Air travel can be a hassle for people with visible and invisible disabilities. The protocols and documentation in regard to travel may be of many hindrances and a source of stress for travelers with disabilities when going through multiple airport checks and counters.
Airlines are constantly on the move. Following Covid-19, travel regulations were slightly amended and reviewed into ensuring safety and promoting hassle-free travel. Over the last few weeks, I have traveled with Kenya Airways and South African Airways, using both airport facilities in Kenya (Jomo Kenyatta International Airport) and South Africa (Cape Town International Airport (CPT) and JNB OR Tambo International Airport)
Services persons with disabilities should seek:
For visible disabilities ensure proper documentation and request assistance until seat of the aircraft
For invisible disabilities:
The findings were as follows:
Being a small airport and traveling business class, the staff were cordial and the lounge was fully accessible and free of any movement limitations. Which in turn helps with a stress-free and composed travel experience.
Kenya (Jomo Kenyatta International Airport)
Kenya Airways booking system allows to choice of multiple assistance for travelers with a disability, including a personal assisting agent at the airport and throughout the counters. On my first day of arrival from Mauritius, unfortunately, there was a miscommunication and I was left on my own to go through check counters during my layover.
On my return from Cape Town flight: Kenya Airways from Johannesburg to Nairobi ensured I was properly assisted with the wheelchair and a support agent throughout both airports and embarkation counters and even the gate where priority assistance proved to be decisive.
Travelling Business Class allowed access to the lounge which aided in refreshing and ensuring to adjust myself for the flight and most importantly help with feeling at ease with hygiene and restrooms.
Cape Town International Airport (CPT) and JNB OR Tambo International Airport
The lounge was not accessible unless 3 hours before boarding unlike Kenya Airport, which made it difficult to rest and await the connecting flight in a busy airport where chairs and sitting areas were not totally helpful for a person with a physical disability.
Kenya Airways Boeing and South African Airways Aircraft, both Business Class cabins, provided adequate leg space and comfort into ensuring my body does not suffer from any setbacks. Despite my disability, I was adequately catered for during the whole flight.
Kenya Airways also provides an onboard wheelchair for ease of mobility during the flight and embarking or disembarking.
The crew has been very cooperative and friendly whilst taking the time in answering my queries about accessible travel for persons with disabilities. For travelers with a disability, there are several services available to support your flight with Kenya Airways, South African Airways, and Air Mauritius.
It is essential to travel with an airline that has the right assistance available to support you on your journey, from boarding to disembarking. Disability has never been a liability, if surroundings, services, and infrastructures are inclusive, adapted, and accessible.
To ensure proper identification, airlines and airport terminals could introduce a disability assistance tag or one as used by British Airways “Sunflower” Tag.
The tag should facilitate access for both the traveler and airport staff to be able to properly direct and assist any passengers.
Information and Communication remain key to promoting equity and fairness.
Kenya Airways, South African Airways and Air Mauritius: Ground staff and cabin crew have been assisting and providing a much appreciated and valued service.
Soovan Sharma DOOKHOO