British Airways to partner with Hidden Disabilities Sunflower

British Airways is partnering with Hidden Disabilities Sunflower to become the first UK airline to formally recognise the Sunflower badging.

The move comes as satisfaction among customers with accessibility needs has more than doubled after the airline’s investment in a number of initiatives, including a specialist customer care team for travellers who require additional assistance.

Customers can choose to wear a Sunflower lanyard as an indication that they may require additional support, assistance or just a little more time while travelling. The initiative forms part of the airline’s efforts to make travel simple and easy for customers with additional assistance needs.

The airline’s new partnership with Hidden Disabilities Sunflower will see the organisation’s videos embedded into British Airways’ training modules. British Airways colleagues will also have access to specialised videos via the airline’s staff intranet. Passenger travelling with the airline will be able to better receive the support, assistance and understanding they require throughout their journey.

Commenting on the new partnership, Tom Stevens, British Airways’ Director of Brand and Customer Experience, said: ‘Almost half a million customers who require additional assistance fly with British Airways each year.

We’re proud to be the first UK airline to partner with Hidden Disabilities Sunflower and are committed to doing everything we can to support customers who may need additional assistance as part of our BA Better World programme, so they can have the best possible experience when travelling with us.’

Paul White, CEO of Hidden Disabilities Sunflower said: ‘I am delighted that British Airways is the first UK airline to launch the Sunflower. As well as being supported at over 130 airports globally, people with non-visible disabilities wearing the Sunflower will now be supported on British Airways flights. This a significant step in our goal for Sunflower wearers to be confident to travel independently knowing that they will be supported when they need to be.’

The British Airways Accessibility Team can be contacted via UK freephone number 0800 408 1100 from Monday to Saturday, 09:00 to 17:00. Outside of this time, customers can leave a message and the team will respond, British Airways said.

Heathrow set to become first ‘imaginary friend friendly’ airport

London Heathrow, the UK’s hub airport, has announced plans to become the world’s first ‘imaginary friend friendly’ airport as part of its efforts to inspire youngsters and families travelling through the airport.

The move by Heathrow to extend its passenger service to imaginary friends follows new research that invisible playmates are becoming increasingly popular among young passengers. The research found an estimated 2.1 million children, or 35 per cent, in Britain have imaginary friends presently, while 68 per cent of these youngsters will take their make-believe friends with them on family holidays. Besides, over half of children – 56 percent – wish that other people would acknowledge and speak to their invisible friends.

Normand Boivin, Chief Operating Officer at Heathrow, commented: ‘We’re dedicated to continuously training our staff and investing in skills so that they can always provide the best passenger service. This is a commitment that has seen passengers recognise Heathrow as Western Europe’s best airport. However, we don’t want to rest on our laurels. We always want to encourage our staff to go further, to be creative and think of the unexpected things that could surprise and delight passengers.

‘During the summer holidays, when millions of families fly away on their holidays, it’s the little things that can help make an airport journey more fun and relaxing for both parents and children. Whether that’s free restaurant meals for kids in Heathrow’s restaurants or simply acknowledging that a child has an imaginary friend who they believe is as real as you or me – at Heathrow we have an ambition to become the friendliest family airport and to give all our passengers the best airport service in the world.’

As part of the plan to delight youngsters with imaginary friends, Heathrow has launched a staff- video guided by Chris O’Dowd, Hollywood actor and imaginary friend expert. The six-minute video – featuring the stars of Bridesmaids, IT Crowd and imaginary friend comedy Moone Boy – instructs Heathrow staff on the best ways to interact with youngsters who bring their invisible friends to the airport. The video also focuses on the various family services run by Heathrow each summer, now including imaginary friends.

With over 500,000 passengers expected to travel through Heathrow over the next four days, many parents are set to fly out of the airport with their children, Heathrow said. Friday, July 24, is expected to be the busiest day ever with 129,647 departing passengers flying out of the airport, it added.


easyJet launches new ‘Fearless Flyer’ course

easyJet, one of UK’s leading airlines, has announced the launch of seven new ‘Fearless Flyer’ courses across the UK to help nervous travellers overcome their fear of flying.

The courses are hosted by phobia expert Lawrence Leyton, star of Channel 4’s ‘Fear of Flying’, along with a senior easyJet pilot, who together explain how an aircraft works, dispel common flying myths and teach the participants a unique set of ‘mind tools’ to manage their fear, the airline said.

Starting Autumn 2014, easyJet’s Fearless Flyer course will be run at Gatwick (Sept 20-21), Belfast (Oct 10-11), Luton (Oct 18-19), Edinburgh (November 1-2), Manchester (Nov 7-8), Bristol (Nov 14-15) and Stansted (Nov 21-22). On the second day participants travel onboard a special easyJet flight to test what they learnt, with a full commentary in the air from the captain.

