One year on, some of HAAG’s recommendations are already making a difference for persons with disabilities traveling through Heathrow;
Other stakeholders’ engagement has proven beneficial to promote dialogue and best practice among all parties involved in delivering assistance at Heathrow;
High profile guests to HAAG meetings like Department for Transport and the European Commission have helped HAAG go beyond its original remit;
Through regular scrutiny of HAL’s service performance data and following high-profile service failures, HAAG members unanimously assessed more work needs to be done to further improve different stages and processes of assistance services, boarding and arrivals in particular;
We are pleased with the level of engagement shown by HAL’s Security team which has contributed to the significant improvements seen over the past 12 months. Going forward, we plan to increase current engagement levels with other departments to the same level, in particular with those directly involved with the Expansion Plan.
Looking forward, we will focus more on assistive technology and accessibility of the built environment, primarily the expansion plan, to enhance independence of persons with disabilities traveling by air;
We are also looking forward to ensuring the framework of the future Assistance Services’ tender or extension of the existing contract is robust.
The HAAG met at regular quarterly intervals between October 2017 and October 2018. In between meetings, members carried out follow-up actions on decisions taken in previous meetings and participated events led by the HAAG’s engagement forum, ATF.
In particular, members have closely cooperated with HAL’s security team on the review of training protocols and review of private search areas.
HAAG members have been individually involved with a number of other projects, in particular the review of disability awareness training modules.
More recently, HAAG members have been involved with the vetting of self-propelled wheelchairs that will be purchased by HAL to expand the number of options available to passengers who wish to self-mobilise.
Frequent flyers members personally review the quality of service available to persons with disabilities and feed back to the group for evaluation and possible advice to HAL.
To date, HAL have not rejected a single recommendation. Furthermore, a number of flagship recommendations have already been implemented.
Some, like the creation of Service Animals Relief Areas (SARA) airside in new buildings and major refurbishment of the airside portion of existing Terminals are now part of the planning process.
Most recently, HAAG’s recommendation of large-scale users’ trials of AIRA (high tech solution for persons with visual impairments) was immediately implemented and the trials launched on December 3rd, 2018.
HAAG’s recommendation on Wayfinding for persons with disabilities has been approved, and new Wayfinding is being rolled out across all Terminals.
HAAG’s recommendation on inclusion of persons with disabilities is also work in progress with the first group of three students from NESCOT College having completed their first quarter of assisted internship.
HAAG’s recommendation on the scope of Article 9 of Regulation EC1107/2006 will be triggered when the future tender for assistance services is launched.
HAAG’s recommendation on repatriation of personal wheelchairs at the gate was implemented in June and is now in force with all airlines operating from and to Heathrow airport.
Good results shown by the engagement with Security are a clear indication of the value of consultation.
Whilst engagement with other departments has taken place, we would like to see this further expanded to achieve closer cooperation and consultation.
In particular, we would like to see greater and deeper engagement with the service provider as the current level of consultation regarding training protocols and customer service skills of agents is cause for concern for members.
With regard to contractual terms with the service provider, and in the spirit of the recommendation on Article 9 of Regulation EC 1107/2006 passed at the HAAG meeting of January 24th 2018, and in the spirit of the proposed revisions to CAP1228, the HAAG will be consulted on SLAs and processes/procedures of future tenders/extensions.
Members are usually available on short notice, making engagement simpler and more suitable for a hectic environment like an airport.
HAAG engagement forum (ATF)
ATF organised a number of Open Days throughout 2018. Participants often praised ATF Coordinator Graham Race for delivering engaging events beyond expectations.
The most successful Open Day to date was held on October 11th, 2018 and coincided with the first trials of the AIRA solution for visually impaired passengers.
To ensure better return on investment, the activity of ATF will be more geared to exploring those areas of direct engagement with the public that can be more beneficial to HAL.
In this view, its roadmap for 2019 has been designed to focus on four targeted topics throughout the year to ensure most useful feedback from target users is canvassed.
Monitoring of performance
We are satisfied with engagement from HAL and the service provider with regard to recurring review of service quality output data (ECAC).
We are pleased with HAL’s efforts to improve the handling of passengers’ complaints and analysis of complaints. We believe improvement in these areas allows stakeholders to better understand causes and swiftly introduce corrections.
Over the past 12 months we witnessed improvement in a number of areas. Whilst this is encouraging, we wish to see further improvements in 2019.
We are aware of some of HAL’s mid-term plans and feel reassured further improvements will take place. We are available to assist HAL and other stakeholders to ensure prompt execution of said plans.
In particular, we are very keen to see improvement on all aspects of independent journeys as ever-growing volumes of persons with disabilities traveling by air will only be manageable through supportive technology and other forms of unconventional support not requiring human interaction.
One aspect we shall never overlook is that the real number of persons with disabilities traveling through Heathrow every year far exceeds the number of those who require assistance. This is achieved by means of innovative solutions like SignLive and AIRA, among others, who empower persons with disabilities make their journey through the airport without the need to requesting assistance.
As the number of persons with disabilities is set to continue to grow in the years ahead, pursuing technological innovation remains one of the key drivers of the work of HAAG.
Allowing passengers with lesser needs to travel independently will ensure that those who require conventional assistance will be better looked after.
Finally, engaging with the Development Team to ensure the Expansion Plan has accessibility at the heart of blue prints will be another key driver of the future work of HAAG.
Chair – Heathrow Access Advisory Group