How Virgin Atlantic is helping people with hidden disabilities overcome travel challenges

A UK passport with a badge and slip passengers show Virgin Atlantic cabin crew if they require assistance
Image from Virgin Atlantic
Clare Kelly
by Clare Kelly
15 February 2019

Virgin Atlantic’s Hidden Disabilities scheme is part of ongoing commitment to make flying accessible to all.

The new scheme includes extensive training for staff, and a discrete identifier to help passengers with hidden disabilities get the assistance they need.

Hidden disabilities may not be instantly recognisable, but can significantly impact a person’s life and often mean that preparing for a flight can prove a stressful situation. Currently 22 per cent of the UK population has a disability and according to one study of those who identified as having a disability, 74 per cent had a disability that is hidden.

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.  A specially designed symbol, which can be worn as a pin badge or discretely tucked away in your passport as a bookmark, will alert extensively trained Virgin Atlantic staff that extra assistance may be needed by an individual, or their family, whilst travelling.

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.”

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. 

We’re committed to giving all customers easier access to travel.

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. You can find further information at Virgin Atlantic – Assisting Customers with Hidden Disabilities.