View Full Version : Heathrow: helping non-English speakers through security to plane?

Fletchers Left Boot
26th Aug 2010, 19:18
Someone must know something about this....

My wife's parents do not speak a word of English. She plans to go to China to bring them to England when they visit. No problem there.

When they go back, my wife wants to be able to accompany them through the various security stages at Heathrow to the final gate to the plane, to make sure they get on without any problems.

Clearly there would be an issue with her being able to go airside to make that happen.

I'm sure this problem will have cropped up fairly frequently in the past - can anyone in PPrune Land in the know tell me if there is there any procedure to deal with this?

26th Aug 2010, 19:22
Stateside, for un-accompanied minors you can get a "gate pass" to escort them. Not sure as the same would be afforded for parents unless there is a disability that does not allow them to walk by themselves---worth looking into though.

26th Aug 2010, 20:16
Just get them to get wheelchair assistance from check in. The wheelchair services will take them from check in, through security and all the way to the gate for their flight.

26th Aug 2010, 22:39
I don't believe that wheelchair services will do anything other than transport them - no explanation or negotiation. I wouldn't have thought they would speak whatever dialect the parents use . . .

Might be worth enquiring about a 'platform ticket'.

26th Aug 2010, 22:55
UK Border Agency will have Chinese interpreters available if not on hand then perhaps if notified in advance. If a platform ticket is a no go then they may arrange for an interpreter to accompany the reletives through security to the gate, probably for a fee. Another way would be for you to check them in and identify a friendly native speaker on the same flight who would help them through to the gate?

26th Aug 2010, 23:03
There is not much you can do.

Hundreds, if not thousands, of people travel through airports all over the world without being able to speak the language. Somehow they all make it through.

I've had episodes with my 80 year old mother where she despite speaking some English misunderstood the questions from Customs and said "yes" when asked "do you have anything to declare" which resulted in a 2 hour delay while they looked through all of her luggage.

Asking anyone in any kind of uniform at an airport with boarding bass and passport in hand will eventually get you in your seat.

Out Of Trim
26th Aug 2010, 23:40
Might be worth enquiring about a 'platform ticket'.

Heathrow, not being a Station would, I think not be possible.

I work at Gatwick and have never heard of such a thing.

I only way around it; that I could envisage is to book the cheapest ticket for a flight from the same terminal.. see the relatives through security and to their gate and then offload yourself from the booked flight. But, would probably be expensive unless you can get a refund for your ticket.

27th Aug 2010, 00:08
Most carriers operate a 'Meet and Assist' programme for passengers other than UCMs who need help with the formalities, (UCMs a separate service). I believe that this service also operates in reverse for departing pax. Suggest you contact the airline and discuss your problem with them.

27th Aug 2010, 00:16
Whilst the airline is obviously operating into the territory from whence the parents originate, there are so many dialects of Chinese (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Chinese_dialects) that communication might have to be by way of 'characters'.

27th Aug 2010, 07:50
Equip then with some crib sheets. Write down questions that they might need to ask in both Chinese and English and if they get stuck, they can shown them to someone who should be able to point them in the right direction.

27th Aug 2010, 08:14
I would agree with the crib-sheets. Your wife can talk them through (beforehand) what will happen and what they should do. Unless they are infirm/disabled the assistance services won't help them, imagine how many thousands of passengers per day travel through a typical International airport that don't have any/little ability in the language of the country. The assistance services would be swamped.

The lemming-like process from outside security to the gates is pretty self explanatory and together with a crib sheet and a few learned words they should be good to go.


Fletchers Left Boot
29th Aug 2010, 10:50
Thanks everyone.

Crib sheets might be the way to go then...