It goes without saying that for many who have a medical condition or disability, the thought of travelling by air can be a source of anxiety and uncertainty. Airports themselves can present numerous stressful situations. Resolving these can make the difference between a pleasant travelling experience and an arduous journey. For this reason, many who have a medical condition or disability may consider if they require airport assistance.
Airport assistance in the UK
The good news is that in the UK, improvements have been made in the areas of airport assistance and accessibility. For good reason: according to the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA), who produce an annual report on the matter, over 3 million requests were made for assisted travel in UK airports in 2017. Indeed, these are rising at a rate of around double that of general passenger growth.
Tips for navigating airports for travellers with disabilities or medical conditions
Thankfully, most airports are categorised as ‘very good’ or ‘good’ for accessibility by the CAA in 2017. In fact, only four UK airports fall below standard. It would be remiss of us to name and shame these airports here, but you can find out who they are by a brief glance at the report in question (subtle hint: skip to page 8…)
This seems to be improving all the time too. Many airports now take a diligent approach to assist disabled users. A variety of services and advice is available for a range of medical conditions and disabilities. In saying that, it still pays dividends to make preparations. Gathering as much information as possible before your travel date will also help.
It tends to apply to all travel matters, but ensure to plan well in advance. Whether you require travel assistance or you will be travelling with someone who does, there are a number of things that you can do to prepare.
Special assistance at airports
Most airports and airlines have a variety of services available to support users with additional needs. These can include:
- dedicated staff to meet and guide users through the building(s)
- mobility assistance for those who find it challenging to move around freely
- airport assistance at every point, from check-in to boarding
- pre-visits for users to familiarise themselves with the facilities, layout and environment
- lanyards for travellers with hidden disabilities to wear
- specific provisions for users with medical aids such as heart devices and ostomy bags
The majority of these services are freely available, and the only requirement is that they are arranged in plenty of time prior to travel. Most airports give a lot of information on how to arrange these services on their websites. Which brings us nicely along to…
Travel assistance information on airport websites
Airport management now appreciate that many users arrive at airports having already travelled some distance (both outbound and inbound). They encounter busy, stressful and confusing environments, and may be under pressure to reach the end point in limited time. It is not something everyone looks forward to with relish, so the more information to be armed with beforehand, the better!
Thankfully, in common with their overall accessibility airports have improved their websites drastically over the years. These now provide a wealth of information – on some you can even check queuing times at security!
This is an unusual feature for now, more commonly you can find an array of resources on airport websites including:
- in-depth information on what to expect when you arrive in each section
- guides to negotiate the various buildings and concourses
- answers to commonly asked questions about all aspects of the airport experience
- videos to show users a typical day in the vicinity
- maps to view and download, perfect to help navigate entry point all the way to the boarding gate and everywhere in-between
We recommend making full use of everything made available on the airport website as it can all come in very valuable.
It is also worthwhile noting down any assistance numbers, even to call when in the airport. There is no substitute for talking to someone directly if at all unsure or disorientated.
Other tips for navigating airports
Travelling with medical aids
If you have any specific medical aids then ensure that you and others have easy & quick access to them in your luggage. It can save lots of potential hassle and stress if you need them quickly.
Travelling with prescription medication
Take more than enough prescription medication for your trip, and split your supply between your hold luggage and carry-on baggage. In this way, if your flight is delayed after check in, access to medication does not become an issue. Of course, it is best to keep any prescriptions in their original packaging and bring a medical certificate or note from your doctor with you, especially if syringes are required.
Unlike standard insurance, you may feel more comfortable with specialist travel insurance. Cover for medical aids and prescription medication is included, not to mention cover for specific medical conditions, just in case something unexpected should happen. It should cover accidental loss, theft or damage but check the limit to ensure it would cover the full cost of medical aids you may use such as wheelchairs, walking sticks and frames.
Most important of all – enjoy your travels with full peace of mind! If there are any question or concerns that we can help you with prior to your journey, please let us know.