Blind and partially sighted passengers at Gatwick airport can now call a trained agent 24 hours a day for free support via an app called Aira.
The agent can guide the passenger through the airport, help them read documents or find the right bag on the luggage carousel just by using the camera on the passenger’s mobile phone.
The system is being trialled for six months at Gatwick in partnership with the airport’s biggest airline, easyJet, which is helping to fund the trial to improve accessibility for blind and partially sighted passengers. The service can however be used by passengers flying with any airline at Gatwick.
Twelve thousand passengers a year notify Gatwick that they are blind or partially sighted. These passengers can now download and register through the Aira app in advance. During the trial, passengers can also sign in as a “guest” without registering when entering the airport.
The Aira app is available for both Android and Apple smartphones and has been designed to be simple to use. Through the app, trained agents can help passengers to find boarding gates, shops, restaurants, special assistance facilities and more.
Gatwick has an ongoing working partnership with the RNIB to help ensure that the airport has appropriate processes and services in place to help blind and visually impaired passengers at the airport.
Marc Powell, Strategic Relationships Executive at RNIB, said:
We know that an airport is a challenging environment for lots of people, let alone blind and partially sighted people. We are pleased Gatwick are proactively looking at potential solutions to aid and assist passengers and look forward to hearing people’s feedback about Aira.”
Gatwick was the first airport to introduce a hidden disability lanyard – a discreet signifier to staff that the person wearing it has a hidden disability and may need a little extra help – and all major UK, and several international, airports have introduced the lanyard since.
Gatwick engages with a broad range of disability groups to help ensure that the airport makes its services accessible for everyone. New facilities at the airport include the UK’s first airport sensory room and a new £2 million airline lounge for passengers who require special assistance – one of the biggest of its kind in any European airport.
Gatwick recently won “Excellence in Transport Accessibility” at the 2019 London Transport Awards.
Gatwick also hosts regular Accessibility Days to help new passengers get used to airport surroundings before the travel. Visit Gatwick’s Special Assistance web pages to find out more.