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40 local families get a taste of airport life at Gatwicks biggest ever Accessibility Day

Travelling through an airport can be challenging if you have a disability and 40 families and carers attended Gatwick’s biggest ever Accessibility Day this weekend (17 November) to get a taste of airport processes before they fly.



Thanks to easyJet, an aircraft was made available for the first time during an Accessibility Day so that families, their children and carers could experience boarding and sitting in the interior of an aeroplane.

Virgin Atlantic also provided their private V-Lounge for the families to relax and enjoy refreshments. While ‘airside’ the tours also visited Gatwick’s new sensory room which offers a relaxing, private and fully interactive environment to calm passengers who may feel overwhelmed in busy and unfamiliar airport surroundings.

Representatives from across the airport helped to run the event in the airport’s North terminal including staff from airlines such as Virgin Atlantic, easyJet and TUI, Gatwick’s security, terminal and special assistance teams, the police, the fire service, surface transport team and Border Force officials.

Families taking part could also replicate ‘checking in’, ride on assistance buggies, meet trained security dogs and the police, and watch the x-ray machines in action.

The Accessibility Day comes in the week that the 2000th member of staff working on the airport campus became a Dementia Friend – the Alzheimer’s Society’s initiative to transform the way the nation thinks, acts and talks about the condition.

Anyone who requires assistance when travelling through Gatwick is encouraged to contact the airport’s special assistance team or their airline.

Sara Marchant, from Gatwick Airport coordinated the event and said:

“The feedback we get from families is fantastic and shows that the Accessibility Day really helps make their journey more enjoyable and relaxing when they come to travel through the airport for real.

“So many people from organisations across the airport come together to make this event happen and I would like to thank everyone for helping to make it such a success. I was also delighted to welcome visitors from other UK airports to the event as it is important we all learn from each other to help make our passengers’ journeys are as enjoyable as possible.”

Celine McGuigan, Accessibility and Assistance Manager, easyJet, said:

“At easyJet we want to provide an enjoyable and seamless travel experience for all our customers, including those with accessibility needs. This is why we set up ESAAG, our Special Assistance Advisory Group, in 2012, so it could provide guidance and advice to us on the services provided to passengers who require assistance.

The group is chaired by Lord David Blunkett and is made up of experts in disability issues and accessible travel. We are pleased to be part of the Accessibility Day to give people the opportunity to find out more about what support they can get from Gatwick Airport and easyJet when travelling.”


Henry Smith MP: Reforming Air Passenger Duty

In his article this week Crawley MP Henry Smith talks about reforming air passenger duty to boost trade.



One way for MPs to raise issues in Westminster is through All-Party Parliamentary Groups. These Groups typically contain members of the Commons and the Lords, and include parliamentarians from across the political spectrum.

I recently established and was elected to chair a new APPG on Air Passenger Duty Reform, which seeks to encourage the UK Government to cut the rate of Air Passenger Duty (APD).

While the Government confirmed at the October 2018 Budget that short-haul APD rates will not rise for the eighth year in a row, keeping costs down for 80 per cent of passengers, there remains more to be done.

With the Band B long-haul rate scheduled to rise by £16 on 1st April 2019, reforming APD will help the UK compete on a level playing field with our European counterparts, boosting tourism, trade, jobs and growth.

The UK APD rate is the highest tax of its kind in the world. It is twice as high as the next highest, Germany. On long-haul flights it currently adds £78 to an economy ticket.

As we leave the European Union and look to forge a new identity for ourselves in the world as a global nation, it is critical we have a tax system that reflects that ambition.

With Gatwick Airport in the Crawley boundary, a significant reduction in the UK’s APD rate would signal to the world that Britain is open for business.

Henry Smith MP

Crawley Constituency

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