50% increase in passenger requests for special assistance at East Midlands Airport

East Midlands Airport (EMA) experienced a 50 per cent increase in the number of requests for assistance from passengers with hidden disabilities during its busy summer period this year.

Passengers with autism or dementia have been encouraged to sign up to a special package of measures to help them navigate the airport more easily.

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These include:

  • Try Before You Fly sessions – these give passengers a chance to experience the airport’s facilities and layout prior to travel which can help reduce levels of anxiety.
  • Sessions were oversubscribed during the summer months
  • A coloured lanyard which subtly alerts staff to passengers who have hidden disabilities and who may need extra support
  • The hustle and bustle of a busy airport, combined with mandatory security procedures, can be a daunting experience for any passenger. But, for people with either physical or hidden disabilities, places like airports can be a major barrier to enjoying travel.

Over the last year EMA has made significant improvements to the way it supports passengers with both reduced mobility and hidden disabilities. This has resulted in the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) upgrading its rating of these services from ’Poor’ in 2017 to ‘Good’ in 2018.

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Support for passengers with physical or hidden disabilities at East Midlands Airport is provided by the passenger services team. How much or little support is provided is determined by the nature of the disability whether its supporting checking-in or even boarding an aircraft. EMA works closely with airlines to ensure that the service offered is coordinated and that passengers who require assistance are supported throughout the flight too.

EMA also has the facilities to ensure that passengers with physical disabilities have a pleasant experience at the airport.

These include:

  • Car parking in disabled bays
  • Wheelchair accessible buses and specially trained drivers
  • Accessible toilets, assistance lounges and a Changing Places Facility
  • Bespoke transport for taking passengers to and from the aircraft
  • Support with the whole check-in process, from offloading luggage through security and onwards to the departure gates.

In recent months, over 200 airport staff have also undergone specialist training to help them better understand the needs of passengers with dementia. Many employees are now better equipped to identify, respond to and assist those with hidden disabilities when they are confronted with an airport environment.

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Andy Tyler-Smith, East Midlands Airport’s Customer Services and Security Directors, says: “It would appear that passengers who require special assistance or have family members who do are increasingly confident about using East Midlands Airport. We pride ourselves in the level of support we offer those who require help. As a team we are now better able to identify behaviours which indicate that people are finding the airport experience difficult so that we can support them in the most appropriate way. It’s in everyone’s interest that passengers can get through the airport smoothly and without anxiety. Sadly, for some people, the thought of a flight or visiting an airport is a massive barrier to enjoying all that is wonderful about travel. We’re committed to making East Midlands Airport as stress-free as possible and we want to ensure that everyone’s experience is a happy one.”

Passengers who require assistance at the airport can book this through their airline in advance of their flight. Further information is also available on the airport’s website at https://www.eastmidlandsairport.com/help/special-assistance/