Aviation Access Forum (AAF)—Record of Outcomes—17 November 2016

Date: Thursday 17 November 2016
Venue: Qantas Meeting Rooms, Terminal 3, Sydney Airport
Time: 9:00am–11.30am
Attendees: Greg Madson Australian Federation of Disability Organisations (AFDO)
Phil Silver Paraquad
Peter Simpson Physical Disability Australia (PDA)
Emma Scanlan Deafness Forum of Australia
Peter Kerley Deafness Forum of Australia
Sharen Annand Board of Airline Representatives of Australia (BARA)
Eliza Evans Qantas
Tim Swan Qantas
Naivasha Safaya Qantas
Nick Sams Jetstar
Derek Trafford Regional Express (Rex)
Courtney Olden Virgin Australia
Dayna Field Virgin Australia
David Tansey Australian Airports Association (AAA)
Peter Little Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA)
Jim Wolfe (Chair) Department of Infrastructure and Regional Development
Apologies: Mike Higgins Regional Aviation Association of Australia (RAAA)
Tony Starkey National Disability Services (NDS)
(The Royal Society for the Blind)
Simon Bourke Australian Airports Association (AAA)
Judy Huett Inclusion Australia
Joanne Percy Jetstar
Kim Thurbon Qantas
Vesna Vinski Qantas
Kate Grindal Tigerair
Karen Crook Tigerair
Rachel Holt Australian Human Right Commission (AHRC)
Viv McKeown Department of Social Services (DSS)
Will Tootell Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA)
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 8 June 2016 meeting of the AAF.

Action Items from the 8 June 2016 AAF meeting were discussed as follows:

Action Item 1
AAF Secretariat to distribute de-identified airport screening practice materials to AAF members.

Completed. The AAF Secretariat distributed materials to AAF members on 11 July 2016.

Action Item 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.

The AAF Secretariat passed AAA's advice regarding two airport-related incidents concerning passengers missing flights to the Deafness Forum of Australia. AAA will address any follow up questions from the Deafness Forum of Australia out of session.

Action Item 3
AAF Secretariat to update members on relevant Disability Policy Group (DPG) outcomes.

DSS advised the AAF Secretariat that DPG members agreed to the development of a scoping paper to determine the best way to progress a national assistance animal accreditation scheme. The AAF Secretariat will continue to seek updates from DSS for the AAF.

Action Item 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.

The AAF Secretariat will continue to provide updates as they are received from AHRC.

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.

Virgin Australia advised that it is possible to email passengers outlining what support passengers with disability can expect and that a project is currently underway to further develop this capability which Virgin Australia will update AAF members when completed. (Action Item 1).

Action Item 6
Virgin Australia to advise whether its headsets are t-switch compatible.

Virgin Australia confirmed that headsets on the B777 and A330 aircraft are t-switch compatible. Cabin crew will continue to provide direct assistance for passengers travelling on flights that do not currently have compatibility.

Virgin Australia and Qantas will look into adding information in their Disability Access Facilitation Plans (DAFPs) about the option for passengers to request individual briefings if required, noting it assists the airline and passengers when the passenger identifies the type and level of additional support they require. (Action Item 2)

Action Item 7
AAF Secretariat to update AAF advisory materials and distribute to members for comment.

The AAF Secretariat emailed updated AAF advisory materials to AAF members for comment on 9 November 2016. This was further discussed at Agenda Item 2.

Agenda Item 2: Updates to AAF Guidance Materials

The Chair advised that, as agreed at the 8 June 2016 AAF meeting, the AAF Secretariat had drafted updates to the AAF staff training and guidance materials for the carriage of mobility aids. These updates are designed reflect recent initiatives, including the work done by the AAF on the two wheelchair policy and updates made to the DAFP guidance materials.

The AAF Secretariat provided draft versions to members for comment on 9 November 2016. The Chair requested that all feedback be sent to the Secretariat by 2 December 2016 in order to have the revised materials then finalised and published on the Department's website.

