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Young and old get taste of airport life during Gatwick’s Accessibility Day

Older adults with dementia joined over 30 young families at Gatwick’s Accessibility Day on Saturday (16 Nov), so that they too had a chance to experience airport surroundings before they fly.

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Children trying out the water jet on an airport fire engine during Gatwick's Accessibility Day.

Travelling through an airport can be challenging for people with a disability and the Gatwick Accessibility Days are designed to make it easier, by letting those who attend experience various airport processes and environments ahead of their journey.

Young person and crew member in the cockpit of an easyJet aircraft during Gatwick’s Accessibility Open Day

People who took part replicated ‘checking in’, rode on assistance buggies, met trained security dogs and the police, passed through security and watched the x-ray machines in action.

Family beside airport fire engine as it shows off water jet during Gatwick’s Accessibility Open Day

To ensure a genuine experience – for the first time – both long and short haul aircraft were made available for the day, with British Airways providing a long-haul aircraft and easyJet a short-haul plane. 

Families and older people enjoying Virgin’s V-room during Accessibility Open Day

Virgin Atlantic also gave visitors access to their V-Room for people to relax in and enjoy refreshments.  TUI also let guests check in at their desks and staff from the airline also escorted visitor’s airside and through security so that they were then able to experience being onboard the aircraft.

Familes trying out BA long haul aircraft during Gatwick’s Accessibility Open Day

Other volunteers from across the airport also helped to run the event in the airport’s North Terminalincluding staff from Gatwick’s security, terminal and special assistance teams, the police, the fire service, surface transport team and Border Force officials.

Anyone who requires assistance when travelling through Gatwick should book this with their airline who will then pass the information to the airport’s special assistance team.

Jack Bigglestone Silk, Accessibility Manager, Gatwick Airport, said:

Im so proud to be part of Gatwick’s Accessibility Day and the way that all our partners come together to give up their time and make it such a special event. 

“The feedback is always very positive and we know that the event is effective and helps to make peoples’ journey less challenging and more relaxing when they come to travel through the airport for real. “

Alison Greenwood, British Airways’ Customer Service Manager Gatwick, said:

“We are delighted to have worked with Gatwick Airport on this fantastic initiative. More than half a million customer who require additional assistance travel with British Airways each year and we are committed to providing a seamless travel experience.

“Our team were pleased to invite visitors to board one of our aircraft and help them familiarise themselves ahead of their next trip and we look forward to welcoming them on board again soon.”

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

“I am delighted that easyJet has supported this event designed to help people experience various airport and airline processes and make it easier for them when they fly with us. We carry thousands of customers every day who require assistance and we understand it can be challenging for them so we continually strive to make their experience as easy as it can be.

“It was great to be able supply one of our aircraft for the day and give people an opportunity to meet our well- trained staff, ready to assist those who may have a disability or simply require any kind of additional assistance and support.”

To encourage people with a disability to travel, Gatwick has also published new videos that show the journey through the airport from the perspective of someone in a wheelchair and someone who is partially sighted. 

Gatwick was the first airport to introduce a hidden disability lanyard scheme – something that all UK airports have introduced since – and was also the first UK airport to open a sensory room.  The airport has also invested £2 million in a ‘premium-style’ lounge for passengers with reduced mobility and places a particular emphasis on training, with all passenger-facing staff taught to recognise a range of hidden disabilities.

Education

Two hundred local pupils attend Eco summit at Crawley school

The Gatwick sponsored ‘Eco, Young, and Engaged’ (EYE) conference saw eight local schools and 200 pupils from Crawley and Horsham attend Ifield Community College on Monday to get a practical understanding of the environment and the importance of sustainability.

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Aged between six and seventeen, pupils chose between 13 workshops where they could learn about making their own compost and the wildlife within it, and about the effect that different clothing materials have on the environment and therefore which ones are more sustainable to buy and wear.

Other workshops included practical team challenges on how to upcycle (reuse) everyday items – such as using old milk bottles as planters for herbs – and how to harness the power of both wind turbines and solar panels to generate electricity.

The conference is part of the wider EYE campaign which seeks to bring schools in West Sussex together to focus on the importance of caring for our planet – to promote sustainability and encourage young people’s interest in environmental issues.

Gatwick’s Head of Sustainability, Rachel Thompson, gave an introductory talk on what sustainability is and its importance for protecting the environment.  She also discussed Gatwick’s ‘Decade of Change’ report, which tracks the airport’s progress on ten sustainability targets set over a ten year period (2010 to 2020), and explained how Gatwick’s buildings and fleet are carbon neutral.

The sponsorship of the conference is part of Gatwick’s wider community engagement programme which aims to make lasting and positive impacts to local communities and young people. Gatwick is also partnering with 15 local schools as part of the Primary Engineer programme to help schools teach STEM-based subjects in a more relatable and practical way to inspire more students to study the subjects.

Rachel Thompson, Head of Sustainability, Gatwick Airport said:

“It was great to see the enthusiasm of the students and hear their excellent questions and ideas. We hope today’s event will inspire more eco school projects and also encourage more students to consider studying STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) subjects and pursuing careers in sustainability.”

Irram Ali, Ifield Community College Eco Lead, said:

“It was an honour to have been able to host the first Eco-Summit in Crawley. At Ifield Community College we are focused on encouraging our students to proactively engage with environmental issues and this was an excellent opportunity for such engagement to take place. All students were passionate and enthused and will hopefully implement some of their new knowledge in our local schools and community.”

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