In early 2018 I had the pleasure of meeting Sandy and Angie from Cornwall Accessible Activities Programme (CAAP) and their Time 2 Shine group. They were travelling to Dublin later in the year and as some of the children and families from Time 2 Shine had never flown before, Cornwall Airport Newquay and Flybe were pleased to offer them a familiarisation tour of the Airport and on board an aeroplane. This helped to alleviate some of their fears about travelling by air and how to prepare for the trip.
Members of CAAP also form part of our Accessible Air Travel Forum for Cornwall Airport Newquay and we meet four times a year. The group discuss ways on improving on our facilities here at the Airport and ensuring we provide as much information to passengers prior to their flight. One of the subjects we discuss is how we can ensure our staff assist passengers to meet all their varying needs.
To enable us to do this , the staff at Cornwall Airport Newquay undertake regular training. They now have awareness in assisting passengers with Autism, Alzheimer’s, Dementia, Anxiety and Hearing and Sight loss as well as passengers who require assistance with mobility. Our aim is to give our staff an awareness of as many disabilities as possible. The staff have been really keen to learn sign language and I was very excited when Sandy and Angie put me in touch with Amanda Glennon, who is a Makaton Tutor.
Over the last couple of months Amanda and I have set up training specifically aimed towards Airport staff, and on 25th February she delivered our first training session. She has carried out four training sessions this week in conjunction with Angie, who has also given staff an awareness of Down's syndrome.
We are delighted to say 75 staff members of Cornwall Airport Newquay undertook this training from a range of different departments, including Passenger Services, Security, Airside, Café, and our head office. I am proud to say we are the first Makaton Friendly UK Airport.
Staff have flash cards to refer to with the signs and symbols to enhance their training and these are also going to be on display in their work areas. We are also really keen to purchase tablets to include additional Makaton resources.
There is a buzz amongst the staff at the airport as they talk about their training and are already signing amongst themselves and passengers. They have gone home and spoken about it with their families and I have already had requests for how the families can carry out Makaton training at their place of work.
In 2018 the airport handled over 450,000 passengers, and just under 6,000 of these passengers required additional assistance. It is our hope that by having Makaton trained staff this will encourage so many more people to consider air travel.