Peter Duffy, easyJet’s Group Commercial Director, commented: ‘We’re delighted to launch a new set of dates for the Fearless Flyer courses following its huge success over the past year and a half. The techniques and advice that participants are taught on the course are long-lasting and work for all levels of anxiety and fear – whether you’re a first-time flyer, an extreme phobic or whether you experience general anxiety and apprehension.’

‘We know that a fear of flying can really affect your life and stops many from holidaying abroad, visiting family and travelling on business trips. With a 95% success rate on our courses we’re really looking forward to helping more people transform their lives.’

Mark Wein, Director of FOF Events which organise the fearless flyer courses, said: ‘Our spring series of Fearless Flyer was a phenomenal success with sell out courses and a near perfect success rate. We’ve therefore added additional dates for the rest of the year to cater for the increase in demand we are now experiencing.’

The latest course comes as the airline celebrates helping more than 1,000 people to manage their fear of flying since launching the course in late 2012.

easyJet’s Fearless Flyer course is offered at £189, and participants may invite a companion with them on the flight if they wish, for £69.


Airline pilots over-reliant on automation and losing flying skills, coroner

With increased automation, airline pilots are becoming over-reliant on technology and are losing the basic skills for flying a plane, The Telegraph has quoted a coroner as saying.

Michael Oakley, coroner for eastern North Yorkshire, reportedly made the observation while delivering a narrative verdict into the deaths of two of the 228 passengers and crew who were killed when an Air France flight from Rio de Janeiro to Paris plummeted into the Atlantic on June 1, 2009.

‘The air disaster highlights serious public concern of whether pilots are overly dependent on technology and are not retaining the skills required to properly fly complex commercial aircraft,’ said Mr. Oakley. ‘The evidence in the official accident report highlights systematic failures and a lack of comprehension of the aircraft’s situation between the pilots during the flight,’ he said. ‘The pilots were not adequately trained to handle the aircraft safely in the particular high altitude emergency situation that night.’

An investigation following the incident, which took over two years, found that the plane had crashed because of mechanical failure in which the pitot tubes – a device used to measure fluid pressures – were blocked by ice particles. This in turn caused the autopilot to disconnect. The inability of the crew to react led to the plane stalling before plunging into the sea.

Recently the FAA, NTSB and NASA have all raised questions over whether or not technology may pose a safety issue, despite its introduction having made flying safer in many other respects. The FAA also issued a Safety Alert for Operators Warning, telling pilots to pay attention to manual flying skills to avoid becoming over-reliant on auto-flight systems. It was released six months before Asiana Flight 214 crashed at San Francisco International Airport on July 6, 2013, killing three people and leaving several injured.

In its study, Boeing found that over the last decade, the leading cause of death on commercial airlines was loss of control in flight, causing 80 accidents and 1,493 deaths. NASA used that data from Boeing for its own study and found in 46.3 percent of those accidents, inappropriate crew response and interaction with the plane’s equipment played a role in the accident.


Air tax rise to affect 6.5 million travellers

An estimated 6.5 million people are to be affected by the rise in Air Passenger Duty tax.  Travellers who have booked flights for April 2012 onwards will be forced to pay an additional fee towards their flights, even if they’re already paid for.


The decision on whether Air Passenger Duty will increase is expected to be announced at the end of this month, during the Chancellor’s Autumn Statement on November 29.


Flights taking place after April 1 are to be affected by the rise, even if the tickets for the flights were purchased before April.


Virgin Atlantic have announced several thousand passengers have already booked trips out of the UK through the airline, and may be affected by this rise.


The company have said that the increases should be introduced with a 12-month lead-in time to avoid applying these costs to passengers who have booked their flights early.


Chief Commercial Officer Julie Southern said: “We are very concerned that the Chancellor has failed to rule out retrospective rises in Air Passenger Duty”.


“Hundreds of thousands of our customers could be affected by this, and industry-wide the numbers will be greater still, with millions of people contributing tens of millions in extra payments to the Treasury’s coffers”.


She added: “UK aviation taxes are already some of the highest in the world, and a retrospective application combined with a double-inflationary increase would make matters even worse”.


Virgin have revealed if the Governments proposal goes through APD could increase to a staggering £3 billion.


The expected hikes will see an average tax increase of 10 per cent, however some journeys may experience a rise up to a third.


A survey of tour operators, hoteliers and restaurants last month has revealed that these businesses expect to see a five per cent decrease in bookings next year due to the APD rise.


APD increased by as much as 55 per cent last year on some long-haul routes, with short-haul flights increasing by 10 per cent.


If Airport Passenger Duty tax is to rise in April, this will signify the fourth APD hike in five years.


Article by Charlotte Greenhalgh