Heathrow launches new app for visually impaired passengers

Passengers can access assistance on their mobile

From Monday December 3rd, visually impaired passengers at Heathrow will have access to on-demand, personalised assistance via the Aira app.

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 Aira app will benefit the 6,000 visually impaired passengers that travel through Heathrow each 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.

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.

Jonathan Coen, Director of Customer Relations and Service at Heathrow:

“We are transforming the assistance service we provide to our passengers and empowering them to be as independent as possible when they are travelling through Heathrow.  We have already invested  £23 million in an upgraded contract with our special assistance partner, OmniServ, and introducing new equipment, training and technology to help improve our service. Aira takes us one step further – and will deliver a better travel experience for the 6,000 passengers each year that would otherwise feel less independent and less prepared when they begin their journey via Heathrow.”

Earlier this week, Milwaukee Mitchell International Airport (MKE) introduced the Aira app to help blind and low vision passengers.

N.B. Image credit: Heathrow

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