Aviation Access Forum (AAF)—Record of Outcomes—8 June 2016

Date: Wednesday 8 June 2016
Venue: Qantas Meeting Rooms, Terminal 3, Sydney Airport
Time: 9:00am –11.30am
Attendees: Greg Madson Australian Federation of Disability Organisations (AFDO) (Telephone)
Tony Starkey National Disability Services (NDS) (The Royal Society for the Blind) (Telephone)
Peter Simpson Physical Disability Australia (PDA)
Vesna Vinski Qantas
Tim Swan Qantas
Lena Katsos Qantas
Joanne Percy Jetstar
Alexandra Thompson Virgin Australia
Derek Trafford Regional Express (Rex)
Kate Grindal Tigerair
Jared Feehely Australian Airports Association (AAA)
Will Tootell Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA)
Grant Mazowita Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) (Telephone)
Peter Little Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA)
Tony Davidson Australian Human Right Commission (AHRC)
Rachel Holt Australian Human Right Commission (AHRC)
Jim Wolfe (Chair) Department of Infrastructure and Regional Development
Apologies: Mike Higgins Regional Aviation Association of Australia (RAAA)
Sharan Annand Board of Airline Representatives of Australia (BARA)
Emma Scanlan Deafness Forum of Australia
Judy Huett Inclusion Australia
Kim Thurbon Qantas
Matt Dixon Virgin Australia
  Courtney Olden Virgin Australia
  Phil Silver Paraquad
  Sonja Wigney Attorney General's Department (AG)
Secretariat: Lachlan Symonds Department of Infrastructure and Regional Development
  Danielle Nott Department of Infrastructure and Regional Development

Key Discussion Items

Agenda Item 1

Welcome, apologies and acceptance of the draft agenda

The Chair welcomed AAF members, noted the apologies and the draft agenda for the meeting was agreed.

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

Members endorsed the record of outcomes from the 17 November 2015 meeting of the AAF.

Action Items from the 17 November 2015 AAF meeting were discussed. It was noted that Action Items 4, 5, 6 and 8 had been completed. Action Item 7 would be discussed as part of Agenda Item 2(a) at this meeting.

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

The AAA confirmed it had prepared de-identified airport screening practice material for passengers with disability based on input received from its members and would forward these materials to the AAF Secretariat for distribution to AAF members out of session.

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.

The AFDO advised that as part of its role on Perth Airport's Access Advisory Group, it has conducted a walkthrough of Perth Airport's screening process which provided the opportunity to identify areas for improvement. AFDO advised that this process has led to improved screening processes and improvements in staff training at Perth Airport.

Action Item 3
The Deafness Forum to provide the AAA with specific information concerning an incident involving a passenger with a hearing disability missing a flight due to being unable to hear or see an announcement of changed boarding details.

AAA advised that it had received information from the Deafness Forum of Australia on two incidents. AAA advised that it had raised these incidents with the relevant airports who advised that the incidents related to passenger information screens being out of service but that staff were able to assist passengers in each case. The Chair advised that the AAA information on these incidents will be passed onto the Deafness Forum of Australia.

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.

The Chair advised members there had been a Ministerial exchange of correspondence on this matter and that on 4 March 2016, the Hon Christian Porter MP, Minister for Social Services, wrote to the Hon Darren Chester MP, Minister for Infrastructure and Transport agreeing that the issue of a national accreditation scheme should be examined further and proposed that the topic will be discussed at the next meeting of the Disability Policy Group (DPG). DPG is an advisory group to the Council of Australian Governments Disability Reform Council. Minister Chester replied to Minister Porter on 19 April 2016 endorsing this approach.

The Chair advised that the Secretariat will follow up with the Department of Social Services on progress made by the DPG and provide advice to AAF members.

Action 1: The AAA to consult with its members, specifically security screening providers, about the standard practices for screening passengers with assistance animals and passengers with disabilities.

Action 2: AAF Secretariat to advise the Deafness Forum of Australia of AAA's advice on the incidents raised.

Action 3: AAF Secretariat to update to AAF members on any relevant DPG outcomes.

Agenda Item 2(a): Outcomes of the recent meetings on the Carriage and Certification of Assistance Animals: CASA December 2015 Meeting

CASA provided the AAF with an update on the outcome of the meeting in December 2015 to discuss future updated regulations relating to the carriage of assistance animals in the aircraft cabin attended by representatives of the airline industry and the disability sector.

