easyJet partners with Aerobility to offer special flight to experience Northern Lights

easyJet, the UK-based European regional airline, has said that it is partnering with disabled flying charity Aerobility to host an exclusive ‘Aurora Flight’, providing passengers the opportunity to experience the splendour of the Northern Lights at 30,000 feet.

The flight will be the first Northern Lights experience that the airline and charity have operated since the pandemic. The airline has previously enabled hundreds of passengers to enjoy amazing views of the ‘Aurora Borealis’ from the sky over the past 8 years.

The ‘Aurora’ flight from London Gatwick will be operated on February 18, 2023, and includes a two-course meal at Gatwick Sofitel Hotel, pre-departure presentations and inflight commentary from special guests including Sky at Night presenter Pete Lawrence and Aurora experts from the British Antarctic Survey, as well as entertainment and refreshments onboard.

Mike Miller Smith, CEO at the charity said: ‘We exist to change lives by providing anyone, with any disability with access to the magic and wonder of flight. We do this because taking the controls of an aircraft drives a focus on capability and encourages our flyers to ask the question ‘If I can fly an aeroplane, what else can I do?’

‘This makes everything else in life feel that little bit more achievable, whilst offering the ultimate feeling of freedom and escape from restrictions of disability.’

‘The Aurora Flight with easyJet means so much to Aerobility and those we look after. Not only does it provide a life-changing experience on the night, but it also funds many more life-changing flights at Aerobility, of course with our aircraft being just slightly smaller. We can’t thank everyone at easyJet and all the other companies that make the Aurora Flight possible enough.’

easyJet’s Captain Chris Foster, Aurora flight pilot, said: ‘We are incredibly proud to be able to offer this special Northern Lights flight once again and it is an honour to support Aerobility and the wonderful work they do. I would encourage anyone to book what is sure to be a fantastic flight that not only offers a unique experience but also contributes to a very worthwhile cause.’

Tickets can be booked £349 per person, with discounted rates available for disabled flyers, carers and children. The funds raised from the Aurora Flight will support disabled flying at Aerobility.

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.’

Heathrow releases new guide for disabled passengers

Heathrow Airport has released a new guide for disabled passengers as part of efforts to improve their air travel experiences.

The guide, a passport-sized leaflet, presents the services that disabled people – people with reduced mobility and their families – can expect from airlines, travel companies and airports. It also offers legal advice and key tips for a smooth journey, covering areas such as assistance dogs, accessibility, getting mobility and other essential equipment for on board and seating arrangements.

Heathrow, which has over 90,000 passengers requiring special assistance travelling through its terminals, already provides enhanced changing facilities and refined processes for reuniting the passengers with their wheelchairs. The new guide is a further step to ensure that passengers are equipped with the right information, and are fully prepared for their journey.

Paralympian winner Lord Chris Holmes MBE, who is also Disability Commissioner at the Equality and Human Rights Commission, said: ‘Dignity and respect are values we all share, yet too many disabled travellers have experienced the opposite. Airports are complicated places to navigate. Accurate and succinct information is key for passengers who require assistance.

This new guidance is another way to help make journeys as smooth as possible – from the outset when booking flights or holidays all the way through to returning home.’

Mark Hicks, Head of Customer Relations at Heathrow said: ‘Over 90,000 passengers with reduced mobility travel through Heathrow per month and we strive to meet each person’s needs. More than a million pounds has been invested in specific facilities to make their journeys as smooth as possible, such as a new bespoke changing facility in Terminal 5.’

Written by the Equality and Human Rights Commission, the guide has been developed in association with the Civil Aviation Authority and endorsed by the Department of Transport and other travel organisations. It will be distributed through airport, travel companies and organisations working with disabled people.


VisitEngland helps businesses to promote disabled access

VisitEngland, the body responsible for promoting tourism in the nation, has announced the launch of an online guide to advise businesses that are directly involved in receiving tourists, on strategies for marketing and promoting the facilities that they have for disabled visitors.

