OCS: Pioneers of the Sunflower Lanyard Scheme

Now Globally Recognised: Sunflower Lanyard Scheme

The Sunflower Lanyard Scheme, initially launched at Gatwick Airport by OCS Group to assist passengers with hidden disabilities, has been successfully adopted in airports globally. This innovative initiative, which began as a trial over the summer, has significantly enhanced the travel experience for thousands of passengers and their families worldwide with hidden disabilities such as dementia, autism, or hearing loss.

Discreet recognition

Introducing these distinctive lanyards lets travellers discreetly inform airport teams of their need for tailored assistance. The lanyard ensures they receive the proper support throughout their journey, such as extra time for processing information or preparing belongings before security screening. OCS assistance teams across the UK and globally have undergone specialised training to recognise and appropriately respond to these lanyards.

This scheme is part of a broader initiative by OCS Group, which provides assistance services at multiple airports across the UK & Ireland and globally. The initiative was informed by the “Challenging for Change” report, which captured the experiences of passengers with disabilities and suggested improvements. Follow-up workshops facilitated dialogue and idea exchange among airlines, airport operators, baggage handlers, disability groups, and support service providers.

Charity Partnership & Collaboration

Key UK charities like the Alzheimer’s Society, The National Autistic Society, and Action on Hearing Loss have collaborated with Gatwick Airport and OCS Group in this endeavour. At launch, Nikki Barton, Head of Terminals and Passenger Assistance at Gatwick, highlighted the scheme’s role in reducing travel stress for passengers with hidden disabilities and the importance of training for frontline teams in enhancing passenger experiences.

OCS Group has 60 years of expertise in the aviation sector and their commitment to excellence for passengers needing additional assistance. The lanyard scheme, born from extensive consultations with disability groups, aims to minimise misinterpretations of the specific needs associated with hidden disabilities.

Specialist Colleague Training

The lanyard scheme’s rollout was supported by comprehensive training, with NVQ Level 2 training in dementia care now standard for OCS teams in the departure lounges. Numerous Dementia Friends Champions have been trained across the airports to further the Alzheimer’s Society’s Dementia Friends programme.

Sue Rennie, Alzheimer’s Society Services Manager for West Sussex North, said, “People with dementia and their family carers often find travelling daunting when faced with unfamiliar and busy airports. The lanyard scheme for passengers with hidden disabilities introduced at Gatwick offers reassurance to those who use it. It also helps airport teams know that they may require additional support, which can improve the passengers’ travel experience at the airport.”

Valerie Dale, OCS Group Chief People Officer, Attends Back to the Floor Visit

Valerie Dale, OCS Group Chief People Officer, recently attended a back to the floor visit at one of our laundry facilities in Feltham.

Valerie’s day began with a tour of the site where she saw our fantastic colleagues and machinery in action. During the tour she learnt some impressive stats about the facilities, including that from January 2023 to August 2023, our dedicated team washed 74,675,556 kgs and processed 46,414,728 pieces of laundry, a true showcase of how exceptional our colleagues are at what they do!

Valerie’s first job of the day was ironing and her skills were put to the test as she aimed to meet the hourly ironing targets our colleagues achieve.

She then got stuck in with the laundry sorting where she worked with the team to make sure each item was put into the correct bag before it was prepared to be washed. After only 45 minutes, Valerie and the team managed to sort through an impressive 2.2 tonnes of laundry!

Edinburgh Airport appoints OCS to support passengers with reduced mobility

Edinburgh Airport has chosen OCS, the leading international facilities service provider, to ensure that passengers with reduced mobility (PRMs) receive specialist support in their journey through the airport. It is part of its commitment to providing all passengers with excellent customer service and a seamless journey.

Under the terms of the agreement OCS will provide a 24/7 continuous service every day including public and bank holidays, ensuring assisted safe passage through the airport (departures and arrivals) to and from the airplane to defined arrival/onward journey points, working closely with airlines and handling agents. The service includes covering assistance with set down points or pick up points to check-in; registration at check-in and with security processes; support with boarding, disembarking and with missed or delayed flights.

The service is underpinned by bespoke technology that enables passengers to register once and then receive a personalised service each time they fly in or out of Edinburgh Airport based on their previous preferences and requirements – where possible with the same team member. This has also proven to reduce the number of passengers who do not book assistance in advance ensuring a better service for all.

A team of over 130 colleagues will transfer to OCS under TUPE and immediately undertake a rigorous, bespoke training programme that has been developed at Glasgow Airport, Southampton Airport and Bristol Airport where the company delivers a similar service. They will also benefit from broader career development and job opportunities, in line with the company’s values of giving colleagues the tools to enable them to thrive and be the best they can be.

“The number of PRMs travelling is growing steadily so understanding the requirements and potential issues is of increasing importance to both airlines and airports alike. Our team members are often the first and last touchpoints at the airport and we ensure that they are knowledgeable, empathetic, and engaging, with a clear objective to deliver the best possible customer service.”

Richard Marshall

Managing Director, OCS

“We are proud of our Very Good rating for our PRM and Special Assistance provision and we want to ensure that we provide a service that grants everyone the same access and experience no matter the circumstances. OCS’s experience within the aviation industry will allow us to maintain that high standard and work together to make improvements where we can.”

Ross Gilpin

Contract & Operational Manager at Edinburgh Airport

Evolving training practices to provide the best experience for our customers

Using innovative training to improve customer experience

Delivering an enjoyable experience is critical to the success of a destination venue, so OCS has created bespoke customer service training for our colleagues to add value to the services we provide.

Our new EVOLVE Guest Services Certificate Programme covers topics ranging from engaging with customers to overcoming difficult situations. Created internally by our Learning & Development team, the course was designed specifically with our shopping centre, leisure destination and airport customers in mind and is accredited by Corndel Business School.

“The programme is tailored to the environments we work in and takes into consideration the customer profiles we would come across, with actual scenarios of situations that might happen in those environments.

We were keen for it to be accredited as this gives us a unique selling point; no internal programme has been accredited before.”

Nicole Thake

Strategic Bid Manager, Aviation & Gateways

David Wheeler, Head of Learning and Development, adds: “The EVOLVE Guest Services Certificate Programme demonstrates our continued investment in our people and our ability to capitalise on the expertise we have in the business.”

The programme was piloted with a ‘train the trainer’ course and is now being rolled out across the business, delivered by operational colleagues to team members on site.

Sean Williams, Corndel’s Chief Executive, says: “We believe the programme will make a positive difference to participants and the customers they serve.”