The changing nature of what is seen as a ‘mobility aid’ was discussed and it was agreed that members would consider this in providing any feedback to the AAF Secretariat. Paraquad informed the AAF of the different types of mobility aids now available and it was agreed that it would be useful to include information on airline wheelchair types and size limitations in the guidance material.

ACTION ITEM 3: Members to provide feedback to the AAF Secretariat on the updated staff training and guidance materials for the carriage of mobility aids for passengers and for airline and airport operators by 2 December 2016.

Agenda Item 3: Lanyards for Passengers with Disability

David Tansey from AAA provided an outline of the lanyard program being trialled at Gatwick Airport in the United Kingdom, whereby passengers with hidden disabilities are able to voluntarily wear a lanyard as a way of providing a discreet sign for airport staff that additional support or help may be required. AAA sought member's views on the possibility of a similar program being introduced in Australia.

Members agreed that if such a program were to be considered in Australia, participation would have to be voluntary and that service standards for passengers who do not elect to take part must not be compromised. Staff training would be critical, as was the consideration of some form of differentiation or classification of the types of disability that would be catered for.

Issues relating to privacy and whether passengers would want to self-identify were raised, as was the need to identify whether this would be an airport or airline program. Members noted that this sort of program would likely only be practical at major capital city airports and that more data is required to determine the likely feasibility of such an initiative.

The Chair noted that a number of disability organisations were consulted by Gatwick Airport in the development of its program and some Australian disability organisations had asked AAA to examine the initiative.

The Chair thanked members for a good opening discussion and encouraged representatives of disability organisations to canvass the use of a lanyard for passengers with disability with their members and provide any feedback to the AAA and copy in the AAF Secretariat.

ACTION ITEM 4: AAF members to provide comments on the potential for a lanyard program to the AAA before the next AAF meeting.

ACTION ITEM 5: AAA to obtain further information on similar programs to the Gatwick Airport lanyard program and report back to AAF members at the next meeting.

Agenda Item 4: Disability Access Facilitation Plan (DAFP) Initiative Experience

The Chair noted that it has been over a year since the completion of the DAFP review and suggested that members discuss experiences people have had using DAFPs, feedback received from airlines/airports in publishing their DAFPs and any lessons learned that can be shared amongst members.

The Chair noted that as of 28 October 2016, there were 43 DAFPs in place: 8 Australian airlines, 4 foreign airlines; the 8 capital city airports, and 23 regional airports.

It was also noted that most international carriers publish information on their websites to support people with disability and for people who require additional assistance, although not always in a form similar to a DAFP.

The Chair encouraged AAA and BARA to keep seeking to increase the number of DAFPs, and for all AAF members to promote their availability. At its meeting to be held in December 2016, BARA confirmed it will encourage member airlines to develop DAFPs and report feedback to AAF at the next meeting.

Qantas and Virgin Australia advised that they will look into the possibility of making DAFPs and the information available in DAFPs available in their smart phone apps to make the information more accessible.

ACTION ITEM 6: BARA to encourage member airlines to develop DAFPs at its next meeting to be held in December and report back to AAF members at the next AAF meeting.

ACTION ITEM 7: Qantas and Virgin Australia to look into the possibility of making DAFPs or the information available in DAFPs available in an app for smart phones.

Agenda Item 5: Support for Passengers with Autism Spectrum Disorder

The Chair advised members that the AAF Secretariat received correspondence from a member of the public regarding support for people with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) when flying. The Chair referred members to arrival and departure guides for people with ASD, developed by Adelaide Airport, that were distributed for information prior to the meeting. The Chair sought feedback from members as to whether support for people with ASD is something that they specifically address.

Virgin Australia and Qantas advised that while support for passengers with ASD is not specifically referenced, support for passengers with ASD is covered in their DAFPs as part of their overall service. The airlines noted that they welcome suggestions from the disability community about ways in which they can offer additional support. Virgin Australia added that they would welcome input from organisations and qualified training providers.

AAA noted that it is not aware of airports other than Adelaide that have similar information on ASD but will check and report back to AAF members.

