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Meeting the needs of all of Belfast City Airport’s passengers

Posted: 25 June 2021 | | No comments yet

Judith Davis, Airport Operations Manager at George Best Belfast City Airport, discusses the airport’s award-winning accessibility practices and how it works to ensure that the airport journey is stress-free for both PRMs and passengers with hidden disabilities.

Meeting the needs of all of Belfast City Airport’s passengers

Credit: George Best Belfast City Airport

Accessibility is of the utmost importance at George Best Belfast City Airport (BHD). From our acclaimed general practices to continuous engagement with local disability groups, investment in innovative solutions and specialised training for our staff, we work hard to ensure that Belfast City Airport is a stress-free environment for people of all abilities.

Award-winning practices

We recognise that travelling through an airport can be an anxious experience, particularly for those with access requirements, and we aim to minimise any hassle with our award-winning practices. 

Belfast City Airport currently holds a “Very Good” accessibility rating from the UK Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) – the highest accolade available – for our accessibility services, and our team are specially trained to provide the best quality of service to meet the needs of any individual.

In 2020, disabled access charity, Euan’s Guide, named Belfast City Airport as its Northern Ireland Venue of the Year for our capabilities to make our passengers, regardless of ability, feel welcome and comfortable when travelling through the airport.

Netflights also gave Belfast City Airport a special commendation in 2019 as the “main exception” to the perception that larger airports will outperform regional ones when it comes to accessibility and customer service.

An airport of firsts

Back in 2010, we became the first airport in the UK to introduce a Changing Places toilet, designed to give extra equipment and space to those who need it to use the toilets safely and comfortably.

We are committed to continually investing in solutions that benefit all of our passengers and, in 2019, we became the first to install accessible security preparation and repack stations.

This allows users to have autonomy of their journey and helps with removing some of the stress that might come with travelling through the airport.

In addition, we were the first airport in Northern Ireland to become a Just a Minute (JAM) friendly airport, in partnership with the NOW Group. Our team is trained to easily distinguish individuals that may require additional time or assistance throughout their journey, to use clear language to communicate airport procedures and to avoid separating those travelling with the JAM Card from their friends or family. 

Assisted Travel BHD Airport

Credit: George Best Belfast City Airport

Accessibility is of the utmost importance at George Best Belfast City Airport (BHD). From our acclaimed general practices to continuous engagement with local disability groups, investment in innovative solutions and specialised training for our staff, we work hard to ensure that Belfast City Airport is a stress-free environment for people of all abilities.

Award-winning practices

We recognise that travelling through an airport can be an anxious experience, particularly for those with access requirements, and we aim to minimise any hassle with our award-winning practices.

Belfast City Airport currently holds a “Very Good” accessibility rating from the UK Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) – the highest accolade available – for our accessibility services, and our team are specially trained to provide the best quality of service to meet the needs of any individual.

In 2020, disabled access charity, Euan’s Guide, named Belfast City Airport as its Northern Ireland Venue of the Year for our capabilities to make our passengers, regardless of ability, feel welcome and comfortable when travelling through the airport.

Netflights also gave Belfast City Airport a special commendation in 2019 as the “main exception” to the perception that larger airports will outperform regional ones when it comes to accessibility and customer service.

An airport of firsts

Back in 2010, we became the first airport in the UK to introduce a Changing Places toilet, designed to give extra equipment and space to those who need it to use the toilets safely and comfortably.

We are committed to continually investing in solutions that benefit all of our passengers and, in 2019, we became the first to install accessible security preparation and repack stations.

This allows users to have autonomy of their journey and helps with removing some of the stress that might come with travelling through the airport.

In addition, we were the first airport in Northern Ireland to become a Just a Minute (JAM) friendly airport, in partnership with the NOW Group. Our team is trained to easily distinguish individuals that may require additional time or assistance throughout their journey, to use clear language to communicate airport procedures and to avoid separating those travelling with the JAM Card from their friends or family.

