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Aviation industry to address concerns of disabled passengers
Tuesday, March 11, 2008 | 00:00

Airports Company South Africa (ACSA) today (Tuesday, 11 March 2008) convened an emergency aviation industry meeting regarding concerns expressed by the disability sector on the handling of disabled passengers by airlines and ramp handlers at ACSA airports.
 
The meeting was attended by the Quadriplegic Association of South Africa (QASA), the National Council for Person with Physical Disabilities in South Africa (NCPPDSA), the Airlines Association of Southern Africa, South African Airways, BA/Comair, 1Time, BidAir, Menzies and Swissport and SA Human Rights Commission.
 
The purpose of the meeting was to address the concerns of the disability sector and find industry wide immediate, short and long term initiatives which will focus on meeting the needs of disabled passengers.
 
QASA and NCPPDSA highlighted the key concerns of disabled passengers which include dissatisfaction with regard to being inconvenienced by flight delays and sub-standard handling which does meet the requirements of the disabled sector.
 
The meeting noted that most of these concerns, notably flight delays, were caused by a worldwide shortage of Passenger Aid Units (PAUs) and the impact this has had on South Africa.
 
In the interim, whilst Swissport SA, BidAir Services and Menzies Aviation compete for business, they have entered into a three-way reciprocal agreement to alleviate the situation regarding PAUs.
 
The immediate steps that the meeting agreed upon include:

  1. Airlines should liaise with ACSA to ensure that, where operationally possible, flights that are carrying disabled passengers are allocated to air bridges to minimise the need for PAUs and the resultant discomfort and delays; 
  2. Ground handling companies to ensure they have appropriate equipment which can be sourced locally available as a matter or urgency;
  3. Airlines and ground handling companies to work with QASA and NCPPDSA to ensure that disabled passengers are handled humanely and comfortably through appropriate training.
  4. Airlines and handling companies to deploy more trained staff to facilitate the handling of disabled passengers.

Ground handling companies have made a commitment to consult with QASA and NCPPDSA in order to facilitate approved training of their employees.
 
“We called this meeting because of the concerns raised by the disabled community. The meeting was held in a constructive fashion and all the role players indicated that they are committed to working together to improve overall service standards and continuously explore other ways of ensuring that the facilitation of disabled passengers is enhanced.
 
“In this regard, ACSA has as part of the licence granted to the ground handling companies, implemented a Service Level Agreement which compels them to render top quality service to airlines and passengers,” says Bongani Maseko, Director of Operations at ACSA.
 
The Airlines Association of Southern Africa deputy chief executive Chris Zweigenthal says he was impressed with high level of commitment by the various roleplayers to addressing the concerns raised by the disabled community. “As an association, we will do everything possible to facilitate a positive outcome on this matter.’’
 
South African Airways GM of Operations Chris Smyth says specific concerns have been raised by the disability sector regarding the way in which passengers are being handled. “We are putting a number of urgent measures in place to improve the quality of handling by our staff and are working with QASA and the council to improve comfort levels for all disabled passengers. This will include sensitivity training for our staff under the guidance of the disabled community and will also include placing water and towels on board our PAUs.”
 
 
For further comment, please contact:
 
Solomon Makgale
Manager: Communications
Airports Company South Africa
082 781 8863
 
Robyn Chalmers
South African Airways
Head: Group Corporate Affairs
Tel: (011) 978 3729 

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