British Airways pledges to make accessibility a business priority

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by Mark Johnson

To mark International Persons with Disabilities Day, British Airways’ Chairman and CEO, Alex Cruz, today pledged the airline’s commitment to The Valuable 500, a global movement to make accessibility a business priority. 

By signing the pledge Cruz committed to include accessibility on his board agenda and will continue to support investments that improve the journey experience for customers with additional needs.

Earlier this year, Channel 4 Paralympics presenter Sophie Morgan, who was paralysed in a car crash when she was 18, was left unattended for 45 minutes on a BA flight from Argentina. 

The sports star criticised the airline for not recognising her disability and making sure she was able to receive the help she needed.

Almost half a million customers requiring additional assistance fly with British Airways each year and the airline’s analysts predict that this figure will grow by a further eight per cent year on year.  

Hidden and visible disabilities 

Aiming to become the airline of choice for customers with hidden and visible disabilities, British Airways has this year invested in a number of initiatives to ensure journeys are as simple and easy as possible.

January saw the airline launch its biggest ever accessibility training programme Beyond Accessibility for almost 30,000 customer-facing colleagues to improve assistance for customers with hidden and visible disabilities.

Autism Friendly Award 

In April, British Airways became the first airline to be awarded the Autism Friendly Award by the National Autism Society following a substantial investment in the support available to customers travelling with hidden disabilities, including a Visual Guide to Flying to help with flight preparation.

In the most recent phase of investment in September, the airline launched a dedicated team of accessibility experts for travellers who require additional assistance. 

The team of customer service professionals, the majority of whom have personal experience of living with or caring for someone with a disability, received specialist training to enable them to answer any questions customers have when they get in touch via a dedicated phone number or email address.

Claire Mason Burnett, a member of British Airways’ 20-strong accessibility team based in Newcastle, said: “I have two children who are profoundly deaf so I know how difficult it can be for customers with a disability to navigate unfamiliar places such as an airport.

“That’s why I love being part of the accessibility team and providing customers with the information and reassurance they need to be able to relax and enjoy their journey. 

“Lots of customers contact us because they have never travelled before and they believe their disability means they never will and the best part about my job is being able to give them the support they need to feel confident to travel and explore the world for the first time. It’s an incredible feeling.”

Valuable 500 pledge 

Signing The Valuable 500 pledge, Alex Cruz, British Airways’ Chairman and CEO, said: “I am really proud of the strides British Airways is making to support customers requiring additional assistance, from our investment in enhanced staff training to the dedicated customer team which, having been in place just two months, has already doubled customer satisfaction levels for the customers they are supporting.

“We know travelling with a hidden or visible disability can be difficult, so through signing this pledge we are making a commitment to get this right for our customers, and providing reassurance that we will do all we can to make their journey easy and stress-free.”

In October, British Airways became the first airline to partner with the Department for Transport on its initiative to make transport more inclusive and help people with disabilities travel with confidence.