Mexico City Airport: A Case Study

Articles, Interviews, New Projects, The Future of HeathrowEditorComment

Three years ago the First Lady of Mexico, Margarita Zavala, took the initiative to employ wheelchair users at Mexico City International Airport.

Although they represent only 2% of the workforce (in number they total 100 people at present), they have proved such a valuable resource that the only thing holding back adding to this number is the lack of transport, as currently there are no facilities for bussing people in from distant areas.

This cadre undergo training programmes alongside their able-bodied colleagues, gaining expert knowledge of the airport and its workings. They make a significant contribution across the airport's functions and particularly in security, where they work effectively as part of an integrated team across the airport's grounds with other able-bodied colleagues.

Jose Alberto

It is a heartening sight to see so many wheelchair-bound people working in a frenetic, busy environment such as an airport. They do a fantastic job and, from speaking to a number of workers there, they value the opportunity so highly and give hope to all those who have the will to make a contribution, but who have been written-off because of their disability.

Jose Alberto is a typical case. He is an extremely intelligent young man, who lost the use of his legs due to a motorcar accident, however, he is otherwise lively and fully able to cope with any kind of work that can be done from his wheelchair.

As well as security, the team in which he works provides information to passengers. The throughput at the International terminal is over 20 million people a year.

It is encouraging that a country like Mexico, which doesn't necessarily come to mind as a pioneer of social responsibility has set this highly visible example, which should be copied in London and other airports throughout the world.

Another innovation that is very evident at the airport is the provision of multi-lingual tourist guides, especially during the busy holiday season.

I had the personal experience of having to make a switch from the international to the domestic terminal, with less than an hour to spare, at the same time having to go through customs and immigration. I was disorientated after a ten hour flight and more than a little anxious as to whether the task could be accomplished within the very finite time limit.

A momentary pause resulted in an approach by a tourist guide, who enquired whether I needed any assistance. When I explained my predicament I was immediately escorted to the head of the queue and completed all of the formalities with plenty of time to spare.

This was quite remarkable because, on the day I was there, the monorail link between the terminals was out of service, necessitating a car journey on busy roads between the two terminals. Another huge plus for Mexico City Airport.

I hope with some planning similar facilities will be available to welcome our Olympic visitors in 2012.

Many thanks to Aaron Gonzalez Loza for providing all of the information and the guided tour of the airport.

Maurice Bennett