon added: “Sumburgh supports NHS hospital flights to the mainland and staff continue their engagement with a variety of disability groups.”

2019 is the fourth year the UK’s 31 busiest airports have been assessed by the CAA against a structured performance framework.

Of the airports reviewed, 14 were rated ‘very good’, 16 rated as ‘good’, one rated as ‘needs improvement’ and none rated as ‘poor’. Those with ‘very good’ and ‘good’ ratings have performed well in areas such as customer satisfaction, waiting times and engagement with disability organisations.

The CAA’s framework, the first of its kind in Europe, was introduced to ensure there is a consistent and high-quality service for disabled passengers across UK airports. The CAA assesses airports against a number of measures to establish how well they are performing for disabled passengers. Where airports regularly under-perform, the CAA can take enforcement action to ensure services are improved.