17 February, 2023
We know air travel figures prominently in many people’s minds.
Every year our Stoma Helpline receives enquiries from people about to go abroad for the first time since their surgery.
Our Travel Booklet and Travel Certificate continue to be popular. Regular readers will also know that over the years we have devoted considerable resources to engaging directly with the aviation industry, advocating on behalf of people with stomas. Our work here is multi-faceted. As members of a number of airport accessibility forums and with our CEO Libby sitting on the Civil Aviation’s Access to Travel panel, we have been able to influence and advise on everything from security procedures and policy to airport signage and toilet facilities. In fact, where airports are concerned, we have become the ‘go to’ stoma charity; we are currently working with the following: Gatwick, Heathrow, Luton, Stansted, Cardiff, Manchester, Birmingham, Luton and Bristol.
The pandemic had serious implications for aviation and saw many airport staff laid off. Thankfully things are now returning to normal, and the industry is gearing itself up for a busy 2023. We were therefore delighted to be asked by British Airways (BA) to deliver a series of Stoma Education Workshops to their Accessibility Team. This team is dedicated to supporting people who might have additional needs in order to feel safe and confident when travelling (be it at the airport, flying, or both).
The workshops were delivered in Newcastle by Libby and Bobbie Minshull, one of our long-standing volunteers. We explained what a stoma is, why people have stoma surgery and gave participants an understanding of the practical and emotional needs that someone with a stoma might have when they travel by air. We also gave attendees a broader appreciation of Colostomy UK and the work we do. The Q&A session was popular. But Bobbie stole the show. As someone with a colostomy, urostomy and a fistula, she was able to bring alive the experience of traveling as an ostomate and all the concerns this can encompass from the need for extra hand luggage, to worries about body scanners and being searched, to the importance of staying hydrated and needing things like an aisle seat on the plane in close proximity to the toilets. Post-workshop feedback was positive. Tracy Armstrong, business manager in BA’s Servicing, Accessibility and Refunds, described it as ‘informative’ and ‘thought provoking’ and said that after attending her team had been more confident assisting people with stomas. Indeed, this led to one ostomate saying: “Well done BA you’ve given me the confidence to fly again.”
If you are planning a foreign trip, then visit our travel pages and don’t forget to request or download our Travel Advice booklet and Travel Certificate. You could call the Stoma Helpline too and speak to one of our volunteers experienced in air travel.
We also recommend that when you make a travel booking you tell the agent of your additional travel needs and/or contact your airline and the airport you will be departing from. The latter should be done well in advance of travelling (at least 48 hours before) to sort out things like extra hand luggage allowance, as you might be asked to provide supporting documentation, such as a letter from your GP.