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Gatwick’s Accessibility Day helps to make the airport ‘a less scary place’ for those with hidden disabilities

Currently around 19% of the UK population have a disability and 11% a hidden disability. As much as 7% of the UK population is thought to avoid air travel because of a disability.

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Photo: Tony Pick Photography

Airports can be challenging, confusing environments and more than 40 local families with a family member who has a hidden disability – and their carers – attended Gatwick on Sunday (8 April) for an event designed to make airports feel like ‘a less scary place’.

Held in the North Terminal, Gatwick’s Accessibility Day helped to familiarise people with a hidden disability – and their families and carers – with the sights and sounds of an airport so they have a practical overview of airport processes before they travel.

To simulate the airport environment Sunday’s event included:

• Staff from airlines – Virgin Atlantic and TUI – taking families through the check in process
• Gatwick’s Special Assistance Services team, Wilson James, providing buggy rides
• Gatwick staff taking families through the security process in a fun and relaxed way
• Border Force officials introducing some of their search dogs
• Police officers and a fire engine were also on hand to replicate the entire airport experience

Currently around 19% of the UK population have a disability and 11% a hidden disability. As much as 7% of the UK population is thought to avoid air travel because of a disability.

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Gatwick is aiming to be the most accessible airport in the UK and is currently engaging with a broad range of disability groups to help ensure that the airport makes its services accessible for everyone.

Nikki Barton, Head of Terminals, Gatwick Airport, said:

“Our Accessibility Days have proved very popular and I would like to thank all those who gave up their Sunday to make it happen. Feedback suggests that families find these events a very useful and practical way of making the airport feel like a less scary place before they travel.

“Events like this are also a great way of hearing about what our passengers find useful or would like to see at Gatwick to make their journey more pleasant and less stressful. We know that we will not get it right all of the time, but we are determined to keep talking to disability groups and passengers to encourage more feedback and develop new learning mechanisms to help us constantly improve our accessibility services, facilities and training.”

Maria Cook, Gatwick’s Autism Ambassador, said:

“I would like to thank everyone from organisations across the airport who volunteered their free time to be part of our latest Accessibility Day.

“I am extremely proud to be involved in events like these and to have played a part helping Gatwick to become the first UK airport to be accredited as Autism Friendly and retain its accreditation for the second year running. An important part of the accreditation processes was introducing a Hidden Disability Lanyard and it’s extremely encouraging to hear that airports from across the world are contacting Gatwick for information to help them introduce the lanyard schemes of their own.”

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727 easyJet pilots jobs at risk of redundancy as airline proposes closing bases at three UK airports

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BALPA, the trade union representing its UK-based pilots, says that easyJet has today informed them that 727 of their pilots are at risk of redundancy.

In addition, the airline is also proposing to completely close its bases at Stansted, Southend and Newcastle airports.

The potential job loss would see almost 1-in3 easyJet pilots lose their jobs in the UK.

 In November 2019 easyJet acquired Thomas Cook’s slots at Gatwick Airport (12 summer slot pairs and 8 winter slot pairs) and Bristol Airport (6 summer slot pairs and one winter slot pair) for £36 million.

Brian Strutton, BALPA General Secretary, said:

“We know that aviation is in the midst of the COVID crisis and we had been expecting easyJet to make an announcement of temporary measures to help the airline through to recovery.

“But this seems an excessive over-reaction and easyJet won’t find a supply of pilots waiting to come back when the recovery takes place over the next two years. easyJet paid £174m out to shareholders, got agreements to furlough staff to protect cash, got £600m from the Government, has boasted of having £2.4bn in liquidity, and ticket sales are going through the roof so fast they cannot get pilots back off furlough quickly enough – so why the panic? It doesn’t add up. We are meeting easyJet today and we will be fighting to save every single job.

“This is more evidence that aviation in the U.K. is caught in a death spiral of despair and individual airlines are flailing around without direction. BALPA repeats its call for Government to step in, provide a strategy and back a moratorium on job losses while all stakeholders sort out an holistic way forward for the whole aviation sector.”

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