Requests for assistance for airline passengers with mental disabilities have seen a three-fold increase in Middle East and Africa.
That is according to travel technology company Travelport, which recently completed a 10-month-long campaign to raise awareness of its Special Service Request (SSR) booking code.
SSR codes are used in the airline industry to communicate traveler preferences or needs to airlines.
They are delivered through standardised four-letter codes defined by the International Air Transport Association (IATA). The DPNA SSR code can be used by travel agents, among others, to alert airlines when a passenger has intellectual or developmental disability and needs assistance.
Travelport launched its Travel Unified campaign in March 2019 after it found evidence of exceptionally low use of the code on bookings made through its global distribution system (GDS).
Of the more than 250 million flight bookings made through Travelport in 2018, the DPNA code was applied to just 4,309 bookings – approximately 0.0015%; despite an estimated 2.6% of the world’s population having a mental disability.
A poll of travel agents and conversations with nonprofit organisations confirmed this was due to a lack of awareness.
From the launch of the campaign up until the end of 2019, use of the DPNA SSR code on flights booked through Travelport in Middle East and Africa increased by 342% compared to the same period in 2018.
The code was used for the first time through Travelport in Oman, Kuwait, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates.
As part of its campaign to raise awareness of the DPNA SSR code, Travelport has shared educational ‘sign-on alerts’ and graphical ‘prompts’ more than 10 million times with hundreds of thousands of travel agents across the world.
The digital media used to reach travel agents is typically sold by Travelport to travel providers, like airlines and hotels, as advertising space.
Mark Meehan, Travelport’s global VP and MD of Asia Pacific, Middle East and Africa, and Operators, said: “It’s heartening to see such a significant spike in use of the DPNA code in Middle East and Africa since we launched our Travel Unified campaign.
“SSR codes play an important role in helping travel agents effectively and officially communicate the needs of travelers to IATA airlines, so it’s important agents are aware of the codes at their disposal and the kind of support that can be requested.”