Older adults with dementia joined over 30 young families at Gatwick’s Accessibility Day on Saturday (16 Nov), so that they too had a chance to experience airport surroundings before they fly.
Travelling through an airport can be challenging for people with a disability and the Gatwick Accessibility Days are designed to make it easier, by letting those who attend experience various airport processes and environments ahead of their journey.
People who took part replicated ‘checking in’, rode on assistance buggies, met trained security dogs and the police, passed through security and watched the x-ray machines in action.
To ensure a genuine experience – for the first time – both long and short haul aircraft were made available for the day, with British Airways providing a long-haul aircraft and easyJet a short-haul plane.
Virgin Atlantic also gave visitors access to their V-Room for people to relax in and enjoy refreshments. TUI also let guests check in at their desks and staff from the airline also escorted visitor’s airside and through security so that they were then able to experience being onboard the aircraft.
Other volunteers from across the airport also helped to run the event in the airport’s North Terminalincluding staff from Gatwick’s security, terminal and special assistance teams, the police, the fire service, surface transport team and Border Force officials.
Anyone who requires assistance when travelling through Gatwick should book this with their airline who will then pass the information to the airport’s special assistance team.
Jack Bigglestone Silk, Accessibility Manager, Gatwick Airport, said: “Im so proud to be part of Gatwick’s Accessibility Day and the way that all our partners come together to give up their time and make it such a special event.
“The feedback is always very positive and we know that the event is effective and helps to make peoples’ journey less challenging and more relaxing when they come to travel through the airport for real. “
Alison Greenwood, British Airways’ Customer Service Manager Gatwick, said: “We are delighted to have worked with Gatwick Airport on this fantastic initiative. More than half a million customer who require additional assistance travel with British Airways each year and we are committed to providing a seamless travel experience.
“Our team were pleased to invite visitors to board one of our aircraft and help them familiarise themselves ahead of their next trip and we look forward to welcoming them on board again soon.”
Celine McGuigan, Accessibility & Assistance Manager, easyJet, said: “I am delighted that easyJet has supported this event designed to help people experience various airport and airline processes and make it easier for them when they fly with us. We carry thousands of customers every day who require assistance and we understand it can be challenging for them so we continually strive to make their experience as easy as it can be.
“It was great to be able supply one of our aircraft for the day and give people an opportunity to meet our well- trained staff, ready to assist those who may have a disability or simply require any kind of additional assistance and support.”
To encourage people with a disability to travel, Gatwick has also published new videos that show the journey through the airport from the perspective of someone in a wheelchair and someone who is partially sighted.
Gatwick was the first airport to introduce a hidden disability lanyard scheme – something that all UK airports have introduced since – and was also the first UK airport to open a sensory room. The airport has also invested £2 million in a ‘premium-style’ lounge for passengers with reduced mobility and places a particular emphasis on training, with all passenger-facing staff taught to recognise a range of hidden disabilities.