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Gatwick becomes first UK airport to open sensory room for departing passengers

New, free to use facility provides a calming space for passengers with special needs to relax in before their flight.

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

The new space in the North Terminal has been designed for passengers with autism, dementia, cognitive impairment or other special needs who would benefit from a designated place to help them feel at ease before their flight.

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Passengers using the sensory room have the option to transform it from a calming and relaxing environment to a stimulating interactive space full of light and sound with just 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.

Activities to experience in the room include:

  • Catherine Wheel Panel – colour and sound displays including firework effects
  • Abstract Tactile Panels – raised and recessed fluid shapes in contrasting textures
  • Colour Match Panel – classical music, mood lighting, and game to improve memory, colour recognition and motor skills
  • Sound to Light Showtime – sounds converted into a dazzling light show of colour
  • Waterless Rainbow Tube – colour wheel with both calming and stimulating effects
  • Interactive Giant Causeway – step on each segment to activate colourful lights
  • Activity Board – activities encouraging motor movement, coordination and sensory skills
  • Infinity and Beyond Panel – visual and auditory effects using range of shapes, sounds, patterns and speeds

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 they’ve gone through security.

The desk is part of a new airline lounge style area, which opened earlier this year for passengers who require special assistance – one of the biggest of its kind in any European airport.

The special assistance area has capacity to seat up to 90 people and has been designed with a premium lounge feel, providing bespoke chairs and soft furnishings to provide a quiet, calm environment for passengers to relax in before their flight.

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.”

Chief Executive of the National Autistic Society, Mark Lever, said:

“There are around 700,000 autistic people in the UK and they and their families want to access the same opportunities others often take for granted, and this includes holidays and travel. But many rely on routines to make sense of an often confusing world and can find the busy and unpredictable airport and flight environments distressing and disorientating.

This is why we were delighted that London Gatwick, who achieved our prestigious Autism Friendly Award in 2016, have gone a step further and created a fantastic new sensory room for autistic travellers. A calming space like this can help autistic people to decompress and relax before departure, helping them to better manage their anxiety during the flight. Supportive spaces like these play an essential role in opening up the world for autistic people and their families.”

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.

“To have somewhere like this to explore and reduce anxieties before boarding a flight for someone with Autism, Dementia, a learning difficulty to name but a few conditions, is so important for the person themselves, their carers and accompanying family and it could very well make the difference between someone actually getting on the plane or not at all because it had become too stressful.”

Gatwick

New COVID-19 screening service launches at Gatwick Airport

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Gatwick Airport andExpressTest (a division of Cignpost Diagnostics Limited) has today announced the opening of a brand-new COVID-19 screening centre. 

The site, located within the airport’s Long Stay Car Park at the South Terminal, will offer a fast and accurate and lab-analysed PCR swab test.  It will be available for both passengers, employees based at Gatwick and the general public, including local residents, from Monday, 30th November.  

The facility is for air passengers who may require a valid, negative COVID-19 test certificate for destinations requiring one from up to 96 hours before travel, with passengers needing to check with travel providers that the test meets the specific requirements destinations ask for. 

It will also help those who may simply want extra assurance that they are not currently carrying the virus. 

The facility could also, with any necessary amendments, satisfy requirements of the Government’s expected “test and release” post arrival scheme allowing air passengers to reduce quarantine time required after travelling back from certain destinations.  Anyone with recognisable COVID-19 symptoms will still need to use an NHS testing facility. 

Air passengers and any employees based at Gatwick Airport will be charged a subsidised rate of £60 to use the screening service, whilst it will also be available for the general public for £99. 

A group discount is also offered, with up to 30% off for groups of four or more, for those who are having the full priced test.

Stewart Wingate, Chief Executive Officer, Gatwick Airport, said:

“Reducing the spread of COVID-19 is a priority for us alongside giving confidence to so many people who have missed travelling during this difficult year.  Our new screening facility is also a convenient service to offer people in the region looking for extra reassurance.  We are pleased to be subsidising the price for our passengers and any staff based at Gatwick so they are compliant with current destination requirements that many of airlines including easyJet, British Airways and TUI fly to.

“Our industry has been decimated by the pandemic and, while we welcome the anticipated  “test and release” scheme from the Government, we want to see an internationally agreed pre-departure testing regime, based on existing risk criteria, to replace the current uncertainty of quarantine and patchwork of testing approaches which currently exists across Europe.  A truly international approach would safely open up most of the UK’s travel routes abroad, while also helping to reduce transmission of the virus.”

ExpressTest Founder Nick Markham said:

“We are delighted to be Gatwick airport’s official screening partner.  We launched ExpressTest to give people peace of mind, whether that’s enabling

travel through our Fit to Fly certificates, or providing the reassurance needed to safely visit friends and family abroad or within the UK.  In the next couple of months we aim to have more than 30 locations operating across the UK, with the ambition of giving the British public the confidence to go about their daily lives in these uncertain times.” 

According to a press release, ExpressTest is delivered using the latest gold standard PCR equipment that is fully CE-IVD certified and manufactured to the highest possible standards, and tests are carried out by specially trained screening practitioners.  

The lab-analysed test results will be emailed or texted to customers typically the next day, with airline passengers advised to schedule a test 48-96 hours prior to their departure time, as a precaution.  Those who screen negative will be emailed a Fit to Fly certificate that is authorised by a doctor, along with their test result, however passengers will be responsible for checking with their travel provider as to whether this document is accepted before booking the screening service. 

Bookings open from Friday, 27th November, with the first test available on Monday, 30th November.

To book a test, people will need to visit www.expresstest.co.uk and select a date and time.  Customers will then be sent a QR code which they must bring with them to their appointment, along with their passport or employee ID. 

Payment will be taken during the booking process. 

Opening hours are 08.00 to 20.00 and customers are asked to arrive 15 minutes prior to appointments.

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