How can the Airchair help PRMs on an aircraft?

A dignified journey is everyone’s right and the Airchair could be the solution to improve the passenger experience

Each year, more than 2 million passengers with a disability or reduced mobility (PRMs) take flights in and out of the UK.  In 2016, just over half of those travelled through Heathrow airport.  With an increasing number of people with disabilities travelling by plane, airlines have come under increased scrutiny to ensure all passengers are treated equally and each customer receives the best experience possible.

For PRMs, appropriate transit wheelchair usage is a critical part of the journey and passenger experience. A smooth and safe transfer in and around the aircraft is an essential part of the service received, however, airlines will not allow passengers to board with their own wheelchairs and instead these must be checked-in at the airport with the rest of the luggage and stored in the plane’s baggage hold.

As PRMs cannot take their personal wheelchair to use in the aircraft, it is important that they have access to a practical transit chair, enabling easy mobility around the aircraft and to facilities such as the toilet. Without a transit chair, PRMs could have an uncomfortable and possibly negative passenger experience.

What does the law say?

Passengers with disabilities represent one of the fastest growing demographics in aviation with annual growth in passenger numbers often at least six times the overall rate of passenger growth at many global airports.

Ensuring airlines do everything possible to support in the increasing numbers of PRMs travelling by aircraft, regulation (EC) No 1107/2006, states that airline companies and all flights from EU airports are obliged to be clear and educated about how to support all PRMs. Providing a safe travel wheelchair, such as the Airchair, could be the key to accommodating PRMs, ensuring they feel safe and supported.

Some key duties cabin crew members must perform to ensure equal treatment of all passengers include:

  • Provide certain services, such as the carrying of wheelchairs, or guide dogs free of charge.
  • Both airline authorities and EU airports are obliged to provide training to staff ensuring those providing direct assistance to people with reduced mobility can meet their needs.
Solutions on-board the aircraft

To ensure PRMs have a comfortable flight can be safely transferred around the aisle of the aircraft, the Airchair is designed as a lightweight, simple and easy to use aisle chair, enabling PRMs to be moved up and down the aisle of the aircraft with ease. It is also approved to carry weight up to 250kg (40 stone). Airchair is now transit chair of choice for over 100 airlines.

A common anxiety among many individuals with reduced mobility is whether they can be taken to the toilets without disruption and stress. This issue was discussed as part of a recent BBC news feature that explored the trauma surrounding the passenger experience for PRMs when flying on an aeroplane.

During this feature, the BBC’s disability correspondent, Nikki Fox, spoke about the difficulty many people with disabilities experience when trying to get to the toilet. In fact, this can often result in many PRMs dehydrating themselves to prevent the often difficult situation of having to be taken to the toilet. This is deeply concerning and something that could be improved if airlines supplied an on-board wheelchair such as the Airchair.

To ensure passengers can be moved around the aircraft and be taken to the toilet in a dignified manner, the Airchair has been designed with a range of extensive benefits. These include a backrest that folds backwards, enabling the cabin crew or carers to move closer to the individual.

Other benefits for ensuring a smooth transfer include swivel castors that allow individuals in the chair to be easily taken up and down the aisle and manoeuvred in and out of small spaces, such as the toilet.

The passenger experience

For private customers who have bought the Airchair, it is recommended that they present the Certificate of Conformity ahead of travelling. This enables details to be checked by the airline, ensuring any issues are raised ahead of the flight. Ultimately, the captain will have the final decision about whether the Airchair is suitable for the aircraft- so far, the transit chair has never been refused.

With the help of the Airchair, increasing volumes of passengers with reduced mobility and disabilities have been able to enjoy travelling abroad by aircraft, without unnecessary pressure and stress when it comes to moving around the aeroplane. Passenger comfort and safety is a core purpose of the Airchair and it has enabled people to travel in a smooth and dignified way.

The passenger experience received by everyone on-board, is a key part of the debate surrounding airline performance and with more PRMs travelling by flight, education about on-board wheelchairs is critical, ensuring airlines provide the optimum passenger experience for all customers.