6,000 Blind and visually impaired passengers that travel through Heathrow each year will now have access to on-demand, personalized assistance via the free of charge Aira app.
Passengers can access on demand assistance on their mobile phones
Access to this app and its established network allows passengers to regain their independence throughout the journey at Heathrow and forms part of the airport’s multi-million pound investments to improve the journeys of all passengers regardless of their requirements.
The app, which is available free of charge, will connect passengers directly to a trained professional agent for advice on navigating through Heathrow and help on 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 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. Heathrow is taking proactive steps to transform the service it provides for these passengers, backed by an investment of £23 million in a revamped, upgraded contract with its special assistance partner, OmniServ.
Last year, the airport launched the use of the ‘SignLive’ app which connects passengers to trained British Sign Language translators on demand, before and after their travel through Heathrow.
The suite of new initiatives follows feedback by passengers and guidance from the Heathrow Accessibility Advisory Group. The 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.
The launch of the Aira app at Heathrow coincides with International Day of Persons with Disabilities. First launched by the United Nations in 1992, the day is now a globally recognized date that aims to celebrate and empower the 1 billion people in the world that have some form of hidden or visible disability.
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.”