Air Access is a concept designed by Priestmangoode that facilitates air travel for passengers with reduced mobility (PRMs) by enabling an easier transition from gate to aircraft. The ingenious design aims to reduce the indignity and discrimination that PRMs face when travelling by air.

How it works:

The Air Access concept consists of two elements: a detachable wheelchair by which passengers can be transported onto and off of the plane, and a fixed-frame aisle seat on the aircraft into which the wheelchair is mated to create a regular airline seat.

Ground services staff assist the passenger into the Air Access wheelchair seat in the departure gate or on the jetway, where there is ample space to manoeuvre.

When seated, the passenger is wheeled onto the plane.

Once onboard, the wheelchair’s 360-degree pivoting wheels enable it to be slid sideways into the fixed-frame aisle seat without the passenger needing to get up.

When the two elements are positioned, they are locked together for the duration of the flight.

On arrival, ground staff simply unlock the wheelchair seat, slide it out into the aisle and wheel the passenger to the jetway or arrival gate.

Once there, the passenger returns to his or her own wheelchair or zimmer frame, or transfers into the airport’s wheelchair.

Why do we need Air Access?

Currently, around 20% of the UK’s adult population has some form of disability or mobile difficulty. For this demographic air travel can be fraught with problems.

Ground and airline staff are often inadequately trained and unaware of their legal obligations.

The absence of a systematic process for boarding and disembarking PRMs can lead to confusion and complications for airline staff.

For PRMs, being physically assisted into and out of airplane seats can be stressful and demeaning, and inflight toileting can be difficult.

It’s imperative that we start thinking today about implementing change to cater for future generations of air travellers.

Benefits of Access Air

The Air Access seat could be installed in every aisle seat of the aircraft. In a wide-body this would be four seats per row, meaning dozens of PRMs could travel on any given flight. This is particularly useful when large groups of passengers with reduced mobility travel together eg. Paralympic athletes

Increased safety for passengers. Passengers do not need to be handled by airline staff in the tight confines of the aircraft. Increased safety for handlers as well.

Easier to use toilet facilities in flight. Passengers only need assistance to unlock their seat and wheel to the nearest toilet.

The chair has a removable seat pad. Many passengers with serious disabilities, for instance spinal injuries, need to sit on their own purpose-designed cushions. Passengers can customise the Air Access seat to suit their individual needs.

Anyone can sit in the seat. As the access seat integrates seamlessly into the aircraft, the airline does not lose seating space if there are no PRMs travelling.

The Air Access concept is suitable for all aircraft types, though offers particular benefits to long haul, wide body aircraft—both for passenger experience and cost benefit to airlines.

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