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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.

Business

Crawley MP Henry Smith launches aviation recovery plan

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Crawley MP and Future of Aviation Group Chair Henry Smith has launched the Group’s Aviation Recovery Plan to support the sector through the devastating effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Henry said;

“I’ve established and Chair the Future of Aviation Group, a cross-party coalition of MPs supporting the sector and urging the Government to take further action to assist this world-class industry.

“While Government deserves credit for stepping in and furloughing around 44,000 airline employees, it’s clear that the aviation sector needs further support for its employees.

“With Gatwick Airport in our borough boundary I’ve been clear that aviation’s recovery is not only about flights and trade, but what this vital sector means to hard-working families and whose employees have, in many cases, given significant periods of their lives to their careers.

“For their security we’re calling for a sector-specific extension of the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme.

“I’m asking the Transport Secretary and his Cabinet colleagues to support the Future of Aviation Group’s Aviation Recovery Plan, which has protecting jobs and supporting businesses at its heart.”

The points included in the plan are;

    1: Introduce COVID-19 testing

    2: Introduce regional travel corridors

    3: An employment support package to March 2021

    4: Support the green recovery

    5: Take action on business rates

    6: Temporary suspension of Air Passenger Duty

    7: Support for UK travel inbound tourism

    8: Absorption of CAA/NATS charges for 2020-21

    9: Airspace modernisation

    10: Bring forward public procurement and accelerate public investment

Henry continued;

“It’s estimated that it could take a number of years to get international travel figures up to 2019 levels. We’ve heard the warnings, and it is time for action.

“The scale of the challenges encountered by the aviation, travel and tourism sectors would have been unimaginable only six months ago.

“Through the adoption of these and other policy recommendations being made by the Future of Aviation Group, the Government can reduce the scale of disruption of COVID-19 on this important industry for Crawley and UK-wide.”

The Future of Aviation Group’s Aviation Recovery Plan can be read here

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