Leeds Bradford Airport criticised by watchdog for 'unacceptable' service to disabled people

Leeds Bradford Airport has been criticised for its “unacceptable level of service to disabled people” in a report by an industry watchdog.
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The Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) named the airport as one of four that still needs to make improvements, with Heathrow, Luton and Bradford also falling short of the standards expected. It comes after the authority assessed the UK’s 16 largest airports earlier this year and told eight that they must do more to improve the assistance offered to disabled passengers.

Providing an update on the picture between April and the end of October, the Interim Airport Accessibility Report said: "Leeds Bradford has not met the standard for a good rating and too many disabled and less mobile arriving passengers have been unduly delayed. However, we noted that delays were generally not as long as at some other airports and there were no very long delays.

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"In addition, as with some other airports, Leeds Bradford has seen a large increase the proportion of the number of disabled and less mobile passengers it assisted compared to 2019 which has added pressure to their assistance service.”

Leeds Bradford Airport has been told it must improve the level service for disabled passengers. Picture: Simon HulmeLeeds Bradford Airport has been told it must improve the level service for disabled passengers. Picture: Simon Hulme
Leeds Bradford Airport has been told it must improve the level service for disabled passengers. Picture: Simon Hulme

Bosses at Leeds Bradford said they accepted the findings of the report and were making a series of significant investments improve services for people with restricted mobility. In recent weeks, work has begun on reconfiguring Hall A, which will improve the available space for check-in by Easter 2023. The refurbishment has been designed specifically to improve the experience of passengers with restricted mobility, while also making the terminal more inclusive for people with hidden disabilities.

The airport has also recently completed a £500,000 investment in vehicles for use around the terminal and new wheelchairs, almost trebling the amount available.

It acknowledged that there were times when services had not been good enough as the industry experienced challenges in the wake of pandemic restrictions being lifted. It said staff had been recruited and trained quickly to handle increased demand as passengers returned and it had been adapting staffing to manage the significant increase in passengers with restricted mobility.

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A Leeds Bradford spokesperson said: “We accept the report from the CAA and apologise for falling short during this challenging period. We feel confident that our programme of live investments will improve services for passengers with restricted mobility.

"Our reconfiguration of Hall A, investment in infrastructure and extensive training of new staff will see immediate positive changes at LBA in the coming weeks and months. Prior to this report, LBA has been rated ‘good’ by the CAA for five years and we are committed to regaining this status as quickly as possible by implementing tangible solutions around the terminal.”

Eight airports were ranked as ‘poor’ in the early months of the reporting period. Birmingham, London Gatwick, London Stansted and Manchester each had their ratings upgraded to either ‘good’ or ‘very good’ by the end of the reporting period. Bristol, Leeds Bradford and London Heathrow are still deemed as needing improvement, while London Luton airport is still poor.

Paul Smith, the CAA’s director of consumers, said: "The aviation industry has faced unprecedented challenges, but too many passengers at UK airports have been waiting for unacceptable amounts of time for assistance on arriving flights on too many occasions.”