ACTION ITEM 8: AAA to provide information on whether any other airports provide information to support passengers with Autism Spectrum Disorder and report back to AAF.

Agenda Item 6: Member Update on Programs and Initiatives

On behalf of its members, the Deafness Forum of Australia presented work that is currently being undertaken in conjunction with Sydney Airport Corporation in order to update its hearing augmentation system. An update will be provided at the next AAF meeting.

The meeting noted ‘way–finder’ apps are a positive and useful method for people requiring additional assistance as the majority of the population now have their own smart phones.

Virgin Australia advised that it has introduced an updated interface to the in-flight entertainment system available on the screens in the back of seats to assist visually impaired passengers. This is currently available in its B777 aircraft and will be available in A330's from next year.

ACTION ITEM 9: Deafness Forum of Australia to update members at the next AAF meeting on the progress of updates to the hearing augmentation system at Sydney Airport.

Agenda Item 7: National Accessible Public Transport Advisory Committee (NAPTAC) and Accessible Public Transport Standards Update

The Chair provided members with an update of the implementation of the 2nd review of the Transport Standards and the activities of NAPTAC. It was noted that there will be opportunities for AAF Members as well as the broader public to contribute to the work on the Review of the Transport Standards as it progresses. The AAF Secretariat will continue to monitor and advise AAF members of progress as it occurs.

Agenda Item 8: Other Business

Following on from a recent meeting of the Australian Dangerous Good Air Transport Council, Rex informed members on issues related to the carriage of ‘E-Motion’ electric wheels for manual wheelchairs and the safe transportation of lithium ion batteries used to operate the electric wheel.

Rex noted that the Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) has approved carriage of these electric wheels in the cargo hold of aircraft. It was also noted that a sensor on the wheel can be inadvertently set off, so CASA has subsequently advised that this sensor should be covered before loading it onto the aircraft.

It was noted that it is expected that technologies such as these will continue to become more prevalent.

Qantas suggested that advice specific to this product would be useful to support airlines to safely carry items such as the ‘E-Motion’ wheel and CASA agreed to follow this up and provide information to members.

ACTION ITEM 10: CASA to provide guidance to members about correct handling and loading procedures relating to E-Motion electric wheels for manual wheelchairs.

Paraquad advised they were examining how they could effectively continue representation on the Forum and would let the Chair and the Secretariat know of the outcome of their discussions.

Agenda Item 9: Next AAF Meeting

The Chair advised the tentative date for the next meeting is Wednesday 3 May 2017.

17 November 2016 AAF Meeting Action Items

Action No.Action ItemResponsible Agency
1 Virgin Australia to advise AAF members when the capability to send a ‘what to expect’ email to passengers requiring assistance is finalised. Virgin Australia
2 Virgin Australia and Qantas will look into adding information in their DAFPs about the option for passengers to request individual briefings if required. Virgin Australia
Qantas
3 Members to provide feedback to the AAF Secretariat on the updated staff training and guidance materials for the carriage of mobility aids for passengers and for airline and airport operators by 2 December 2016. All Members
4 Members to provide comments to the AAA about the possibility of introducing lanyards for passengers with disability who travel. All Members
5 AAA to obtain further information on similar programs to the Gatwick Airport lanyard program and report back to AAF at the next meeting. AAA
6 BARA to encourage member airlines to develop DAFPs at its next meeting to be held in December and report back to AAF members at the next AAF meeting. BARA
7 Qantas and Virgin Australia will look into the possibility of making DAFPs and the information available in DAFPs available in an app for smart phones. Virgin Australia
Qantas
8 AAA to report back to AAF on any other airports that provide information to support passengers with Autism Spectrum Disorder. AAA
9 Deafness Forum of Australia to update members at the next AAF meeting on the progress of updates to the hearing augmentation system at Sydney Airport. Deafness Forum of Australia
10 CASA to provide guidance to members about correct handling and loading procedures relating to E-Motion electric wheels for manual wheelchairs. CASA