Expert insight

The airlines and airports’ focus on hidden disabilities

2 September 2019

Our airline partner Virgin Atlantic, along with UK airports, are supporting and assisting travellers who have both physical and ‘hidden’ disabilities to ensure they receive the support they need to make their trip as comfortable as possible. Have a read.

We love to be in partnership with our air suppliers. Did you know, we offer a fully comprehensive flight booking and management service, flying business travellers over 600 million miles each year?

We also achieve an average saving of 32% on customer air spend and with access to our specialist fares team, our customers see an average saving of £750 per long haul and complex booking. But it’s not just about cost saving. It’s about creating a safe and comfortable journey, with our customer’s wellbeing in mind, and our air partners are doing what they can to make life easier for passengers with different types of disabilities.

What are hidden or invisible disabilities?

Invisible Disability, or hidden disability, is an umbrella term that captures a whole spectrum of hidden disabilities or challenges.

Our airline partners and airports are supporting and assisting travellers who have both physical and ‘hidden’ disabilities, in order to ensure that all passengers receive exactly the support they need to make their trip as comfortable as possible. Take a look at what Virgin Atlantic and airports in the UK are doing to ensure a smooth, and comfortable journey for passengers.

Virgin Atlantic

Virgin Atlantic recently rolled out their Hidden Disabilities scheme across their network, as part of ongoing commitment to make flying accessible to all. The scheme is also offered to passengers at no extra cost, ensures that they provide extra assistance to those who may need it without them having to ask.

Some people may be travelling in discomfort or even avoid travelling due to the stress that flying may create.

How does Virgin Atlantic's Hidden Disabilities scheme work?

A specifically designed symbol, which can be worn as a pin badge or discretely tucked away in your passport as a bookmark, alerts extensively trained Virgin Atlantic staff that extra assistance may be needed whilst travelling.

How can Virgin Atlantic’s Special Assistance team do to help you?

Prior to the flight taking place, the team can help arrange:

  • Priority check in
  • Pre-boarding or delayed boarding, based on what best suits your need
  • Pre-assigned standard seat assignments
  • Bulkhead seating requests
  • Informing our fabulous crew of your requirements

And lots more – all to ensure that the passenger’s journey is as accommodating as possible.

UK airports

OCS Group UK, a facilities management company, has rolled out a lanyard for passengers with hidden disabilities to UK airports.

A successful summer trial period at Gatwick Airport, has led to a roll out to other UK airports to assist passengers with hidden disabilities.

Since the launch of the voluntary lanyard in May this year, the number of passengers requesting assistance at Gatwick Airport has risen by 47% year-on-year. It’s allowed travellers to discreetly identify themselves to staff to ensure tailored help and support throughout their journey.

Manchester Airport

Manchester Airport are always working on ways to improve the airport experience for vulnerable passengers who may not want to share details of their invisible disabilities or use their assistance service.

As well as providing a lanyard, The Sunflower Room in Terminal 1 allows guests to break away from the noise, bright lights and crowds of the main Departure Lounge to help them relax before a flight.

Heathrow Airport

Heathrow offers different levels of support, tailored to passenger’s needs to ensure a stress-free and comfortable airport experience:

  • Let your airline know 48 hours in advance and Heathrow’s trained staff will take care of the rest
  • Heathrow also offers a sunflower lanyard to allow you to travel independently through the airport whilst knowing that additional support is on hand if needed.
  • Heathrow will post your lanyard to you, wherever you are in the world

Newcastle International

Airports can be busy environments and can be especially stressful for people who are travelling with hidden disabilities. To make the journey through the airport as smooth as possible, Newcastle Airport have put together some helpful tips and detailed the services available to you.

Hidden disability lanyards are also available at this airport, allowing passengers more time to prepare at check-in, security, remain with their family at all times, or giving them a more comprehensive briefing on what to expect as they travel through the airport.

Newcastle Airport also provides some great tips on how to have an easier journey through the airport - they're worth a read!

Interested? Let’s have a chat about your company’s travel, meetings and events objectives - from the stuff that keeps you awake at night, to the everyday experiences of your employees! Call us on 0330 390 0340, or submit your details below.