Aviation Access Forum (AAF)—Record of Outcomes—17 November 2015

Date: Tuesday 17 November 2015
Venue: Qantas Meeting Rooms, Terminal 3, Sydney Airport
Time: 9:30am —12:30pm
Attendees: Greg Madson Australian Federation of Disability Organisations (AFDO) (Telephone)
Tony Starkey National Disability Services (The Royal Society for the Blind) (NDS)
Peter Simpson Physical Disability Australia (PDA)
Phil Silver Paraquad (Telephone)
Vesna Vinski Qantas
Kim Thurbon Qantas
Paul Ferguson Qantas
Tom Taylor Qantas
Nick Sams Jetstar
Joanne Percy Jetstar
Chris Beckwith Virgin Australia
Rebecca Walker Virgin Australia (Telephone)
Natalie Fraser Virgin Australia
Sharron Page Tigerair
Kate Grindal Tigerair
Derek Trafford Regional Express (Rex)
Jarred Feehely Australian Airports Association (AAA)
Will Tootell Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA)
Grant Mazowita Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA)
Viv McKeown Department of Social Services (DSS) (Telephone)
Sonja Wigney Attorney General's Department (AG)
Jim Wolfe Department of Infrastructure and Regional Development (Chair)
Richard Lord Assistance Dogs Australia (ADA)
 Apologies:    Lauren Henley Australian Human Right Commission (AHRC)
Judy Huett Inclusion Australia (formerly National Council on Intellectual Disability)
Emma Scanlan Deafness Forum of Australia
Caroline Wilkie Australian Airports Association (AAA)
Edward Barend Regional Aviation Association of Australia (RAAA)
Sharan Annand Board of Airline Representatives of Australia (BARA)
Secretariat: Daniela Risoli Department of Infrastructure and Regional Development
Lachlan Symonds Department of Infrastructure and Regional Development

Key Discussion Items

Agenda Item 1

Welcome, apologies and acceptance of the draft agenda

The Chair welcomed members and the draft agenda was agreed.

Previous meeting of the Aviation Access Forum—Outcomes and Action Items

Members endorsed the record of outcomes from the 29 April 2015 meeting of the AAF, subject to a small correction to Item 5(c).

Action Items from the 29 April 2015 AAF meeting were discussed. It was noted that Action Items 3, 5 and 6 had been completed. Action Item 4 was discussed as part of Agenda Item 4 of this meeting and subsequently completed.

Action Item 1
The AAA advised that the diverse size and scale of airports across Australia means that standard operating procedures for the screening of passengers with disability and passengers with assistance animals can vary. The AAA undertook to provide de-identified screening process material to members where possible, noting some sensitivity in providing some information regarding security screening practices.

Action Item 2
AFDO suggested anecdotal evidence indicated consistent security screening practices may not be followed in some instances when passengers with disability are screened. This included some cultural sensitivities in terms of some screening staff being uncomfortable interacting with assistance animals. AFDO undertook to provide the AAF Secretariat with any evidence of this, which the AAF Secretariat would pass on to the Office of Transport Security and screening authorities as appropriate.

Action Item 7
The AAA is continuing to work with its members to ensure that the provision of assistance animal toileting facilities is considered as part of airport planning and development processes and would encourage this practice as part of its Disability Access Practice Note.

Action Item 8
Discussion on this item was deferred to the next meeting as the Deafness Forum of Australia Representative was unable to attend the meeting.

Action Item 9
Qantas advised it has started to provide boarding ramps instead of staircases for its B717 and Dash-8 aircraft (Q-Ramp). The boarding ramps have reduced the number of accidents compared to the use of staircases and have improved passenger comfort and disability access.

A short video demonstrating the use of the Q-Ramp was shown to members. A short video showing the Qantas ‘Mega-Ramp’, used for B737 aircraft where no aerobridge is available, was also shown.

Qantas advised that the ramps meet Australian standards with respect to gradient and are able to accommodate aisle wheelchairs. Qantas also indicated it intended to eventually operate 30 ramps nationally across its network.

Advice on the implementation of both the Q-Ramp and Mega-Ramp was very well received by the AAF and Qantas was congratulated by the Forum on this welcome initiative.

