Coronavirus: information and updates

Plane and airport assistance

Warning Air travel and coronavirus

Before booking travel, check the latest Government advice.

Latest information on air travel and coronavirus (GOV.UK)

Contact airlines and airports before you fly and ask about changes to:

  • getting to the airport and parking
  • booked assistance
  • luggage, check-in and security
  • what facilities and support are available to you
  • boarding the plane and arriving at your destination

Air travel and coronavirus

Asking for travel assistance

If you need assistance, let a member of airport staff or cabin crew know. Most airports have a special assistance desk where you can ask for support. If you are on the plane, there should be a call button above you.

Cards and lanyards that help explain your condition

Sometimes it can be hard to explain your needs. Having a lanyard or information cards can help. You could try getting a sunflower lanyard. This shows people that you have an invisible condition or impairment. You can get them free at some airports or buy them for under £1.

Sunflower lanyard

If you need more time to do something or find it hard to communicate, the Just A Minute (JAM) card might help. It’s an easy way to ask others for space or patience.

JAM card

Some companies have Journey Assistance Cards for disabled passengers. They say what support you need and can be used while traveling.

Journey Assistance Cards (StageCoach)

If you would like a card that’s more related to your own condition, Stickman Communications has a range of keyring cards. They can say what your condition is or how someone can help if you need travel assistance.

Stickman Communications

Who to talk to

If you've booked airport assistance in advance through an airline and have problems, report this to the airline customer service desk. For example:

  • no one being there
  • being asked to pay a charge
  • broken equipment

Find contact details for major airlines and UK airports (Civil Aviation Authority)

If you have a problem on the flight, let the flight attendant know. If they cannot sort out the problem, you can complain to the airline after your journey.

For problems on transport to the airport, you will need to contact the transport operator.

Be prepared to be patient

The airline is responsible if anything goes wrong, as you book through them. They should be your point of contact and sort everything out for you. But airlines may employ the airport's special assistance team to support you. The team could be made up of different companies and you may need to speak to several people.

You may be asked to repeat information, even when you provided it in advance. It may help to:

  • expect a long wait and prepare to be patient
  • have documents ready, like manuals for mobility equipment

Finding ways to stay calm

Flying can be stressful. You can develop ways of dealing emotionally with travel problems. See what works for you.

Negative attitudes on public transport

You could try:

  • looking at a map of the airport on the website in advance
  • bringing snacks and water with you
  • reading a book or magazine
  • calling a friend from the airport

Some other techniques include:

Reducing the chance of problems

To increase your chances of a good experience at the airport, prepare in advance by:

  • researching airports and airlines, including policies and restrictions
  • booking your flight as far in advance as possible as you book your assistance at the same time

Air travel for disabled passengers

Finding information about airlines and airports

The following websites could be useful:

Special assistance guidance from airports and airlines (Civil Aviation Authority)

Special assistance at airports (Research Institute for Disabled Consumers) 

When you arrive at the airport

Find the special assistance team or ask a member of staff for help. They should be able to support your journey from check in to boarding.

Know your rights

If there is a problem, it's useful to know your rights.

The special assistance team's role is to help you. This includes taking care of any baggage and equipment you or anyone with you cannot manage.

The Civil Aviation Authority says that within the European Union (EU) disabled passengers are legally entitled to support:

"Airports and airlines must provide help and assistance, which is free of charge and helps ensure you have a less stressful journey."

Outside the EU, similar passenger rights apply in many places. But in some countries these rights may not apply.

Your rights in and outside the EU (Civil Aviation Authority)

Civil Aviation Act 2012 (Legislation.gov.uk)

Civil Aviation EU Exit regulation amendments 2019 (GOV.UK)

Equality Act 2010 (GOV.UK)

Complain about your journey

To make a formal complaint after your journey, start with your airline.

The Civil Aviation Authority website provides a directory of airline websites. This links to information on their special assistance services. You can make a complaint through the airline website or by phone or post if they provide those options.

Find your airline's special assistance contact details (Civil Aviation Authority)

If you have followed your airline's complaints process and are not happy with the outcome, take your complaint to an aviation dispute resolution organisation.

How to make a complaint (Civil Aviation Authority)

Alternative dispute resolution listed by airline (Civil Aviation Authority)

Aviation Alternative Dispute Resolution (Aviation ADR)

To complain about 23 major airlines including Easyjet, Air France and KLM (but not British Airways or Ryanair), you can:

  • use the online form
  • download and print a complaint form
  • copy the required information and send by post
  • make a complaint by phone on 020 3540 8063

Make a complaint online (Aviation ADR) 

Centre for Effective Dispute Resolution (CEDR)

Several UK airports, including Heathrow, Gatwick, Manchester and Bristol, plus British Airways, are members of CEDR. You can:

Complaining to the Civil Aviation Authority

If your airline is not a member of an alternative dispute resolution organisation (like British Airways and Ryanair), you can complain directly to the Civil Aviation Authority or take legal action.

How the CAA can help (Civil Aviation Authority)

Taking your airline to court (Civil Aviation Authority)

Check if you can get legal aid (GOV.UK)

Organisations that could support you to complain

You might be able to get support from:

Compensation for lost or delayed luggage (Citizens Advice)

Reduced Mobility Rights

Equality Advisory Service

Giving your feedback to airlines and airports

Wherever you can, provide a customer feedback score on special assistance services. If airports and airlines ask for a score, it shows they want to improve.

Your feedback helps them improve their service.

Last reviewed by Scope on: 13/08/2020

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