Positive experiences for PRMs

The importance of transferring PRMs from one seat to another in a dignified manner.

The passenger experience when flying with airlines is becoming an increasingly debated topic, especially the experience received by passengers with reduced mobility (PRMs).

A recent BBC News feature detailed the highly traumatic experience of wheelchair user, Jemma Collins, who was left on the plane and lifted unsafely from her seat in such an undignified manner, that she was reduced to tears. And BBC Correspondent, Frank Gardener, has taken to social media to express his personal negative experiences when being transferred around the aircraft, complaining this process had been traumatic, unsafe, and extremely undignified. He has also been left very frustrated when his wheelchair has been lost following a flight or taken ages to retrieve from the hold, leaving him sitting on an empty plane.

Campaigners such as Chris Wood, Leader of Flying Disabled, are also working hard to change and improve the experience had by PRMs.

Currently, taking a personal wheelchair on-board an aircraft is not an option for PRMs and their chairs are stowed along with the rest of their baggage in the plane’s hold. This means PRMs are expected to transfer from their own wheelchairs to a transit chair (already installed within the aircraft) so that they can be transferred to their seat.

As a result of these issues the Government has announced its latest plans to work closely with the aviation sector to improve the flight experience for passengers with reduced mobility. This review will take into consideration the transportation of PRMs as soon as they arrive at the airport, through to reaching their plane, as well as the practicalities of taking their own wheelchairs onto the aircraft itself. But the process of getting a person’s wheelchair approved for use on an aircraft could take many years.

Chris Wood, is working extensively to try and change attitudes and enforce better regulations for PRMs by speaking with airlines, wheelchair manufacturers and stakeholders. He has had direct experience of the difficulties of flying when wheelchair bound as both his children use wheelchairs. And he also understands how difficult it can be to transfer PRMs from a wheelchair to their seat. Transit chairs can make transferring from the airport’s wheelchair to the airline seat more dignified, and chairs, such as the Airchair, with folding backrests enable the carer or airline crew to get closer to the PRM and help them slide from one seat to the other.

Enabling PRMs their right to transfer easily from one seat to another with dignity doesn’t only enable passengers to safely transfer from the transit chair to their seat, but also ensures PRMs can move around the aircraft during transit. There are too many accounts of PRMs being restricted to their seat after take-off because it is almost impossible for them to reach or use the lavatories. This is unacceptable and airlines must invest in suitable equipment to ensure this scenario is a thing of the past.

The overall care of passengers, especially those with reduced mobility, is crucial and all airlines, airports and manufacturers should take this more seriously and transit chairs such as the Airchair, could be the solution to do this.