Making all air passengers comfortable includes delivering a swift and efficient service and treating everyone with care and respect, they are customers after all. Whilst it may involve different challenges, the objective should be no different for ambulift passengers.

Competition in the Paralympics is defined by the physical and IQ tests which are used to determine the degree of an athlete’s visual impairment or disability. Other athletes are subjected to medical, visual or cognitive testing by an international classification panel.

These kinds of steps have themselves not been without controversy, but in defining disabilities you leave yourself open to accusations of discrimination. In our experience, that is certainly one complaint that operators work extremely hard to avoid.

No one likes to be classified or defined by a physical characteristic, and ground staff take great care to treat PRM travellers with respect and sensitivity. That said, knowing what to expect in advance helps operators plan for the task ahead, and for that reason passengers are classified based on the level of support required.

Romeo, Sierra, Charlie

The terms Romeo, Sierra and Charlie are used in the air travel support sector to respectively describe Wheelchair Ramp (WCHR), Wheelchair Stair (WCHS) and Wheelchair Complete (WCHC) passengers.

  • Romeo: Passengers who can walk up and down stairs and move about in an aircraft cabin but requires a wheelchair or other means of movements between the aircraft and the terminal, in the terminal and between arrival and departure points on the city side of the terminal.
  • Sierra: Passengers who cannot walk up or down stairs, but who can move about in an aircraft cabin and requires a wheelchair to move between the aircraft, in the terminal, and between arrival and departure points on the city side of the terminal.
  • Charlie: Passengers who are completely immobile and can only move about with help of a wheelchair or any other means and who requires assistance at all times – from arrival at the airport to seating in the aircraft, or if necessary, in a special seat fitted to their specific needs – the process being reversed for arrival.

PaxLift is built with each category in mind. The award-winning PRM machine initially impressed GSE experts for its stability and performance, something that becomes very noticeable in high winds. Raising passengers smoothly and without a pantograph, stabilizers, mast or chains, PaxLift utilises three lifting columns to provide a smooth, safe lift, with fully hydraulic suspension for maximum comfort during driving.

Inside the cabin there is room for up to six wheelchairs, plus folding seats for 10. Full air conditioning and heating plus soft LED lighting makes the environment as comfortable as possible.

“Lighting is a crucial element of the overall performance and we have made upgrades inside and out,” says PaxLift MD, Klaus Pirpamer. “The apron tends to be a brightly lit area at night, but we are also able to operate on service roads around the airport and therefore capable of taking passengers over large distances. We want the passenger experience to be as comfortable as possible and the operation to be a safe as possible.”

“At PaxLift, we are relative newcomers to the sector. We have over 50 years’ experience in lifting equipment and even decades working in and around GSE and passenger machines. Our vehicles are described as next generation ambulifts – and whilst it is not a term we are particularly keen on, it is one term that the industry has settled on to define our type of equipment.”

“Of course, there is the business case to make,” adds Klaus, “but we are in this sector because we feel we can make a difference. We are improving the quality of the experience, both in terms of efficiency, speed and comfort, and with it comes a level of respect for passengers that do not wish to be treated differently from any others, but whose requirements necessitate a different service. It’s why “ambulift” does not sit easily – most passengers that require PaxLift are generally not moving to or from an emergency vehicle – but we have to spread the word and get operators to see the difference.”

Meanwhile the latest PaxLift delivers the most impressive performance yet, with new safety measures, cameras and sensors to allow operators to deliver a modern, professional service. Concludes Klaus: “Our audience may be airports and ground support operators, but our ultimate customers are the passengers which experience the benefit of a vehicle built specifically for the job. Just like any other customer they expect us to respect their opinions and design equipment that is efficient, fit for purpose, comfortable and affordable. If we focus on those aspects, we will undoubtedly succeed.”