The meeting discussed the current and proposed regulatory framework for the carriage of assistance animals in the aircraft cabin and provided airlines and disability representatives with an opportunity to discuss issues relating to the safe carriage of assistance animals and the needs of passengers with disability. Airlines were encouraged to provide CASA with safety cases outlining their concerns about the carriage of animals.

Based on the outcomes of the meeting and the two safety cases provided by airlines, CASA advised the AAF that it is reviewing the proposed regulations relating to the carriage of assistance animals. CASA reminded AAF members that its regulatory role relates to aviation safety and not to establish standards relating to animal training and accreditation. It is possible however, that CASA could reference any appropriate national training standards in civil aviation safety regulations if they were developed.

CASA also advised that consideration to permitting the carriage of animals other than assistance animals in certain circumstances at the discretion of the airlines was being given, noting the airline representatives did not support this approach but rather argued that any permissions related to the carriage of animals in the passenger cabin be limited to assistance dogs only.

CASA advised AAF that it will provide a draft version of the proposed regulation and its accompanying manual of standards to the AHRC initially for comment before providing these drafts to AAF members.

Agenda Item 2(b): Outcomes of the recent meetings on the Carriage and Certification of Assistance Animals: AHRC February 2016 Meeting

AHRC provided an update on its meeting held in February 2016 to discuss the development of a national accreditation scheme for assistance animals. AHRC advised the meeting discussed the training of assistance animals including the importance of training the handler as well as the animal and the implications of the Disability Discrimination Act 1992 for the carriage of assistance animals on board an aircraft.

AHRC also advised that the National Disability Insurance Agency (NDIA) is currently undertaking a study on an appropriate standard for the accreditation of assistance animals for National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) participants that may be useful to inform work on a broader national scheme.

AHRC advised there were three key action items agreed at the February 2016 meeting:

  • a new group, consisting of representatives of the disability sector, transport organisations and relevant government bodies be established to take work on a national accreditation scheme for assistance animals forward;
  • Guide Dogs Australia and Assistance Dogs Australia would lead drafting of an accreditation standard that would be proposed to the new group for further consideration; and
  • individual groups were to write to State/Territory Premiers/Chief Ministers outlining the importance of this issue as a COAG driven process.

AHRC undertook to provide AAF members with an update on these issues before the next meeting.

Action Item 4: AHRC to provide update to the AAF Secretariat for members information on issues related to the examination of a national accreditation scheme for assistance animals.

Agenda Item 3: Possible Improvements to Airline Ticketing Information

AFDO raised with AAF members whether information relevant to travellers requiring assistance could be included as part of airline ticketing information acknowledging the different avenues by which passengers can now acquire tickets.

Airline representatives advised that it was not likely that ticketing would be the means by which such information would be distributed. Rather the airlines encouraged passengers who require additional assistance to ensure that all of their requirements are met is to call the airline call centre directly. Further, airlines indicated that their websites provide a central source of information for passengers, and creating a number of different locations through ticket agencies for the same information may create difficulties for passengers.

Virgin Australia undertook to explore the possibility of an option where a ‘what to expect’ email could be sent to passengers requiring assistance when they finalise their booking, however Virgin indicated that this may not be possible due to the nature of the passenger processing systems.

The Chair reiterated the importance of airlines and airports having information for passengers with disability, including Disability Access Facilitation Plans (DAFPs), easily accessible on their websites.

Action Item 5: Virgin Australia to advise next AAF meeting of possibility of a ‘what to expect’ email being sent to passengers requiring assistance when they finalise their booking.

Agenda Item 4: On-Board Assistance for Passengers with Disability

AFDO introduced its paper outlining some of the impediments passengers with hearing difficulties face in accessing on-board entertainment systems and in-flight announcements.

Qantas advised that its systems are compatible with an induction loop and will capture flight and cabin crew announcements. Qantas also stated that informal testing of headsets to be provided by its new headset supplier have confirmed the headsets are t-switch compatible.

Virgin advised that closed captioning is now available for all in-flight entertainment and would provide advice to the AAF on the t-switch compatibility of its equipment.

Rex confirmed that its flight attendants provide additional information on announcements as soon as possible for passengers with disability.

AFDO requested clarification of airline policy regarding the boarding of passengers with disability before other passengers noting that while they appreciated some benefits of doing so that it can lead to difficult or embarrassing situations for passengers with disability.

Qantas advised that to ensure the easiest boarding process for passengers with disability, its policy is to always board people requiring assistance first and confirmed that when a passenger with a wheelchair makes a booking they are given an aisle seat. However, if the person can self-transfer and has advised the airline in advance, they may be able to choose to sit wherever they wish.

