London Heathrow Airport has announced a multi-million pound package of investments and tools to improve the travel experience of passengers with disabilities and mobility restrictions at the airport.
The number of passengers requesting special assistance at Heathrow is rising at approximately 8% annually, with over one million requests in 2017 alone. Following a report by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) this year, Heathrow is taking proactive steps to transform its service for these passengers, backed by an investment of £23m (US$30.7m) in a revamped, upgraded contract with its special assistance partner, OmniServ.
Heathrow has introduced a distinctive lanyard that will allow passengers that need tailored help and support to discreetly identify themselves to airport staff. This lanyard is part of an established service initiated at Gatwick and rolled out in other UK airports, and is supported by UK charities including the Alzheimer’s Society, the National Autistic Society and Action on Hearing Loss. Special assistance staff, security officers and passenger ambassadors at Heathrow have been trained to identify the lanyard so they can provide additional assistance, or allow passengers wearing it more time or space as they travel independently through the airport.
There will also be further changes, including new signage across the airport that displays the United Nations new symbol of accessibility. Starting this month in Terminal 3, special assistance signage will be a distinctive blue, and easier for passengers to identify as they make their way around the airport.
The airport also promoted a new on demand app that is being used by passenger ambassadors and special assistance providers across Heathrow to access trained British Sign Language translators on demand to assist deaf passengers travelling through.
Roberto Castiglioni, chair of Heathrow Accessibility Advisory Group, commented, “This is a great day for passengers at Heathrow and we were proud to have been a part of ensuring the airport takes concrete steps towards being a more accessible and friendly space for people living with disabling conditions. We have more work to do yet and we look forward to working with Heathrow to keep on improving the journeys of all.”
Antony Marke, group managing director of OmniServ, added, “OmniServ is delighted to have the opportunity to continue working with Heathrow. The emphasis here should be on the word ‘passengers’ rather than on the PRM label. All passengers deserve to be treated with respect as they journey through the airport, no matter their personal status. We have been working closely with leading disability rights groups to ensure our training is up-to-date with current thinking and that we have the skills and tools to help anyone who finds the airport or flying a daunting prospect, whatever the reason.”