Gatwick is one of the five major airports in the vicinity of the London area – the others being Heathrow, Stansted, Luton and City – and has worked hard to ensure that travelling as a disabled passenger is as stress free, unproblematic and pleasant as possible.
In my opinion, they have succeeded. As you arrive at the airport and head towards the entrance, you will be able to see the ‘special assistance’ telephones; from there you can then make your free call to the appointed department to book your assisted ride to the main airport area.
Best of all and most importantly, the telephones are at wheelchair height and, consequently, very easy to access. Comfortable, sheltered seating has been placed next to the telephones and, more often than not, you will find a dedicated special assistance member of staff already there ready to help.
Immediately after you have made your call or spoken to the OCS staff member, a wheelchair will then be dispatched to collect you and your baggage. When booking assisted transport, one thing to remember is to allow yourself an extra 20 – 25 minutes, because Gatwick is exceedingly busy, especially in the summer months, and may not be able to send one immediately. Please also note that Gatwick has two terminals, North and South, the North one being the farther of the two.
The service provider will then cheerfully escort you up to the airport departure desk or wherever you elect to go. I have always found the drivers to be very helpful, experienced and kind, always ensuring the disabled passenger is comfortable and safely strapped in.
The aide will wait while you check in and then whizz you through Immigration and Security. You are then taken to the dedicated disabled seating area, from where the assistant will later pick you up to take you to your flight. If you have your own wheelchair, you will be pleasantly surprised to find how easy it is to get to the departure lounge area.
Lifts and disabled toilet facilities are clearly marked and easily accessible.
For added peace of mind, the Travel-Care Company, an independent agency offering assistance to anyone at London Gatwick Airport who may have a problem or need help, is situated in the centre of The Village, South Terminal, and offers patient and friendly advice.
I would recommend this airport in a heartbeat for anybody requiring special needs travel assistance.
About the author:
Sandy Walker worked in the airline industry for 25 years as ticket agent and supervisor until diagnosed with secondary progressive multiple sclerosis, resulting in a career change to freelance travel writer. Born in London, she now resides in Tuscany.