Airports from across the world are joining the discussion focusing on the foreseeable impact of ageing population on air travel.
Commonly known as baby boomers, the population born between 1946 and 1964 is likely to have a significant impact on the aviation industry. Within 20 years, the over 65s will double. Unlike today’s elderly, baby boomers are well accustomed to air travel, have greater disposable income, and are unlikely to change their habits because of age. However, baby boomers will face typical age related mobility problems.
Just like today’s elderly with mild mobility problems, baby boomers are forecast to reject being identified as passengers with disabilities. These factors need to be addressed by the air travel industry, airports and operators alike.
Reduced Mobility Rights recently proposed the overhaul of support services for disabled passengers to meet future demand. Key elements like abandoning the concept of assistance to passengers with disabilities in favour of the wider scope of passengers’ support and the introduction of cutting edge solutions targeted to provide passengers the opportunity to maintain almost full independence are the pillars of this vision.
Airports from every corner of the planet have been invited to discuss Reduced Mobility Rights vision of future services for passengers with reduced mobility.
Tricia Williams, Customer Services Director at Manchester Airport said: “Manchester Airport welcomes disabled customers and customers with reduced mobility. Our aim is to ease every journey our customers make and make their time at the airport a unique and positive experience.
“Our service provider OCS (One Complete Solution) ensures the assistance you require is made available to you, both flying out of and flying into Manchester Airport.
“We recognise that the number of over 65s is set to double in 20 years’ time and so are working hard with our partner agencies to ensure we are suitable equipped and trained to handle an increase in disabled customers and customers with reduced mobility. We want to continue improving the service we offer and we know this is an area we can improve on so this is something we are striving to achieve over the next few years.”
Manchester airport is working in partnership with DisabledGo to improve the customer journey by addingcomprehensive guides and information to the airport’s accessibility content.
“We agree one hundred per cent to Reduced Mobility Rights findings and the impact on the airports,” Thomas Kirner, Senior Executive Manager at Fraport AG, Frankfurt Airport said. “We had a lot of studies on this subject and believe that there is no one elderly passenger 60+ or a common disabled person. Besides the different kinds of disability resulting in different measures on the airport operator’s side, we have to take into account the emotional aspect.
“The key word here is control, as the passenger, either disabled or not, wants to be in control of his airport experience and be able to decide which kind of assistance might be appropriate for him. We as Frankfurt Airport operator have already begun to look with the eyes of different types of passengers on our processes, but there is still a way to go before matching as many needs as possible.”
“I believe the proposal is really interesting but it may not be applicable to all airports. Each airport should seek a right balance and decide if envisioned solutions are useful or not,” David Rebollo Santos, Head of Services at Barcelona Airport said. “Some solutions did not work in our airport; by example, there may not enough space in some areas of terminal buildings to use buggies safely.”
“I think the perspective discussed in the article is very vital for the Airport operator to consider; the benefits are of a great impact both on operationally and service levels,” Mohammed A. Al Katheeri, Vice President Quality Assurance & EHS at Abu Dhabi Airport said. “I agree totally with the conclusion that safeguarding independence and dignity of passengers with mild reduced mobility are far reaching. Most importantly, they allow focusing assistance on those passengers with greater need for support, hence improving availability and maintaining the level/quality of services and, at the same time, they positively impact management and performance of the entire passenger flow, making the airport segment of air travel a more enjoyable experience for all travellers.”
“Auckland Airport understands the need to provide facilities and services for passengers with reduced mobility and believe this is an important aspect of enhancing the overall passenger experience,” Katie Moore, Community Relations Manager at Auckland Airport said. “We have already implemented a number of initiatives to assist in meeting the needs of passengers with reduced mobility, including the installation of travelators (moving walkways) to shorten the walking distance inside our International Terminal. We are also engaged in a number of initiatives at present which are targeted at enhancing the airport experience for reduced mobility passengers.”
Auckland airport is working with a number of third party organisations to find ways to actively improvereduced mobility access, and continues to review industry best practice and infrastructure metrics to continue to enhance the passenger experience for everyone.
“We take accessibility at Heathrow very seriously,” Mark Hicks, Head of Passenger Support Services at London Heathrow, Europe’s busiest airport, said. “Last year we helped over 900,000 passengers with reduced mobility through our airport, and independent surveys frequently rate our service 4.1 out of 5, which shows a high level of satisfaction.
“We believe the key to providing a good experience is consistently giving passengers genuine choice so that their individual needs are met, and we work closely with professional bodies in the disability world to help achieve this. Any additional insight which helps us to further improve our service is to be welcomed.”
More airports are set to join the discussion hosted by Reduced Mobility Rights about the foreseeable impact of baby boomers on air travel in the coming weeks.
Are you a baby boomer? Do you travel by air? Looking forward, which type of support services you would like to find at airports? Have your say
About the author
Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Reduced Mobility Rights, Roberto Castiglioni is an expert of airport accessibility, management and support procedures of passengers with disabilities and air travel related disability regulations. He has been a frequent flyer for the past three decades and has several years of experience as travelling partner of a passenger with reduced mobility.
Roberto provides accessibility and access consulting services to airports and airlines. He is a member of the UK Civil Aviation Authority Access To Air Travel Working Group. He is also a member of the Easyjet Special Assistance Advisory Group. Esaag provides Easyjet with strategic guidance and practical advice on the evolving needs of passengers requiring special assistance.