Share your views on flying with your disabled child
Thursday 4th April 2019
The Department for Transport is seeking feedback on its green paper which outlines proposals for a new aviation strategy.
Chapter 5 on passenger experience includes some proposals for passengers with additional needs, wheelchair users and those with hidden disabilities.
Many disabled children and adults can be anxious about flying mostly due to fears about loss and damage of mobility and other specialist equipment, and occasional problems with inconsiderate staff and long waits at airports.
Our trustee, Dr Sue Hurrell, comments of the proposals in the a new aviation strategy based on travelling with her daughter Imogen aged 13, who uses a wheelchair:
"Generally, I think the proposals are good and cover the main changes needed. Being able to bring wheelchairs onto a flight is the ideal outcome, especially those with severe disabilities where the correct postural support is essential for safety. Work to achieve this needs to be speeded up globally.
"The main issue which needs to be addressed is the proper care of wheelchairs and mobility equipment. This is the main factor which puts families with disabled children off flying.
"Baggage handling staff worldwide need mandatory training, not only on how to properly treat specialist equipment, but also to include some personal stories from families of children and adults whose travel experiences have been utterly ruined by the loss or damage of equipment.
"Storage in the hold and handing once the equipment leaves the hold needs to be reliably secure and careful. I have seen staff throwing mobility equipment around like other bags, and a friend of mine arrived at a destination with his disabled son to discover that the entire backrest on the wheelchair had been sheared off.
"Compensation levels need to be much higher. The waiting times can be in excess of six months for a specialist wheelchair for a child and costs are usually well over £1,000. Compensation should be on a par with personal injury. If you damage my daughters wheelchair you are basically stopping her from moving about - which has the same effect as it would if you broke my leg.
"Enforcement fines need to be far stronger. I believe this situation will only improve when penalties for airlines and airports are much higher. Another friend of mine's son's wheelchair was not returned to him on a flight that she had received free as compensation for a previous flight because her son's wheelchair was not returned on that one! She had to hold him precariously on top of the baggage trolley with her cases to get through the airport
"Having an accessible toilet on all aircraft would be of great benefit to a wide group of travellers with additional needs - visible or not."
How to respond to the consultation
Alternatively, consultation responses can be emailed directly to: AviationStrategy@dft.gov.uk
If responding by post please send to: Aviation Strategy Department for Transport 33 Horseferry Road London SW1P 4DR
Deadline for responses
The consultation period will run until 11 April 2019