Called Speak Up!, the guide is particularly focussed on helping businesses to promote their disabled access, and provides information and advice on a broad range of marketing possibilities, including promotional literature and social media exposure. The guide’s ultimate aim is to help these frontline businesses obtain their share of the market for catering for disabled clients, which is estimated to be worth £2 billion per annum.

Disabled people account for nearly 17 percent of the population in the UK, and that percentage is growing faster than ever before as a consequence of the steady rise in life expectancy and the ailments associated with an aging population. Speak Up! intends to provide an all-inclusive source of information for all business establishments that want to benefit from this expanding marketplace. Accommodation providers and attraction operators are among those businesses that will find helpful information on public relations matters, pricing incentives, holiday listings utilising a range of media, and the benefits of developing relationships with specialist tour operators.

VisitEngland’s head of business support, Ross Calladine, commented, ‘There is a multitude of promotional channels available for businesses to reach the valuable accessible tourism market. Speak Up! aims to make sense of these, helping tourism businesses to effectively communicate with disabled people – who spend over £2billion a year on overnight trips in England.’

Maine resort provides services to physically challenged

While the majority of resorts make a point of taking care of their physically challenged guests by providing them with additional services, a resort in Maine has been running a programme that has been helping handicapped people to enjoy the thrill of physically-demanding sports.

The resort, Sunday River, in Maine, has been adapting to the needs of disabled people who want to ski. The resort has adapted its facilities to the changing needs of various kinds of skiers, and it is now commonplace to see people of all abilities skiing in the area. Even those with severe disabilities, like blindness, have been able to ski in the resort, thanks to programmes that are specifically designed to assist them. The area’s skiing programme has been adapted to the needs of skiers of all abilities for more than three decades.

Judy Sullivan of Maine Adaptive Sports and Recreation, said, ‘It serves so many people in so many ways. It’s not just a physical activity, it’s a social activity, a family type program. Once you’re here, you feel like family. You have lots of friends, lots of support. Cancer, amputee, MS, muscular dystrophy, spinal cord injuries, visual impairments, hearing impairments, the range is huge.’

The programme, Maine Adaptive (maineadaptive.org), which is available at the resort, relies on the services of more than 400 volunteers and a roster of approximately 300 skiers. They advise and assist skiers who are disabled. However, disabled skiers that wish to enrol need to obtain their doctor’s consent.

Organisers are offering the cost of the lift pass, lessons, equipment and even some items of specialised ski clothing, free of charge. Skiers do, however, have to arrange for their own hotel accommodation, and with the resort becoming so popular with people of different abilities, several properties in the area have rooms that are accessible to the physically challenged.


National Express Celebrates Buoyant Sales of Disabled Coach Card

National Express, a UK based transport company, has reported selling around 10,000 of its Disabled Coachcard in its initial year.

The Coachcard was launched in October 2012, offering passengers with limited mobility a discount of around 30 percent on coach travel, and is available for a price of £10 a year. The card is not limited to the time or the day of travel, and has become a hit with the passengers that are suffering from disabilities.

The card was introduced after the UK government ended concessionary travel for disabled people.

The company accessibility manager, Mark Hollis, said, ‘We are really pleased about how successful our Disabled Coachcard has been over the last year. Ten thousand sales is a really important milestone for us. The passenger lifts are not only for passengers who use wheelchairs, as people with reduced mobility can also benefit from the lifts too.’

The company is offering improved access coaches with easy-access lifts, and intends to transform its fleet to become fully wheelchair accessible by early 2013. The coach operators also offer assistance and support for boarding and leaving the coach to customers with limited mobility.

The company has recently been awarded the Listed Company Turnaround Award, at the annual Institute for Turnaround (IFT) awards, for its transformation from being in considerable financial difficulty to strong financial health, recording profits and offering job security.

Christine Elliott, the chief executive of the Institute for Turnaround, said, ‘National Express is a shining example of a business with great potential being brought back from the brink by implementing the key skills that all of our members use time and again. Such businesses play a vital role in both the national and local economy and it is important that they are supported in their efforts to turn their businesses around.’