All passengers traveling in post-COVID confinement noticed staffing issues at all levels slowing down the process, but no passenger is more affected than those who need assistance to reach their destination. Flying with different abilities is a dehumanizing, painful and sometimes deadly experience.
Just in time for the holiday season, CNN write a flight status report for Americans who need special assistance at the airport, and boy, is that grim! :
Disabilities affect around one in five of the population and many passengers use what is called “special assistance” when moving through airports.
This could be a visually impaired person needing guidance to the gate, a person with sensory issues needing assistance at critical points such as security or when boarding. boarding gate, or a passenger with a bad knee who can walk to the gate, but cannot take steps.
About 27 million passengers with disabilities passed through US airports in 2019, according to the Department of Transportation (DOT).
And with a system already under pressure, the results can be devastating.
In June, a passenger who had booked special assistance died at London Gatwick Airport when he decided to proceed to the terminal unaided instead of waiting for help. A member of staff had arrived at the gate to take three passengers in a buggy and had already taken the first person when the man decided to walk. The airport has launched an investigation into the incident.
People struggling with the lack of services say the shortage of workers, lack of personalization for each unique passenger and lack of training are the main reasons why poor treatment has already worsened.
“It’s definitely worse since the pandemic,” says Roberto Castiglioni, director of Rights with reduced mobilitywhich defends disabled travelers.
“Staff shortages not only have an impact on the lack [assistance-dedicated] agent,” he says. “Where airports have experienced shortages of security personnel, there are very long queues to walk through.”
Anyone who can’t stand for hours – whether elderly, pregnant or sick – has to call for help, adding further stress to a short-staffed system.
For Carrie-Ann Lightley – who wanted to fly from her native UK to Australia for eight years but feels ‘intimidated’ – having her chair broken isn’t the only thing to worry about.
“The problem is the process and the training – ultimately [assistance staff] are not trained to deal with human beings, but to move luggage,” she says.
“I don’t feel like I get equal service from others. I pay the same price as everyone else but I can’t even access the toilet independently. Hardly a week goes by without a headline talking about support failures, but we’re not considered a big enough group of customers. »
Once the plane lands, the problems never end. Delayed flights mean passengers needing assistance may be the last to board, which could separate protect them from potentially life-saving hand luggage. Planes are not required to have ADA-compliant bathrooms. The Department of Transport has proposed a possible rule that would require new planes to provide accessible bathrooms… in 20 years.
Getting off the plane is not easier. It seems like at least once a week this year there’s a story about a disabled person left on a plane for hours or stranded in airports after their wheelchair or essential accessibility equipment were lost Where badly damaged.
The whole thing is heartbreaking. We all need to demand better from the airlines. Lily CNNThe full report here.
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