Virtually step free, Bournemouth International airport has all the numbers to give a pleasant experience to passengers with disabilities.
Owned and operated by the Manchester Airports Group, Bournemouth International airport was used by little less than 700.000 passengers in 2012. Ryanair and Thomson Airways are the two major airlines operating scheduled and charter flights from Bournemouth.
Reduced Mobility Rights assessed accessibility and assistance services of BOH on 6 November 2013.
Bournemouth airport is living proof that size matters. The smaller the airport, the less likely passengers will request assistance. In a perfect journey, a passenger making use of the disabled parking will not have to walk more than 300 steps to get to the boarding gate, little over 400 to get on board the aircraft.
The biggest obstacle for passengers with reduced mobility could be the slight slope from the parking bay to the entrance to the departures terminal. Once inside the terminal, there will be no steps to make to get to the tarmac.
The lovely Tracey Hilsden is our guide for the day. Tracey is Customer Service Team Leader at Bournemouth. She has worked at the airport for the past ten years.
Passengers departing from Bournemouth can use the disabled car park, conveniently located opposite to the entrance of the departures terminal. Upon request, assistance services will meet passengers there. A calling column is available to notify assistance. The device has seen better days, and an upgrade would be ideal.
A small waiting area with some chairs and wheelchairs on stand-by is located to the left of the entrance of the departures terminal. On a side note, we still have to wrap our mind and eyes around the debatable choice of pink as signage colour for assistance services. The use of pink for assistance signage is a corporate decision of Manchester Airport Group.
The always manned information desk is few steps away from the waiting area, opposite to check in area, which is equipped with hearing loops. The security check point is less than 30 steps away from the check in area.
A disabled friendly duty free shop area welcomes passengers to the departures hall. It is refreshing to note that passengers on wheelchairs have ample space to roam around the duty free shop, areas that can be challenging to browse because of space restrictions at some airports.
The accessible food court is to the left of the duty free shop, opposite to the gates. An open space waiting area reserved for passengers with special needs is to the right of the building, in the quiet area of the departures hall. Accessible toilets are available in the terminal building and are suitable to all needs.
Short distances, a step free environment, and wide availability of waiting areas explain why most passengers with mild reduced mobility chose to maintain their independence. Bournemouth assistance numbers are much lower than the UK and EU average.
However, the airport is fully equipped to provide assistance to all passengers. An ambulift equipped with state-of-the-art on-board wheelchairs is available to help passengers with severe reduced mobility make their way from the terminal to their seat on board the aircraft and vice versa.
Bournemouth peak traffic is in the summer, when the airport hires additional staff to assist passengers with special needs. Staff is directly employed and trained by the airport. All airport staff, including security officers, has to undergo disability awareness courses, and yearly refreshment courses.
“We want to give all our customers a memorable experience,” Tracey explains. “Delivery of customer service excellence is our constant target.”
Tracey takes pride in explaining how assistance services are designed to offer support and help in a dignified manner. “We listen to the need of the passenger and deliver assistance to his or her requirement.”
Arriving passengers also benefit from the airport size factor, having to walk less than 400 steps from the moment they set foot on the tarmac to the moment they get into their vehicle, even less if they chose to use taxi or public transport. The airport shuttle service runs daily from 7am to 7pm. WAV Taxi must be pre booked in advance.
Our conclusion is that Bournemouth International airport is a disabled friendly airport, providing passengers living in its catchment area a valid alternative over larger airports in this part of the country. Upgrading the calling column available in the disabled car park will definitely improve the overall passenger experience.