British Airways to trial new technology to help travellers in using British Sign Language

British Airways has recently said that it has become the first UK airline to trial a new video service transforming the experience for customers that use British Sign Language (BSL).

The initiative is being trialled as part of the airline’s efforts to make travel simple and easy for customers with additional assistance needs. The airline’s new partnership with SignLive will see the company’s BSL service embedded in British Airways’ customer engagement centres. The platform allows customers to access a range of services before, during and after their journeys.

British Airways customers will now be able to contact the airline through SignLive’s Community Directory where the team can assist with: providing information and support about their journey; responding to general customer service queries; booking flights; pre-booking seating and providing permission for service dogs to travel in the cabin.

Commenting on the new trial, British Airways’ Head of Sustainability, Carrie Harris, said: ‘It’s important for us to mark International Day of People with Disabilities, because before the pandemic, almost half a million customers who required additional assistance flew with British Airways each year and we’re focused on supporting customers with both hidden and visible disabilities to make their journey easier and stress-free.

‘In 2019 we invested in a new specialist accessibility team and as part of our broader focus on sustainability, diversity and inclusion, we are proud to be working with SignLive to make it as easy as possible for our customers using British Sign Language to receive the support they need. We hope to roll this technology out permanently as part of our unique British Airways’ service.’

Joel Kellhofer, CEO at SignLive said: ‘By introducing our service, British Airways will be making air travel much more accessible to the UK’s Deaf population. We welcome any strides to improve inclusion and accessibility, and this is a huge step forward by such a well-known brand. We are happy that British Airways have chosen SignLive to support their customers.’

In 2018, British Airways launched its ‘Beyond Accessibility’ campaign, the airline’s largest global accessibility training programme, which includes a new library of digital learning providing information about hidden disabilities and practical advice on how to support customers at each stage of their journey. In 2019, the airline created a dedicated team of accessibility experts to assist with customer enquiries, and as a result British Airways saw customer satisfaction levels more than double for travellers with accessibility needs.

British Airways also became the first and only airline to be awarded an Autism Friendly Award by the National Autistic Society and is the first airline to produce a Visual Guide to Flying to help customers prepare for their flight.

British Airways allows customers to reserve flights for £5

British Airways is offering customers looking for the best airline deals to hold their flight for up to 72 hours for as low as GBP5 through ba.com.

The facility offers customers the time to ensure that they get the best fares and are content with their flight choices before paying for them. If within 72 hours customers want to pay for their flights, the hold deposit is refunded and the ticket can be bought.

Drew Crawley, British Airways’ chief commercial officer, said: ‘There’s nothing more frustrating than seeing a great flight price but not being able to book it straight away, either because you may need to get the time off work or check it’s ok with family or friends – then coming back and finding there are no seats left or the price has changed.

‘Now customers can see the price, hold their seats and be sure that’s all they’ll pay, up to three days later.

‘Feedback from customers means we are confident that this reassurance will prove very popular and give them the time to book the flights they want and give certainty they have a great deal.’

The hold fees for the UK and Europe are £5 and EUR5 respectively for short-haul flights and £10, $10 (for those booked in the US) and EUR10 for long-haul flights. For all other currencies, the hold fee is converted from the pound sterling figure.

A joint project between British Airways and Iberia, both owned by IAG, the new hold option applies to reservations for all flights operated by British Airways, including code-sharing flights, Iberia, Iberia Express, and Air Nostrum, including any combinations of flights of British Airways and Iberia, if they are on the same ticket.

Only one person’s name is needed to hold the flights. The names of all passengers can be added within 72 hours of the booking being held.

Under the facility, seats can be held up to 21 days before departure, as according to the airlines prices will generally change most within 21 days of departure and hence would be most useful.