Travelling as a passenger with assistance needs – how to prepare and what to expect
Every year, around 400,000 people request assistance to help them travel through Manchester Airport.
For some, this may seem daunting, but Manchester Airport and its special assistance partner, ABM, have teamed-up to offer a new assisted travel process guide.
Manchester Airport works with ABM, experts in assisted travel with a team of dedicated staff based in each of our terminals, to ensure all passengers have a smooth and comfortable journey with the right adjustments made for their needs.
Shirley Valentine, a special assistance agent, guides us through the process, explaining how to prepare for your journey, what to expect when you get here, and top tips for getting the most out of your airport experience as a disabled traveller.
Book the assistance you need in advance
“If you require any assistance at the airport, we strongly encourage you to arrange this with your airline at least 48 hours before the date of travel. Your airline or travel agent will take all necessary information from you regarding your needs and travel plans and will inform the Special Assistance Team at the airport. This important step helps us to be as prepared as we can for your arrival and avoid unnecessary delays or complications.
“If you are unable to book your assistance prior to 48 hours before your travel, don’t worry. The airport can still assist you, although there may be more of a wait, especially at busy times. On your arrival, just report to the Special Assistance reception points, located in the check-in halls. Ask one of the airport’s customer service team, who patrol the terminals in orange hi-vis vests, for help or directions if needed.”
Notify your airline if travelling with your own mobility equipment or assistance dogs
“If you are travelling with your own mobility aid it is important that the dimensions and weight of the equipment are supplied to your airline or travel agent prior to travel so any necessary
arrangements can be made. It is very important to pre-book this with your airline or travel agent to ensure your mobility aid can travel with you.
“Assistance dogs are allowed into the terminal building at Manchester Airport and may travel on the aircraft providing they comply with the Pets Passport Scheme. If you use an assistance dog, you must inform your airline or travel agent prior to travel so they can make any necessary arrangements. Also remember to bring any important documentation for your assistance dog.”
Allow plenty of time for your journey to the airport
“It’s crucially important that you plan your journey to the airport in advance, particularly if using public transport, and allow extra time in case of any unexpected delays. Ensure that you have plenty of time factored in and a back up plan in case you encounter any disruption.
“Transport for Greater Manchester offers an online tool to plan your journey by car, bus or train from anywhere in the country, with live traffic updates and public transport service information. Visit tfgm.com/plan-a-journey.”
Ask for a Sunflower Lanyard if you have a hidden disability
“Not all disabilities are outwardly visible, and we assist lots of passengers with ‘hidden’ conditions or requirements on a daily basis, from autism to colostomies.
“For passengers who may not want to share details of their disability, the airport offers a special Sunflower Lanyard to wear so that staff can identify passengers that may need additional support or understanding. Staff working throughout the airport have been specially trained to recognise the lanyards and act accordingly.
“If you would like to request a Sunflower Lanyard just visit our special assistance desk upon your arrival.”
Ensure you’re prepared for security – but there’s no need to be anxious about it
“Going through security at airports may make some passengers feel anxious, and this can be particularly acute for those with disabilities. At Manchester Airport, all Aviation Security Officers are trained in Disability Awareness, and the airport has private search areas available, if required. The airport can also provide walking aids to assist passengers through archway metal detectors.
“For passengers that need to take liquid medication in hand luggage, this can be screened using specific equipment. All medication must be placed in clear plastic bags and declared to the airport’s Aviation Security Officers at the baggage x-ray load area.”
Make use of our accessible facilities
“When travelling through the airport, you will find several accessible facilities. These include The Sunflower Room in Terminal One, for passengers who need to break away from the noise, bright lights and crowds of the main Departure Lounge. We also have a designated quiet space on the mezzanine level of Terminal Three, and the recently-opened Terminal Two has been built with accessibility in mind, so you can enjoy all of its brand-new facilities.”
Remember to enjoy yourself!
“The thought of travel might seem overwhelming for those living with disabilities, but it doesn’t have to be. Every day, my team and I assist more than 1,850 travellers needing our help, and we do our best to ensure everyone leaves with a smile on their faces, as they either jet off to their next destination or make their way home.
“We believe passionately that travel should be accessible for all, as do our partners at Manchester Airport, and we are dedicated to making that a reality for each and every passenger that books assistance with us.”
To find out more about Assisted Travel at Manchester Airport, visit https://www.manchesterairport.co.uk/help/special-assistance/.