Newcastle Airport recognised for assistance provided to disabled and less mobile passengers

Newcastle Airport has been placed in the ‘Very Good’ category in the latest Civil Aviation Authority Airport Accessibility Report.

The CAA Report monitors the performance of UK airports in assisting disabled and less mobile passengers during their journey. Of the 31 airports assessed, Newcastle was one of 15 airports to be featured in the highest ‘Very Good’ category. The airport was specifically praised for exceeding all of its performance standards and providing a ‘well researched and extensive training programme for its staff.’

Newcastle Airport’s Passenger Assistance Team supported over 70,000 passengers with their journey in 2019, an increase of 22 percent compared to 2018.

Andrew Alexander, Terminal Manager of Newcastle Airport said: ‘I am extremely proud that the Airport has been ranked ‘Very Good’ for the assistance we provide our passengers. We work closely with local disability groups to ensure we understand the challenges faced by passengers and also provide extensive training to all staff members.

‘In 2019 the business invested over £250,000 in new vehicles and equipment dedicated to making travelling through the Airport easier for passengers with disabilities or who are less mobile. We also became one of the first UK airports to install a sensory area for passengers to use in our newly refurbished dedicated Passenger Assistance Lounge.’

The CAA has set up an Airport Accessibility Framework to ensure that airports give disabled and less mobile passengers the required assistance to travel confidently. The framework was introduced in 2014 and includes a set of quality standards relating to the assistance services airports provide passengers. These standards include set metrics relating to the length of time passengers wait to receive assistance as well as softer metrics such as engagement with local disability groups and surveying users of the service.

Kerrie Highcock, Family Development Manager at the North East Autism Society said: ‘We are delighted to hear Newcastle Airport have achieved ‘Very Good’ in the latest CAA Accessibility Report.

We have worked in partnership with the team at the airport for a number of years, this has included the development of the Autism Passport and bespoke Accessibility Guides for customers. The aim of this work is to change attitudes, increase staff knowledge and make environmental adjustments to make the journey through the airport better for everyone.

We look forward to continue this partnership going forward into 2021.’

London Gatwick opens sensory room for departing passengers

London Gatwick has become the first UK airport to open a sensory room for its passengers, offering a relaxing, private and interactive environment to calm people who may feel in busy and unfamiliar airport surroundings.

Located in the North Terminal, the new sensory space is designed for passengers with autism, dementia, cognitive impairment or other special needs to help them feel at ease before their flight. Passengers using the sensory room can transform the space from a calming and relaxing environment to a stimulating interactive space full of light and sound with the flick of a switch.

The ‘chill-out zone’ for those needing calm includes floor cushions, bean bags and digital display panels, which generate colourful visual wall features. The separate ‘interactive zone’ stimulates the senses through tactile panels, textures and a game to improve memory, motor skills and encourages learning. The free to use room is available only to departing passengers and their families or carers who can book a 45-minute session at the North Terminal’s special assistance desk after the security check.

Gatwick Airport’s Head of Terminal Operations, Andy Pule, said: ‘We recognise airports can be stressful environments for some passengers, which is why we are extremely proud to offer this new space for them to relax in and enjoy before their flight.

‘Gatwick is committed to providing passengers who have a disability of any kind with the support and services required to ensure their time at the airport is as comfortable as possible and this remains a key area of focus for the airport.’

Autism Ambassador for Gatwick Airport, Maria Cook, said: ‘I cannot thank the whole team involved in this project enough for making it a reality. Working closely with Gatwick I explained the vast benefits of having such a wonderful facility available and the positive impact it has for people with complex conditions and their families and they did not hesitate to create something very special indeed. It is the most amazing Sensory Room I have ever seen.’

Specific activities to experience in the room include: the Catherine Wheel Panel with colour and sound displays including firework effects; Abstract Tactile Panels featuring raised and recessed fluid shapes in contrasting textures; Colour Match Panel with classical music, mood lighting, and game to improve memory, colour recognition and motor skills; Sound to Light Showtime; Waterless Rainbow Tube with a colour wheel offering calming and stimulating effects; Interactive Giant Causeway which can activate colourful lights; Activity Board encouraging motor movement, coordination and sensory skills and Infinity and Beyond Panel offering visual and auditory effects using range of shapes, sounds, patterns and speeds.

Edinburgh Airport marks World Autism Awareness Day with new support package

Marking World Autism Awareness Day, Edinburgh Airport has launched a support package to help passengers with autism and other additional support needs travel through the airport effortlessly.

The first project of its kind in Scotland, Edinburgh Airport developed the new ‘Travelling with Additional Needs’ toolkit to help autistic passengers and their families inwith navigating their way through a busy airport. The package has been developed in association with Scottish Autism, the airport’s corporate charity partner for 2014, and disability equality group Wideaware.

The toolkit comprises a series of factsheets – easy step-by-step airport guide – focusing on different sections of the airport journey which may be particularly stressful. It will further be supported by hands-on initiatives including advance walk-throughs for passengers with autism, in a wheelchair, or even someone who may not have been in an airport before.

David Wilson, Chief Operating Officer at Edinburgh Airport, said: ‘Our specially designed toolkit and the wider support package have been specifically designed for those passengers who may need a little bit of help or reassurance before they fly, whether that is information on where to find their check in desk or how to use a self-service machine.

‘We firmly believe that everyone who wants to fly can fly and we’re committed to making sure all of our passengers have the best experience possible. We have an amazing team here at Edinburgh Airport and we’ll continue to work to ensure our services are of the highest standard.’

Charlene Tait, Director of Development at Scottish Autism, said: ‘We know of many people living with autism who, along with their families, are disenfranchised from air travel because they simply cannot cope with the stress and trauma of an airport.

This new initiative with Edinburgh Airport is a great starting point in trying to change this situation. The toolkit and other support measures have the potential to really help people with autism and other support needs by making them more aware of what they can expect in an airport environment and help them prepare in advance.’

Edinburgh Airport is also working with airlines such as easyJet and British Airways to help facilitate bespoke courses for people with a fear of flying.