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Disabled passengers waiting 'unacceptable lengths of time' at Manchester airport

By Neil Lancefield, PA Transport Correspondent

Manchester Airport has been ordered by the aviation regulator to improve its treatment of disabled passengers.

Travellers on inbound flights to the UK's third busiest airport are being forced to wait "unacceptable lengths of time" to receive assistance, according to a report by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA).

A general reduction in waiting times over the past 12 months saw the airport's accessibility rating improve from "poor" to "needs improvement", but the CAA still expressed doubts over whether legal obligations in relation to the rights of disabled passengers are being met.

The report stated that an airport's level of service is based on the availability of staff but the layout at Manchester prevents workers from using electric buggies to travel around most areas.

The regulator expects the airport to take "immediate action" to reverse a recent decline in performance.

A spokesman for the airport said it is committed to "providing excellent service and inclusive travel for all customers" but acknowledged there is "further to go".

He went on: "We are investing significant additional resources to improve services for passengers in this area, regardless of their accessibility or other requirements, so that they are confident about travelling through Manchester Airport.

"We have also appointed a new special assistance provider, ABM Aviation, and are working hard with them to provide the best possible service, especially ahead of the busy summer season."

No airports were classified as "poor" for the first time since the annual study was launched in 2016.

Fourteen of the 31 UK airports analysed were found to be "very good", with 16 rated as "good".

Manchester was the only airport told it "needs improvement".

Stricter targets are now being used to assess airports, meaning they must improve their service to retain or boost their classifications.

CAA director of consumers and markets Paul Smith said: "These results show significant improvements to the experience many disabled passengers faced before our reporting began. We hope this will help passengers to feel confident and empowered to travel from UK airports.

"While it is good to see the general improvements, airports will need to continue to work hard to improve, so that they are able to meet the more demanding performance standards that we have now introduced.

"Where we see examples of bad practice, we will not hesitate to hold airports to account and take the necessary action."

Aviation Minister Baroness Vere said: "It is encouraging that almost all of our main airports are rated highly, but there is much more to do."

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