27 Sep

Walks of up to 1 km at some UK airports from check-in to gate, holidaymakers warned

ABTA urges travellers to notify tour operator in advance if assistance required 

ABTA has found that customers at major UK airports may have to walk over 1 km (1,000 metres) from check-in or special assistance desks to the gate, which can be a challenge for passengers who find it difficult to walk longer distances. As part of its support for World Tourism Day* whose theme this year is “Accessible Tourism for All”, ABTA is advising people to pre-notify their tour operator or airline no later than 48 hours in advance of departure, that they may need assistance.

Many passengers only ask for assistance once they arrive at the airport and discover they may have to walk long distances. Providing assistance at this late stage, particularly at busy times of the year, can be problematic for airport resources and in the worst case scenario, could lead to the passenger missing their flight. Airports have invested considerable sums in terms of foot passenger transport aids such as moving walkways and shuttles, however, there may still be lengthy walks at larger airports throughout the world.

Airports and airlines throughout the European Union will provide assistance to customers who may need it. People who use wheelchairs or who may be using crutches or have some other form of significant physical disability, are generally very aware of the need to inform their airline in advance. However, other passengers - particularly those who find it difficult to walk a longer distance - may also require assistance to make the journey from check-in to gate and are also being encouraged to pre-notify.

Maximum distances from check in or special assistance desks to gates at the larger UK airports

Birmingham airport

530 metres

Edinburgh airport

695 metres

Gatwick airport

780 metres

Glasgow airport

750 metres

Luton airport

900 metres

Manchester airport

822 metres

Stansted airport

1165 metres

Nikki White, ABTA Director of Destinations and Sustainability, said: “The travel industry is committed to making holidays and other travel arrangements accessible for everyone. For most, travelling through airports is a fairly straight-forward process, but for those who may find walking longer distances harder to manage, larger airports can present a challenge. We would encourage anyone who may need assistance to inform their tour operator or airline no later than 48 hours before they travel so that their journey through the airport will be as comfortable as possible, and they will be able to board their flight with plenty of time to spare.”

Passengers should be aware that they may have to walk longer distances when they arrive at international airports and they should check with their airline as to whether they may need assistance on arrival. Information on how to pre-notify can be found on the website of the airline you are using. Customers who book through ABTA travel agents or tour operators will be helped through the process of pre-notifying and booking assistance by their travel company.

ABTA has produced a short animated video for its Members to place on their websites highlighting this issue, and also has detailed guidance on www.abta.com on how best to serve customers who need assistance. Customers looking for advice on Accessible Travel can find it on abta.com/accessibletravel.

*World Tourism Day is celebrated on 27 September and its theme this year is Accessible Tourism for All. World Tourism Day is intended to foster awareness among the international community of the importance of tourism and its social, cultural, political and economic value. As the official day set aside in the United Nations Calendar the celebration seeks to highlight tourisms potential to contribute to reaching the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), addressing some of the most pressing challenges society is faced with today.