Martyn Sibley Co-founder of Disability Horizons & Accomable

I am …

A regular guy who happens to have a disability called Spinal Muscular Atrophy (SMA). This means I cannot walk, lift anything heavier than a book or shower myself. I have a Degree in Economics & a Masters in Marketing, I have great people in my life, I drive my own adapted car, run my own business, have flown a plane, SCUBA dived and live independently on earth.

My vision is to live in a world without barriers, prejudice or discrimination. I love travelling (including an epic visit to Australia) and to push the boundaries. I would love to make my travel plans confidently, to know that my access needs will be expertly accommodated as a matter of routine, and not the exception to the rule. I believe all disabled people should feel like valued customers.

In introducing this report for OCS, the findings indicate there is still significant inconsistency between the level and quality of service provided by airlines and at many airports. Customers feel they have to constantly ‘double-check’ their booking and feel nervous that their access needs won’t be met. The feeling that they will be abandoned or left stranded adds an extra layer of anxiety to their passenger experience.

The findings reveal that the approach taken by different airports varies widely. It also shows that processes and procedures are not standardised and that care in handling specialist equipment must improve.

This report challenges all parties involved who support the customer journey to improve information-sharing, particularly regarding who is responsible for the customer at each stage of the passenger journey. It is evident that the process can be confusing for the customer (from booking to complaining). It is not always clear if it is the Airline, Airport or Ground Handling Agent who is the main point of contact. A key message is that the airline industry must keep people and customer service at the heart of what they do, to ensure disabled people feel valued.

The airline industry needs to improve not only their systems and processes for managing passenger assistance, but how people feel about using air travel. It is important that disabled people have the confidence to travel in a world free from barriers.

This issue must remain high up the industry’s agenda, creating greater collaboration and achieving real change.