London Heathrow Airport has announced its plans to become the world’s first dementia friendly airport by providing specialist sessions, training and online resources for all of its 76,000 employees.
The airport is partnering with UK-based charity Alzheimer’s Society and contractor Omniserv, an external provider of assistance for passengers with special requirements, to deliver the initiative.
Worldwide more than 47 million people have dementia, with this number projected to rise to over 135 million by 2050. In England alone it is a condition that affects nearly 700,000 people and costs the UK £26bn (US$34bn) per year.
The latest initiative by Heathrow is part of the British government’s 2020 Challenge on Dementia, which encourages businesses to sign up to being dementia friendly so people with the disease feel understood and included.
London Heathrow has already begun implementing a number of measures as part of the initiative, including creating training for all frontline staff and the wider Heathrow team based on Alzheimer’s Society courses; creating Senior Trained Additional Assistance Role (STAAR) teams, comprising staff who have been trained to assist passengers with reduced mobility (PRM) and who have received enhanced training for passengers with bespoke needs; identifying security as an area where people with dementia need increased support to help reduce anxiety; and providing quiet lounge areas in the terminals.
John Holland-Kaye, CEO, London Heathrow, said, “Our vision is to give passengers the best airport service in the world. Airports can be particularly stressful for passengers with dementia so we are delighted to be working with the Department of Health and Alzheimer’s Society to make sure that they get the support they need. We have started training our colleagues and making improvements so that we can be the world’s first dementia friendly airport.”
Jeremy Hughes, chief executive of Alzheimer’s Society, said, “Everyone has the right to be able to travel comfortably and with ease, and we all have a role in helping air passengers with dementia feel like they’re able to continue flying.
“Sadly, we know that traveling can be a daunting or frightening experience for many people affected by dementia – this can put people off traveling and in turn lead to them feeling socially isolated.
“Alzheimer’s Society is delighted to be working with Heathrow on their commitment to become the world’s first truly global dementia friendly airport. We hope their pioneering work will pave the way for all airports the world over to transform the air travel experience for people with dementia and their carers.”