In response to a query from Paraquad about whether passengers with disability could also be boarded and disembarked via the starboard side of the aircraft, airline representatives advised this was not likely to be available as it raised a number of safety and operational issues owing to refuelling occurring on this side of the aircraft and that on many aircraft, the door on the starboard side of the aircraft is smaller and less accessible than the door on the port side.

Action Item 6: Virgin Australia to provide advice to the AAF Secretariat for members' information on whether its headsets are t-switch compatible.

Agenda Item 5: Update on Practice Note

AAA advised that its Airport Practice Note for Disability Access at Airports was published in February 2016 and has been well received by AAA members. The Practice Note provides information on the types and incidences of disability and the roles and responsibilities of airports in supporting passengers with disability.

The Practice Note also provides airport operators with best practice examples, such as Rockhampton Airport's engagement with local disability groups. AAA advised that the Practice Note would be reviewed every two years.

Agenda Item 6: AAF Membership

AAF agreed to keep the current composition and level of membership which covers a broad range of disability sector, aviation industry and Government agency representatives but noted that the Chair would contact each of the current members to confirm they still wished to remain as members of the AAF and the appropriate contact points.

Members agreed that it would be beneficial to invite particular organisation representatives in areas of specialised AAF activities (such as assistance animals) to assist the AAF on a case by case basis.

Agenda Item 7: Member Update on Programmes and Initiatives

Qantas advised that it has commenced using new vehicles equipped with a side mounted ramp at some airports to more easily transport passengers to gates or over long concourses.

Virgin advised that it is developing a video titled ‘The Perfect Journey’ which will provide information to passengers about what to expect when they travel. Additionally, Virgin is expecting to commence using on-board wheelchairs in 2017 to better assist passengers with disability in boarding/disembarking and when in flight.

Agenda Item 8: NAPTAC and Accessible Public Transport Standards Update

The Chair provided an update of the work of the National Accessible Public Transport Advisory Committee (NAPTAC) following the second Review of the Disability Standards for Accessible Public Transport (the Review).

The Department of Infrastructure and Regional Development (the Department) had commissioned Arup Pty Ltd to undertake two key projects arising from recommendations of the Review. The two projects are to undertake are the development of a detailed Project Management Plan for the modernisation of the transport standards and the development of draft whole-of-journey guidelines for accessible public transport.

Members were advised that the Department intends to distribute the draft guidelines for public comment in the second half of 2016 and AAF members were encouraged to provide feedback through this process.

Agenda Item 9: Updates to Other AAF Advisory Materials

It was agreed that the AAF Secretariat would update the following advisory materials available on the Department's website to ensure that they reflect current practices, including updating references to airline policies on wheelchairs:

  • Carriage of Mobility Aids Guidance Material for Airline and Airport Operators
  • Carriage of Mobility Aids Guidance Material for Passengers
  • Staff Training—Guidance Material

The AAF Secretariat will provide draft updated material for the feedback of AAF members.

Action Item 7: AAF Secretariat to update AAF Advisory Materials and distribute to AAF members for comment.

Agenda Item 10: Other Business

The Chair thanked members for their contributions and acknowledged the work by members and their respective organisations in improving access for passengers with disability.

Agenda Item 11: Next AAF Meeting

The Chair advised the tentative date for the next meeting is Wednesday, 16 November 2016.

8 June 2016 AAF Meeting Action Item Summary

Action No.Action ItemResponsible Agency
1 AAF Secretariat to distribute de-identified airport screening practice materials to AAF members. AAF Secretariat
2 AAF Secretariat to advise the Deafness Forum of Australia of AAA's advice on two airport-related incidents raised relating to passengers missing flights. AAF Secretariat
3 AAF Secretariat to update to AAF members on any relevant Disability Policy Group outcomes. AAF Secretariat
4 AHRC to provide update to AAF Secretariat for members information on issues related to the examination of a national accreditation scheme for assistance animals. AHRC
5 Virgin Australia to advise next AAF meeting of possibility of a ‘what to expect’ email being sent to passengers requiring assistance when they finalise their booking. Virgin Australia
6 Virgin Australia to provide advice to the AAF Secretariat for members' information on whether its headsets are t-switch compatible. Virgin Australia
7 AAF Secretariat to update AAF Advisory Materials and distribute to AAF members for comment. AAF Secretariat