Action Item 10
Physical Disability Australia commented that at some airports the pick-up and drop-off points for passengers with disability had a high kerbside that impeded a person with a wheelchair moving between a car and their wheelchair.

The AAA agreed to incorporate advice on this issue into its Disability Access Practice Note.

Action Items arising from Agenda Item 1

Action Item 1: AAA to provide de-identified airport screening practice material for passengers with disability where possible.

Action Item 2: AFDO to provide the AAF Secretariat with detail on instances where security screening processes for passengers with disability may not have been followed.

Action Item 3: Action Item 8 from the 29 April 2015 meeting to be carried over to the next AAF meeting.

Action Item 4: AAA to put advice on reducing impediments to ease of transfer for passengers to and from a mobility aid at pick-up and drop-off points in their planned Disability Access Practice Note.

Agenda Item 2: Implementation of the Review of the Disability Access Facilitation Plans (DAFP)

The Chair advised members that the Review of the DAFP initiative was completed in June 2015, with the Review Report now available on the Department's AAF webpage. The Chair noted that the completion of the Review also addresses Recommendation 7 of the second review of the Disability Standards for Accessible Public Transport 2002.

In implementing the recommendations of the DAFP Review, the Chair advised he has written to the Australian Federation of Travel Agents and other major travel agencies to encourage greater awareness of the DAFP initiative.

The Chair also advised members that revised DAFP guidance material and templates have been circulated for feedback. The Chair encouraged members to provide any feedback on the materials by 30 November 2015 as it is essential that the materials covered issues raised by both passengers and airline/airport operators.

Paraquad raised concerns relating to airline policies restricting the number of passengers with wheelchairs on a particular flight. The Chair advised that there had been good progress in this area with the majority of Australian airlines now operating with more flexibility in their approach to the carriage of passengers with wheelchairs. The Chair encouraged members to raise any specific occasions when issues relating to the number of passengers with wheelchairs arose with the AAF Secretariat to follow up with the airlines concerned.

Action Items arising from Agenda Item 2

Action Item 5: Members to provide feedback on revised DAFP guidance material and templates by 30 November 2015.

Agenda Item 3: Review of the Disability Standards for Accessible Public Transport and the National Accessible Public Transport Advisory Committee

The Chair advised members that the report on the Australian Government's second review of the Disability Standards for Accessible Public Transport (Transport Standards) was released on 10 July 2015 and is available on the Department's website.

The final report contained seven recommendations to help improve the effectiveness of the Transport Standards. The Chair advised that the National Accessible Public Transport Advisory Committee (NAPTAC) will manage the implementation of the report's recommendations including a national motorised mobility aid labelling scheme which was discussed in more detail at Agenda Item 4(e). A representative of the AAF will participate on NAPTAC and members were encouraged to identify any aviation issues that they would like discussed at NAPTAC with the AAF Secretariat.

Agenda Item 4: Other Business

a) Australian Airports Association Practice Note for Airport Operators on Disability Access in Aviation

The AAA advised members that it was developing an Airport Practice Note to provide its members with a comprehensive guide to disability access considerations and best practice approaches to support passengers with disability at Australian airports.

The AAA also advised it was exploring the possibility of providing on-line training for its members based on the content of the Practice Note.

The AAA hopes to release the Practice Note to its members in early 2016 and AAF members were encouraged to provide feedback on the draft Practice Note, in particular, the value of the content, its usefulness and any examples or case studies of best practice by 1 December 2015.

Action Items arising from Agenda Item 4(a)

Action Item 6: Members to provide AAA with feedback on the draft Practice Note by 1 December 2015.

b) Review of the Disability (Access to Premises—Buildings) Standards 2010

The Chair advised members that the Department of Industry and Science, in conjunction with the Attorney General's Department, is conducting a review on the effectiveness of the Disability (Access to Premises-Buildings) Standards 2010 (Premises Standards) in providing access to buildings for people with disability.

The public consultation process for this review concluded on 15 June 2015. The AAF Secretariat will advise members of any information on the review as it becomes available.

c) Virgin Australia's ‘Airport Ambassador’ Pilot Programme

Virgin Australia advised that in July 2015 it successfully completed a three month trial of a pilot programme in which trained customer service representatives called ‘Airport Ambassadors’ are in place to exclusively provide assistance to passengers with disability and additional needs. The service provided to the passenger begins at the gate to the airport car park or other forms of transport and can be pre-arranged with Virgin Australia or is available on arrival at the airport where possible.

