Proposals to improve aviation accessibility

Air travel could be eased for disabled passengers under new measures being considered by the Government.

Limits on the amount of time it takes for travellers to receive assistance boarding and leaving planes could be introduced, the Department for Transport (DfT) said.

Officials are in talks with the aviation industry to develop priority wheelchair storage on planes for quick access on arrival.

They are also examining how aircraft manufacturers can remove seats to accommodate wheelchairs and disabled toilets.

Aviation minister Baroness Sugg said: "We have to do everything possible to ensure passengers are put at the very heart of our aviation industry and the flying experience is a positive one for everyone boarding a plane.

"As part of our Aviation Strategy, we will be working to understand more about the barriers that currently exist for passengers with reduced mobility and disabilities, and working with the industry to remove these obstacles."

BBC security correspondent Frank Gardner, who recently criticised the treatment of disabled people at Heathrow Airport, described the announcement as "a welcome step" but warned that "we're unlikely to see actual changes in near future".

He added that there is "still a long road to travel".

Gardner was kept waiting on a plane for nearly two hours after landing at Heathrow as his wheelchair was lost.

Keith Richards, a government adviser on transport for disabled passengers, said: "Many disabled people rely on essential equipment like wheelchairs for their own personal mobility. Yet wheelchairs are too often treated in the same way as baggage.

"We welcome the move to prioritise wheelchairs and the focus that is being given to improving operational issues and future design to ensure that they are no longer treated in the same way as suitcases or golf clubs."

The Government is due to publish its Aviation Strategy in early 2019.

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