Gatwick is the airport for everyone. We aim to be the UK’s most accessible airport, putting the needs of every passenger first and giving everybody an equal opportunity to fly.
Gatwick is passionate about creating a great experience for everyone who travels through our airport, regardless of their circumstances. We know airports can be a stressful experience and present challenges for many people and our services aim to assist all passengers on their journey through Gatwick.
We have taken a leading position to further our ambition to be the UK’s most accessible airport. The services we provide for passengers needing special assistance are comprehensive and we are recognised for our work in this field.
Leading the way
We were the first airport in the UK to introduce a Hidden Disability Lanyard alongside OCS, our previous special assistance provider. This was designed to increase our support for passengers with autism, dementia and other hidden disabilities. Since we introduced the lanyard over 8,000 passengers have requested one when travelling through the airport. The lanyard provides staff with a discreet signal that passengers, their families or carers may require additional assistance when travelling. It is entirely voluntary and can be collected free of charge from any of Gatwick’s assistance desks.
Following Gatwick’s lead, the hidden disability lanyard has been rolled out at 13 UK airports. A number of other airports across the world are also considering launching lanyard schemes of their own.
Around 11% of the UK population has a hidden disability and it is thought that approximately 7% of the UK population potentially avoids air travel because of a hidden disability.
Collaborative working and consultation
Gatwick aims to be the most accessible airport in the UK and as part of achieving this goal, we engage with a broad range of disability groups and charities. Some of work is described below:
Alzheimer’s Society and Dementia Friends
We have worked in partnership with the Alzheimer’s Society to create and roll-out a Gatwick specific Dementia Friends awareness package for our staff. By the end of 2018 all 2000 of our security and terminal team staff will be Dementia Friends through the sessions and in January this year alone, 500 of our staff attended a session. This means that our frontline staff now know how to recognise the needs of passengers with Alzheimers and those of their travelling companions.
Royal National Institute for the Blind (RNIB)
We have been working with the RNIB to develop a training package for our airport security teams. Through the use of special virtual reality headsets which simulate different visual impairments, we have been able to better understand the needs of these passengers as they travel through Gatwick. Alongside staff training, this work has also helped to influence improvements to facilities within the terminal, for example, signage and wayfinding, flooring, check-in screen, travellators and escalators.
National Autistic Society
Gatwick has been recognised by the National Autistic Society as a leader in innovative solutions for passengers. This is in recognition for our work to introduce the hidden disability lanyard, as well as our plans for new facilities at the airport, such as a sensory room. We work with the charity and consult with them on a number of issues to make sure that we are providing the right assistance.
We are proud to have been awarded the status of an Autism Friendly Airport for the second year running.
Crawley Autism Support
Working closely with this local support group, we are able to reach 800 families across Surrey and Sussex. Our relationship with Crawley Autism Support helps us with autism awareness training here at the airport. We also plan and hold airport accessibility days for local families who are invited to Gatwick to familiarise themselves with the airport environment. We have appointed a local Autism Ambassador who is the chair of this group and offers a wealth of first hand advice to help us improve the facilities and services we offer.
These are just some of the local and national groups that we work with. Other charities include:
- Guide Dogs for the Blind: we offer valuable airport experience for trainee puppies
- Crohn’s & Colitis UK: we developed improved toilet signage to recognise hidden disabilities like these
- West Sussex ADHD: we work closely with this local charity to support the challenges and needs of parents travelling with ADHD children
- Action for Deafness: this charity has been instrumental in helping train our frontline staff to understand the challenges of travelling with a hearing disability. To date we have trained over 100 staff with plans to roll this out further.
External stakeholder groups
We regularly engage with regulatory agencies, trade bodies and Government departments on the topic of accessible travel. This enables us to share and learn from best practice across the industry, and also ensure Gatwick is represented in the formation of regulation and legislation.
Gatwick already consults with a number of groups about airport operations, including the Passenger Action Group (PAG) and the Gatwick Airport Consultative Committee (GATCOM). Find out more about engagement and governance.
The Community Forum is a new consultation group which originally started as part of our Autism Friendly status. This group engages with the local community to develop new initiatives at the airport that will make a difference to passengers with any type of accessibility challenge. The group meets quarterly and is made up of local support groups and national charity representatives. The structure of this group and how it reports to organisations like PAG and Gatcom is currently under review.
We believe that the best way to plan for future improvements and shape our thinking is by listening to our consumers and our charity collaborators with regard to service delivery standards, innovation technology, training and awareness.
Accessibility Government Consultation
Gatwick is an active member of the Air Transport Group, set up in 2015 from David Cameron’s Dementia Challenge Group. The airport works with the membership, which includes people with dementia, their carers, health professionals, aviation industry representatives, academics and charities, to strive towards the common aim: To improve flight experiences and enable people living with dementia, and their carers, to continue to fly for as long as possible in an inclusive environment.
Over the past year the airport has submitted consultation responses to the Department for Transport's (DfT) Draft Accessibility Action Plan. We will also be involved in the consultation process of the Government's Aviation Strategy, which will draw on the DfT's Accessibility Action Plan.