From Monday December 3rd, visually impaired passengers at Heathrow will have access to on-demand, personalised assistance via the Aira app. Access to this app and its established network allows passengers to enhance 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, 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 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. Chaired by disability rights advocate Roberto Castiglioni, this advisory group helps Heathrow deliver its vision to become industry leading when it comes to accessibility and inclusion. 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 recognised date that aims to celebrate and empower the 1 billion people in the world that have some form of hidden or visible disability.