Heathrow failed to meet minimum accessibility standards, CAA report finds


Heathrow failed to meet the minimum accessibility standards for disabled passengers in the year to March, the sector’s regulator has said.

The airport was the only one in the UK to be rated as “poor” and “needs improvement” by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) over all four quarters in the period, according to the report.

For the 12 months covered, 18 airports received good or very good ratings and seven airports improved from poor to good. Heathrow was an outlier, however, not having met the criteria for a good rating over the period.

“Last year we didn’t consistently deliver an appropriate level of service for passengers requiring extra support with their journey through the airport,” said Heathrow’s chief operating officer, Emma Gilthorpe.

“I want to reassure those passengers that we have put in place a strong plan which is turning that around and we are now meeting service targets,” said Gilthorpe.

The report covers 26 of the UK’s largest airports and comes against the backdrop of an industry that has encountered unprecedented challenges in recruitment, industrial action and equipment shortages since the Covid-19 pandemic.

Last year, the airport was one of several, including Bristol, Leeds Bradford and Luton, to come under scrutiny from the aviation regulator after many disabled and less mobile passengers missed flights or had to wait for extended periods.

In 2022, a CAA survey found that disabled respondents with physical disabilities or health conditions said they were considerably more likely to experience difficulty in accessing airports or flying, with 70% of such passengers requiring assistance.

The joint-interim chief executive at the CAA, Paul Smith, said the industry was making strides toward returning to accessibility levels to those seen before Covid-19.

“It’s also important to acknowledge that there is still a way to go in providing a consistently good service for disabled and less mobile passengers across the industry, particularly for those with more complex needs, and throughout the busier summer months,” said Smith.