Based on the success of the trial, Virgin Australia advised it will continue the dedicated service at Brisbane, Melbourne and Sydney airports.

AAF Members discussed occurrences where passengers with disability that required a carer chose to fly without one. Airline representatives all indicated that passengers with disability choosing to fly without a carer is a common occurrence, but all advised that they had policies in place which facilitated travel by carers to seek to reduce such incidences.

d) Carriage of Assistance Animals

The Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) advised that it received feedback from airlines and a small number of disability organisations on the draft of Civil Aviation Safety Regulations (CASR) Part 91 relating to the carriage of assistance animals on aircraft.

To help progress the development of this Part, CASA indicated that it will convene a meeting with interested AAF members to discuss the carriage of assistance animals in the aircraft cabin in more detail. CASA expects that this meeting will take place in early December.

The Attorney General's Department provided members with an outline of the recent decision of the Full Federal Court in the case of Mulligan v Virgin Australia Airlines Pty Ltd 2015 FCAFC 130 and potential future regulatory implications in relation to assistance animals.

The Chair stressed the importance of ensuring a consistent approach to the carriage of assistance animals across all airlines and the importance of removing uncertainty for both passengers with assistance animals and airlines.

The Chair noted that work by other portfolios and the States on a national accreditation scheme for assistance animals did not appear to progress and that he would examine whether the Infrastructure Minister might raise the matter with the relevant portfolio Minister.

Action Items arising from Agenda Item 4(d)

Action Item 7: CASA to convene a meeting in December to discuss the carriage of assistance animals in the aircraft cabin.

Action Item 8: The Chair to propose to the Infrastructure Minister that he write to the relevant portfolio Minister to seek progress on consideration of a national assistance animal accreditation scheme.

e) National Scheme for the Labelling of Mobility Aids

CASA advised members that it participated in a meeting held by Standards Australia to discuss technical specifications for mobility aids used in transport related environments and the implementation of a national scheme for the labelling of mobility aids.

Items discussed at the Standards Australia meeting included the carriage of mobility aid batteries, particularly lithium-ion (Li-ion) batteries, appropriate weight measurements for mobility aids and differing requirements and limitations across different aircraft and airports.

The Chair advised that the AAF Secretariat will provide members with any materials made available by Standards Australia for public comment once released.

f) Members Issues/Updates

AFDO indicated that many people with disability are still confused around what support for passengers with disability and additional needs is available to them.

While AFDO recognised there were difficulties with producing standard ticket material, they suggested that the roles and responsibilities of both airlines and passengers with disability could be included as part of the ticketing material provided to passengers by airlines.

It was noted that there are limitations on the ability of airlines to do this owing to their use of third party ticketing systems, however it was agreed that this item would be added to the agenda for the next AAF meeting for further discussion.

Agenda Item 5: Next AAF Meeting

The Chair advised that the tentative date for the next meeting is Wednesday, 27 April 2016.

17 November 2015 AAF Meeting Action Item Summary

Action No.Action ItemResponsible Agency
1 The AAA to provide de-identified airport screening practice material for passengers with disability where possible. AAA
2 AFDO to provide the AAF Secretariat with detail on instances where security screening processes for passengers with disability may not have been followed. AFDO
3 Action Item 8 from 29 April meeting to be carried over to next AAF meeting. Deafness Forum and AAA
4 AAA to put advice on reducing impediments to ease of transfer for passengers to and from a mobility aid at pick-up and drop-off points in their planned Disability Access Practice Note. AAF Secretariat and AAA
5 Members to provide feedback on revised DAFP guidance material and templates by 30 November 2015. All AAF Members
6 Members to provide AAA with feedback on the draft Practice Note by 1 December 2015. All AAF Members
7 CASA to convene a meeting in December to discuss the carriage of assistance animals in the aircraft cabin. CASA
8 The Chair to propose to the Infrastructure Minister that he write to the relevant portfolio Minister to seek progress on consideration of a national assistance animal accreditation scheme. Department of Infrastructure and Regional Development