A new study reveals that aviation still has a long way to go to meet the needs of passengers with disabilities.
According to the report, Voyage of discovery: Working towards inclusive and accessible travel for all, more than two billion people around the world have accessibility needs due to disability and age.
And yet Amadeus, which commissioned the report, reveals that most of their needs are not being fully catered for by either the travel industry or the public sector.
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So, it states, "accessible travel is far from becoming something that millions of travellers can take for granted".
It says that one of the biggest barriers to accessible travel remains inaccurate or incomplete information being available, coupled with a lack of skilled customer service.
The report also shows that travellers with accessibility needs increasingly now expect these to be met as part of the mainstream service and at no extra cost.
The role of technology in accessible travel is becoming more important, with specific developments such as voice recognition starting to be seen as commonplace.
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The study also finds:
- The overall travel experience and how this is adapted to different needs is rated at just 6.2 out of 10
- Travelling by plane is the preferred transportation method (35.9 percent of respondents)
- The least satisfactory areas with regards to accessibility are those related to railway stations (4.9 out of 10) and the most satisfactory area is accommodation (6.2 out of 10)
The study highlights that transitioning to an accessible travel-friendly environment for all will require the improvement of many aspects.
These include more effective communication that facilitates access to relevant information on accessibility, and a more responsive service with properly trained staff who know how to address people with different access needs.
Moreover, standardised content and services would increase consistency across the industry ensuring clarity in the type of services that any customer could expect.
There is an opportunity in tandem for a more personalised travel experience so that each travel segment is tailored to the individual and their specific needs, the report says.
Finally, the research recommends further collaboration between the private and public sectors to meet the expectations of travellers with accessibility needs.
Amadeus' vice president for corporate strategy, Alex Luzárraga, says:“Improving accessibility in travel means enhancing usability for all customers.
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"Lifting barriers to travel, personalising the travel offer, using technology to further facilitate travellers’ experiences and creating more accessible infrastructure where people can navigate autonomously will benefit everybody."
Accessibility is one of the elements addressed by Amadeus’ Corporate Social Responsibility strategy.
It is also a key aspect assessed by environmental, social and governance external evaluations such as the Dow Jones Sustainability Index (DJSI).
“We are committed to sustainability in the travel industry,” insists Tomas López Fernebrand, the company's senior vice president, general counsel and corporate secretary.
“Indeed, we are proud to have been recognised by the DJSI as world leaders of our sector. For a sustainable travel industry, accessibility is a key element, and a powerful tool to broaden people’s access to travel.
"Technology has a key role to play as an enabler in this. It is also necessary to work together with consumers and the private and public sectors to consolidate industry standards that ensure accessible travel for all becomes a reality.”
The study, which was conducted by ILUNION, was developed in the US, the EU and India, and included some 800 interviews with travellers with accessibility needs as well as industry experts, private-public sector representatives and international institutions.
Segmentation of travellers for the study was based on people with visual, hearing, cognitive, physical disabilities and senior travellers (over 65).
To learn more about the research and to download the "Voyage of discovery. Working towards inclusive and accessible travel for all" report, please click here.