Virgin Atlantic helps those with hidden disabilities overcome travel challenges

Airline rolls out Hidden Disabilities scheme across its network, as part of ongoing commitment to make flying accessible to all

  • Research reveals that 19% of people have a disability which makes travelling on a flight difficult1   
  • Virgin Atlantic has announced the official launch of its Hidden Disabilities scheme, which includes extensive training for staff, and a discrete identifier to help passengers with hidden disabilities get the assistance they need 
  • Part of an ongoing commitment to provide a more inclusive service to all  

New Delhi, 14th February 2019: Today, Virgin Atlantic announced the launch of its Hidden Disabilities scheme across its networks. Offered to passengers at no extra cost, the scheme ensures the airline provides extra assistance to those who may need it without them having to ask.  

Hidden disabilities may not be instantly recognisable, but can significantly impact a person’s life and often means that preparing for a flight can prove a stressful situation. Currently 22% of the UK population has a disability2. One study found that of those who identified as having a disability, 74% had a disability that is hidden3. Although not everyone with a disability flies this means many people may be travelling in discomfort or avoiding travelling due to the stress that flying may create.

A specially 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 by an individual, or their family, whilst travelling.

Prior to the flight taking place, the Virgin Atlantic Special Assistance team can also work with the individual to ensure that their journey is as accommodating as possible. The team can arrange for travelers to be escorted through the airport, have access to priority boarding and reserve seating where necessary. Onboard, the team can also ensure that in-flight entertainment is provided for blind passengers, with some crew also trained in sign language. (Sign language trained crew need to be pre-booked.)

Geraldine Lundy, Passenger Accessibility Manager at Virgin Atlantic says, “We are committed to giving all customers easier access to travel. The Hidden Disabilities scheme is one of a series of initiatives that Virgin Atlantic is planning on introducing over the coming years, to help those with disabilities overcome any key challenges they may face. ”

Tom Morgan, from Channel 4 show The Undateables and Sports Ambassador for the National Autistic Society, recently travelled under the scheme and said, “Geraldine and her team go above and beyond to ensure that your flight experience is tailored to your specific needs. For instance, I asked if I could be sat at the back of the plane so that if I was to experience ticks on the flight, I wouldn’t disturb the passenger behind me. Virgin Atlantic easily accommodated my request, which made me much less nervous about the flying process.”

Due to a previous lack of support for people with hidden disabilities, Sara Marchant, Accessibility Manager at Gatwick Airport has been involved in a huge amount of work caring for passengers with disabilities. She recognises the significance of this new scheme, commenting “It is so important to cater to the needs of all customers, including those with hidden disabilities. This sector has been all too easily overlooked in the past and so it is fantastic that the airline is targeting those whose conditions are not so apparent. Here at Gatwick Airport, we are keen to support this impactful initiative”

The Hidden Disabilities scheme is now available for all Virgin Atlantic customers. Please find further information here: Virgin Atlantic – Assisting Customers with Hidden Disabilities  

About Virgin Atlantic

Virgin Atlantic was founded by entrepreneur Sir Richard Branson 34 years ago with innovation and customer service at its core. Today Virgin Atlantic carries 5.5 million customers annually, and was recently named the UK’s favourite long haul carrier by Skytrax, Best Transatlantic Airline at the British Travel Awards 2017 and one of the Top 5 Airlines in the World by Airline Ratings. Headquartered in London, Virgin Atlantic employs over 10,000 people worldwide and operates a fleet of 46 aircraft serving 27 destinations across four continents. Alongside joint venture partner Delta Air Lines they operate a leading transatlantic network – offering up to 38 flights per day between the UK and US with onward connections to over 200 US and international cities. In 2019 Virgin Atlantic will take delivery of their first Airbus A350-1000 aircraft – helping to transform the fleet into one of the quietest and most fuel efficient in the sky.

On May 15, 2018 Air France-KLM, Delta Air Lines and Virgin Atlantic Limited signed definitive agreements to combine the existing trans-Atlantic joint ventures.  This transaction is in the process of regulatory clearance.  Upon completion the airlines’ expanded joint venture will become the preferred choice for customers travelling across the Atlantic offering the most comprehensive route network, convenient flight schedules, competitive fares and reciprocal frequent flyer benefits, including the ability to earn and redeem miles across all carriers. Customers will also benefit from the co-location of facilities at key hub airports to improve connectivity and access to each carrier’s airport lounges for premium passengers.