Third busiest airport in the UK, Manchester airport presents a mix of good support services and viable accessibility.
However, some of the infrastructure has room for improvement and rationalization, to streamline flow management and further improve passengers’ experience and overall perception.
Reduced Mobility Rights visited Manchester airport on 25 April 2013.
The short British Airways flight from London Heathrow takes us into Manchester Terminal 3 in the early hours. Upon arriving we meet Sarah Collins, MAN Press Officer. In our first briefing we learn that Manchester airport assistance services helped 230,000 passengers with disabilities in 2012, putting this segment to 1.15% of all passengers.
During the briefing we are joined by John Greenway, MAN press Office Manager, Leslie Addie, MAN Head of Passengers Services, and Jack Waters, PRM services manager of OCS at Manchester airport. OCS is a leading special assistance provider firm at several airports across the UK and beyond.
At first sight, Manchester airport’s infrastructure closely reminds of Heathrow’s older terminals. The airport’s three terminals where designed individually and opened to service several years apart from each other. For this reason, they lack architectural common denominators that usually facilitate passengers’ flow and add psychological elements of continuity and comfort for passengers.
Terminal 3 in particular provides a sense of limited space in common areas, in particular at the security checkpoint, departure hall corridors, arrivals lounge.
While waiting to board our flight back to London, we observed a young lady on a wheelchair few feet from us. Because of the narrowness of the corridor facing the gate, a number of passengers walking past had their carry-ons come into contact with her wheelchair, making her feel quite uncomfortable.
Getting to or out of Manchester airport by WAV Taxi is not a problem, therefore pre booking is not required. Buses and trains are accessible, widening the range of options available to passengers with reduced mobility.
There are calling columns inside the bus/train station, and right outside the terminal buildings. However, the ones in the public transport stations are oddly placed and not clearly marked, making some not easy to spot or reach at first sight. The station is undergoing renovation; therefore it is plausible to think that some of the calling columns will be repositioned. All columns are old generation and have basic features. MAN airport is thinking of replacing them in the near future.
Upon entering the terminal building we find the special assistance meeting point. This area, like most common areas of Manchester terminals is functional, yet pretty basic. Overall, there is a stark visual impact difference between most common areas of the airport and concessions areas (shops and eateries), the latter definitely more appealing to the eye.
Manchester special assistance provider OCS has an established reputation as PRM services provider at different airports across the UK and beyond. Agent’s training is one of OCS’ key factors in delivering quality assistance to passengers with disabilities.
Like the vast majority of airports, Manchester support services are constantly challenged by those airlines who fail to pre notify requests for assistance.
Occasionally, passengers may experience some delays, all within the airport’s quality standards parameters.We are all human beings, and have no problem to accept that agents may appear stressed or rushed when having to cope with an unexpected number of non pre notified arriving passengers with disabilities.
Reduced Mobility Rights will never stop stressing the importance of pre notifying the airline with special assistance requests well ahead of travel dates.
Airlines who fail to gather such crucial information, or omit to pass it on to airport operators cause unnecessary distress to all passengers with disabilities, as assisting non pre booked passengers with reduced mobility will have a knock on effect on services provided to all disabled passengers in the hours immediately following the event.
There is no excuse for airlines to fail their most vulnerable passengers. Times are ripe for IATA, the airlines association, to proactively pursue those who humiliate vulnerable passengers by neglecting their request for assistance.
Reduced Mobility Rights understands contained delays directly linked to the above mentioned reason are more likely to occur at Terminal 2 during peak traffic hours.
While visiting Terminal 1 we came across one of its signature features for passengers with reduced mobility. An inclusive waiting area reserved to passengers with disabilities is located in the quieter side of the departure hall, in proximity to accessible toilets, shops and eateries. The area is not supervised; however, its strategic location is a constant point of passage of support agents. A direct line to support services headquarters is also available on site.
Most airlines make use of aerobridges at Manchester airport; however, OCS has a small fleet of ambulifts to help passengers with reduced mobility flying with airlines making used of stands.
We visited a number of accessible toilets during our visit, and verified they comply with all accessibility criteria. OCS agents will walk the extra help to accommodate the requirements of passengers with reduced mobility in need of making use of these facilities.
All Manchester airport security checkpoints and passport control areas feature preferential lanes for passengers with disabilities.
At the end of our visit we can draw a line on what we assessed at Manchester airport. On the plus side, Manchester delivers quality assistance and support. On occasions, there can be contained delays caused by factors beyond the airport’s control.
The infrastructure is accessible. Its appearance is basic, sometimes unappealing. This may require some attention going
Some facilities, like the calling columns, need being positioned in better spots, and are due for an upgrade.
Overall, Manchester airport is a disabled friendly, accessible airport. Going forward, it can only improve.
Do you require assistance when traveling by air? Have you recently traveled through Manchester airport? Have your say.
About the author
Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Reduced Mobility Rights, Roberto Castiglioni is an expert of airport accessibility, management and support procedures of passengers with disabilities and air travel related disability regulations. He has been a frequent flyer for the past three decades and has several years of experience as travelling partner of a passenger with reduced mobility.
Roberto provides accessibility and access consulting services to airports and airlines. He is a member of the UK Civil Aviation Authority Access To Air Travel Working Group. He is also a member of the Easyjet Special Assistance Advisory Group. Esaag provides Easyjet with strategic guidance and practical advice on the evolving needs of passengers requiring special assistance.