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Tue, 11 Dec 2018

London Heathrow Improves Service for Visually Impaired

Visually impaired passengers at Heathrow now have access to on-demand, personalised assistance via an app.

 The Aira app, available free of charge, will connect passengers directly to a trained professional agent for advice on navigating through Heathrow and assist with finding specific locations – including gates, special assistance facilities, retail outlets and restaurants. It will also provide live information on news affecting their journeys.

 The app can be accessed by pre-loading it on mobile phones and an agent will be available to provide guided assistance on demand upon arrival at Heathrow. Alternatively, passengers can also pre-book special assistance through their airline and seek information on the app at the same time.

The Aira app, available free of charge, will connect passengers directly to a trained professional agent for advice on navigating through Heathrow and assist with finding specific locations – including gates, special assistance facilities, retail outlets and restaurants. It will also provide live information on news affecting their journeys. Picture by Steven Howard of TravelNewsAsia.com Click to enlarge.

The number of passengers requesting special assistance at Heathrow is rising by approximately 8% each year, with over one million requests in 2017 alone – more than any other European airport.

Jonathan Coen, Director of Customer Relations and Service at Heathrow said, “We are transforming the assistance service we provide to our passengers and empowering them to be as independent as possible when they are travelling through Heathrow. We have already invested Ł23 million in an upgraded contract with our special assistance partner, OmniServ, and introducing new equipment, training and technology to help improve our service. Aira takes us one step further – and will deliver a better travel experience for the 6,000 passengers each year that would otherwise feel less independent and less prepared when they begin their journey via Heathrow.”

The suite of new initiatives follows feedback by passengers and guidance from the Heathrow Accessibility Advisory Group. Chaired by disability rights advocate Roberto Castiglioni. The UK’s Civil Aviation Authority has acknowledged the steps Heathrow has made in improving its service for people with disabilities, and restored the airport’s ranking to a “good” following a “poor” rating last year. 

Heathrow worked closely with the advocacy group Guide Dogs for the blind, whose Engagement Officer, Clive Wood said, “Guide Dogs are delighted to see the introduction of the Aira app at Heathrow. Initiatives such as this will be of great benefit to many blind and partially sighted people who wish to travel independently. We certainly welcome the proactive approach being taken by Heathrow Airport to introduce a range of information and support to disabled passengers including those with sight loss. We often hear from our clients that using all forms of transport can be a stressful experience. This is why we are working with Heathrow to help take the stress out of air travel.”

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