Assisted Travel BHD Airport

Credit: George Best Belfast City Airport

At the airport 

Assistance is available from the drop-off area through to boarding the aircraft, and also from the arrival gate back to the pick-up area or car park. This includes help with checking in, getting through security, navigating the departures lounges and boarding the aircraft.

Our security team is aware, and specially trained, to manage varying disabilities and will conduct any searches as efficiently and sensitively as possible.

Assistance provided for arriving passengers includes help with collecting baggage and going through passport control if arriving from an international flight.

For those with hidden disabilities that would like to travel independently through the airport, we have hidden disabilities lanyards, which can be collected from the special assistance desk. They are free of charge and do not need to be returned, giving users the ability to reuse them each time they travel through Belfast City Airport.

We always try to ensure that our passengers’ journey through the airport exceeds their expectations and, while we already offered full assistance to passengers with reduced mobility (PRMs), the introduction of the lanyards confirmed that those with hidden disabilities were also facilitated for.

Hidden Disability Lanyards BHD Airport

Credit: George Best Belfast City Airport

Working with the local community

We work closely with local community groups and our Airport Accessibility Forum to ensure that we are continually improving our service through user feedback and social listening”

We work closely with local community groups and our Airport Accessibility Forum to ensure that we are continually improving our service through user feedback and social listening, which, in turn, increases our understanding of the needs of individual passengers.

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, Belfast City Airport regularly facilitated familiarisation visits with autism groups for children and their parents, enabling them to experience the environment first‑hand before the day of travel.

In conjunction with our airline partners, we also facilitated training events for Guide Dogs NI and Northern Ireland Assistance Dogs, which helps to familiarise the dogs with the airport surroundings and procedures, from check-in and security right through to boarding the plane.

As a result of our partnership with Action on Hearing Loss, a portable induction loop is now available at the airport, and regular training is delivered to our special assistance teams. Workshops are also delivered to our teams by the Alzheimer’s Society, NOW Group and Urostomy Association.

Our work with Crohn’s and Colitis UK saw signage being added to the doors of our disabled toilet as a gentle reminder that not all disabilities are visible, and we installed a Royal Association for Disability and Rehabilitation (RADAR) lock on all of our Changing Places toilets.

Partnering with these groups establishes that we are following best practice throughout the terminal and helps us to exceed our passengers’ expectations.

Guide Dogs NI Belfast City Airport

Credit: George Best Belfast City Airport

Accessibility moving forward

We understand that some passengers that already require assistance when travelling through Belfast City Airport may have increased anxieties in relation to COVID-19 and, therefore, we have implemented a number of additional safety, hygiene and social distancing measures to ensure a safe and comfortable journey through our terminal.

For users of our accessibility services, this means special assistance staff will be wearing the appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) and will offer passengers the choice to use a RambleTag guidance aid, rather than their arms. 

We have also teamed up with the NI Hearing Loss Society to provide training to our staff on the impact of social distancing and the wearing of PPE for deaf and hard of hearing passengers.

All of our wheelchairs and touchpoints on vehicles are sanitised before and after each use with a thorough sanitising routine, which is also taking place throughout the terminal each day.

As a result of our ongoing contact with local disability groups, we are able to communicate these changes quickly and directly with our passengers and the users of these groups.

Our additional health measures resulted in Belfast City Airport being the first airport in Northern Ireland to be awarded Airports Council International’s (ACI) Airport Health Accreditation (AHA), which recognises best-in-class COVID-19 health and safety processes.

The safety and wellbeing of our passengers is always our first priority, and that has certainly not changed since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.

For more information about the special assistance offered at Belfast City Airport, please visit www.belfastcityairport.com. 

Judith Davis is the Airport Operations Manager at George Best Belfast City Airport and oversees the day-to-day running of the airport, ensuring that all planning and measures are in place to ensure regulatory safety and security compliance and to deliver a smooth passenger journey. 

She has been with the airport for 11 years, and previously worked in both the commercial and operational areas of outsourced specialised security services. 

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