SINGAPORE, 21 January 2020: Requests for assistance for airline passengers with intellectual disabilities have seen a nearly eight-fold increase in Asia, following a 10-month long campaign to raise awareness of a dedicated Special Service Request (SSR) booking code by the travel technology company, Travelport.
SSR codes are used in the airline industry to communicate traveller 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 an 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 or approximately 0.0015%; despite an estimated 2.6% of the world’s population has an intellectual 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 Asia increased by 762% compared to the same period in 2018.
Locations like India and Hong Kong saw exceptionally large spikes of 458% and 243% respectively. In addition, the code was used for the first time through Travelport in seven countries in the continent: Israel, Kuwait, Mongolia, Oman, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, and the United Arab Emirates.
Travelport has shared educational ‘sign-on alerts’ and graphical ‘prompts’ on the DPNA SSR code more than 10 million times with hundreds of thousands of travel agents across the world through Travelport Smartpoint, its flagship Point of Sale solution used to reach travel agents.
In addition, Emirati vlogger, Khalid Al Ameri, documented his family’s positive experience travelling from the United Arab Emirates to Bahrain on a flight with Etihad Airways, with the DPNA SSR code applied to the booking of his son, who is on the autism spectrum. Since the video went live on Al Ameri’s Facebook page on World Autism Day, it has been viewed more than 7 million times, shared more than 100,000 times and received more than 10,000 messages of support.
Travelport’s global vice president and managing director of the Asia Pacific, Middle East and Africa, and Operators Mark Meehan said: “It’s heartening to see such a significant spike in use of the DPNA code in Asia since we launched our Travel Unified campaign.”