Aviation industry urged to act on “appalling situation” facing disabled passengers

Paul Priestman, PriestmanGoode, urges the aviation industry to act on an often-overlooked aspect of passenger experience.

PriestmanGoode specialises in transportation design. It works in the aviation sector with companies such as Airbus and Embraer, as well as a number of airlines.  It is focused on customer experience and the whole “home to destination” journey. 

Paul Priestman, Chairman, PriestmanGoode, says: “It's the experience online. It's the airport experience. It's the lounge. It's the getting onto the aircraft, and then the journey at the other end as well. This is the way that modern brands are working. It's not just the little items.”


One area where airlines are falling down is accessibility, Priestman says.

He comments: “One of the areas I'm particularly interested in is how people of all types can access aircraft. It's interesting because we design a lot of trains and buses, [etc.]. We have to design a dedicated accessibility area onboard these vehicles. On an aeroplane, there's nothing. I think there's a logjam in the industry here, and something needs to be done about it because it's becoming a really big issue.”

He adds: “I think one of the reasons is that able-bodied people, they're not aware of what goes on because it happens before and after they got on the aeroplane. People with certain disabilities are physically lifted into a seat. It is crazy. Then they have to wait for everybody to get off and then they're lifted back out of their seat onto a temporary wheelchair.

“There are a number of issues here, quite apart from it being an absolutely appalling situation to be in for that person. Also, there's a health and safety issue for the people lifting. It's getting to a climax.

"We need to really group together as an industry and do something about it. Otherwise, I think it will be imposed upon us.”

There are a number of ideas around to fix the issue. PriestmanGoode has come up with its own proposed solution called Air Access – a detachable wheelchair which clicks back into the airline seat and uses the existing seatbelt.

“That solves a number of the certifications issues,” related to taking your own wheelchair onboard, Priestman said.

At the Aircraft Inetriors Expo (AIX) event in Hamburg recently, both Bombardier and Airbus showed options to make toilets on board wheelchair-friendly, aimed at enabling all customers to travel with dignity.

Priestman commented: “There are lots of solutions out there, and we need to get the aviation industry together so the airlines, aircraft manufacturers, the seat manufacturers, come together and sort this out.”

He suggested that one step forward could be a Crystal Cabin Award next year for accessibility.

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  • karen deming Avatar

    karen deming

    Yes, Yes, Yes!!!
    It is about time. There is nothing like being hoisted about like a sack of potatoes. Everyone in the airline industry should be dragged down a tiny aisle, on a tiny aisle chair, past all the first class passengers already on board, hips being bruised(and I'm not big), then heaved into their seat. Lovely way to travel
    Thank you for someone thinking of making a change!
    Karen Deming
    DeBug Mobility Products.

  • Hanneke Fronik Avatar

    Hanneke Fronik

    Start with a ramp at the gate.
    Don't forget a head rest on the isle chairs.
    Block seats in front of the airplane for disabled passengers like the places with baby cots. When seated in the back of the plane it takes a lot of time to board.
    Make the isle chairs available for transfer from check-in to the plane. Saves 2 times lifting. Detachable big wheels for transfer to plane, small wheels for isle transfer.
    Standardize doors to cargo in height. Now every plane has a different door size. Makes it more complicated to disabled passengers to take their wheelchairs and other medical equipment.
    Communication to disabled passengers has to improve. Too often different explanations about who can travel alone or who needs to be accompanied.
    I hope this helps.
    Coming from a happy traveler with Spinal Muscular Atrophy.

  • Ward Jacobson  Avatar

    Ward Jacobson

    The Airlines need to brought in to compliance with the ADA!

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