Gatwick has introduced free 24-hour assistance for visually impaired passengers through an app.
The app from US company Aira allows users to connect with a human agent who can provide flight information, directions and live guidance via the phone’s camera.
The agent could also help the user find restaurants, read signs or menus, and locate their luggage on the carousel.
The app is free to download on iOS or Android and can be used immediately in guest mode after registration with an email and phone number. Heathrow launched its own partnership with Aira last year.
Lord David Blunkett, chair of Easyjet’s Accessibility Advisory Group, said it would be “life-changing in terms of providing equality to passengers with no or little sight”.
The system is being trialled for six months at Gatwick and is funded by Easyjet, although it can be used by passengers flying with any airline.
Gatwick says roughly 500 of its monthly passengers report being blind or partially sighted.
Chris Woodroofe, the airport’s chief operating officer, said: “Airports are complex environments and this new system helps to give blind and visually impaired passengers more independence so they can more easily relax and enjoy their time at Gatwick.
“We have an ambition to be the UK’s most accessible airport and we are looking to do this by investing and innovating and by putting the needs of every passenger at the heart of our operation. Ultimately we want to make sure that everybody has an equal opportunity to fly.”
New facilities Gatwick include a sensory room and a new £2 million airline lounge for passengers who require special assistance.
The improvements follow Gatwick, along with Stansted and Birmingham, being ranked ‘needs improvement’ in the UK Civil Aviation Authority’s 2017-2018 airport accessibility report. Manchester was ranked ‘poor’.
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