Travel industry fails disabledAccess denied for travellers

07 September 2007

The wheel of a wheelchair

The travel industry is failing to do enough to help travellers with disabilities, Holiday Which? has revealed.

In an investigation of the biggest airlines, airports and tour operators, Holiday Which? found a lack of awareness about the needs of people with accessibility requirements and a lack of information to help them travel abroad.

It found that information on all of ‘the big four’ (First Choice, MyTravel, Thomas Cook and Thomson) tour operators’ websites and brochures was inadequate.

With the exception of First Choice, customer service staff were poorly informed and none of the operators guarantee to meet any disability requirements.

Airlines

All of the airlines (American Airlines, British Airways, Easyjet, First Choice Airways, Monarch, My Travel Airways, Ryanair, Thomas Cook Airlines, Thomsonfly and Virgin Atlantic) Holiday Which? spoke to asked passengers with a disability to call them before travelling - using a premium rate number.

Charter airlines (First Choice Airways, Monarch, My Travel Airways, Thomas Cook Airlines, Thomsonfly), in particular gave insufficient and contradictory information to passengers.

American Airlines, Ryanair, Thomas Cook Airlines and Thomsonfly have the worst websites for partially sighted people since text size can’t be changed.

Thomas Cook Airlines, Thomsonfly and First Choice Airways also charge a fee to travel with an assistance dog.

Extra fees

However by July 2008 new EU laws mean that transport providers won’t be allowed to charge these extra fees.

Monarch airlines won’t allow passengers with certain mental health problems – for example schizophrenia - to fly with them at all.

British Airways and Virgin Atlantic fared better at meeting the requirements of deaf and hard of hearing travellers. 

Between them they supplied a textphone number, aircraft induction loops, subtitled entertainment videos and cabin crew with sign language skills.

More to be done

Lorna Cowan, Editor, Holiday Which? magazine, said: 'Airports and airlines have made a lot of progress in recent years, but our investigation shows that there is still a lot of work to be done before foreign travel is truly accessible to everyone.

'What should be simple - clear information and accessibility - is still a huge problem.  Many people with disabilities continue to rely on their own willpower to make sure their holidays happen.'