Assistance provided at the Airport
If you request help more than 48hrs before your scheduled departure time, the airport management body is obliged to ensure that you receive it. If you give less than 48hrs notice then the airport management body is required to make every effort to help you, but assistance cannot be guaranteed where insufficient notice is provided. Some airport management bodies will provide the help themselves and some will have contracted companies that specialise in delivering this assistance.
What you can expect when you arrive within the airport boundaries may vary slightly depending on the size of the airport. For example, if you are due to depart from a large airport with several car parks, then it is likely that you will find certain areas specifically designed to enable you to announce your arrival to the airport management body via intercom in the car parks. An example of one of these areas can be seen in the following picture which depicts a designated point at Shannon Airport.
On the other hand, if you are due to depart from a smaller airport, then it is likely that you will announce your arrival at the airport using a designated intercom point nearer the terminal building or just inside it.
Regardless of the size of the airport, you are entitled to expect that there will be:
- designated areas for you to announce your arrival;
- and that these designated areas will be clearly signed.
Once you have announced your arrival, an assistance provider will be sent to collect you as soon as possible. Larger airports will have details of the timeframes on their websites within which you will be assisted.
Check-in & Security
Your assistance provider will bring you to your check-in area and help you with your baggage. He/she will then take you through to the security screening area. If for example, you have a pacemaker and would prefer not to go through the electronic detector, ask the security staff present to perform a manual body search instead. You can also ask to be screened in a private security room. If you have any physical condition which might impact on the manner in which the manual search is conducted, let the security staff member know before the search commences. If you are travelling with a guide dog, it will be subject to a ‘pat down’ search and the fur and harness will be checked to ensure no items are concealed on the dog.
Remember that normal baggage security rules apply therefore if you have any sharp objects these should be placed in your checked baggage before proceeding to the security screening area. Syringes or hypodermic needles will only be permitted in hand luggage where you have a letter from your doctor or hospital.
After clearing security, your assistance provider will take you to your boarding gate (helping you through customs and emigration procedures en route where necessary). If you wish to do some duty free shopping or have something to eat, your service provider will leave you in the shopping/dining area and will return to collect you after an agreed interval so that you reach the boarding gate in good time for your flight.
All nine Irish airports have accessible toilet facilities and your assistance provider will help you to get to them if the need arises. However you must be able to use the facilities yourself.
All airports will make endeavours to communicate important information with you in a manner which meets your particular requirements. Larger airports will have ‘Loop’ systems throughout the terminal buildings to amplify announcements.
Boarding the Aircraft
Your assistance provider will help you to board the aircraft. Depending on the type of assistance requested by you, and the type of aircraft you are going to travel on, special equipment may be used to help you board. On smaller aircraft stair-climbing chairs are used to help passengers who cannot independently climb the steps of the aircraft. Ambi-lift vehicles are used to help passengers to board larger aircraft.
Different air carriers have different policies regarding boarding. With some you will be boarded before any of the other passengers and with others you will be boarded last. It is important to note that the rules do not oblige air carriers to board disabled persons and persons with reduced mobility at any particular time.
Wheelchairs & Mobility Equipment
Your assistance provider will try to ensure that you continue to use your own mobility equipment for as long as possible which usually means that you only have to change to airport equipment as you are boarding the aircraft. Your assistance provider will then pass your mobility equipment to air carrier staff for loading.
In the event that your wheelchair or mobility equipment is lost or damaged during the loading process or during the flight itself, you should contact the airport management body immediately. They will provide you with a temporary replacement (though not on a like-for-like basis). You will also be compensated for the damage/loss by the airport management body or the air carrier as appropriate.
If you are travelling on a journey which requires you to transit through an airport in one of the EU Member States or an airport in Norway, you can expect to receive help in disembarking the aircraft from an assistance provider at the transit airport. He/she will help you through the airport (via any relevant security, emigration or customs procedures) and take you to your next boarding gate. If you wish to do some shopping or have something to eat at the transit airport, speak to your assistance provider who will try to accommodate you.
On arrival at your destination (where that destination is an airport in one of the EU Member States or in Norway) you will be met by an assistance provider who will help you to disembark the aircraft (using a stair-climbing chair or an ambi-lift as necessary). He/she will then assist you with passport control and in retrieving your baggage and clearing customs. The assistance provider will drop you to an agreed designated point located within the airport boundaries.
If you have a complaint about any aspect of the assistance provided to you by the airport management body, then you must first bring it to their attention. If the airport management body does not resolve the complaint to your satisfaction, then you can escalate it to the appropriate enforcement body. The full list of EU National Enforcement Bodies can be found here.