A 20-strong team of accessibility experts is being introduced by British Airways to support over 500,000 disabled passengers who use the airline each year.

A new direct phone line has been established to connect customers straight to specialist team rather than going through to general enquiries.

The hand-picked group of customer service staff received specialist training to enable them to answer any questions customers have when they get in touch via phone or email and will help them understand what to expect during their journey.

The latest initiative follows the carrier starting accessibility training programme for almost 30,000 customer-facing staff in January.

BA has claimed a “significant increase” in customer satisfaction from travellers who require additional assistance as a result.

A new training video to help staff support customers who are deaf or hard of hearing has also been produced.

Victoria Williams, founder of terptree, which produced the video said: “We are delighted to have worked with British Airways to help its employees understand how to support their deaf customers.

“This has included collaborating with a team of professional deaf filmmakers who produced, directed and shot a training film to teach staff simple British Sign Language.”

BA brand and customer experience director Carolina Martinoli said: “I am really excited about the possibilities the new team will open up for the 50,000 customers requiring additional assistance who travel with us each month.

“Every member of the team is incredibly passionate about helping our customers and enabling them to relax and enjoy British Airways’ unique service.”

Meanwhile, Gatwick has created a new independent panel to shape the airport’s accessibility strategy and improve services for disabled passengers.

The Independent Gatwick Accessibility Panel will include experts in the travel needs of disabled passengers and people with reduced mobility.

Ann Frye, who co-chairs the US Transportation Research Board sub-committee on international activities in accessible transportation and mobility, will chair the group. She is also working with the United Nations and the International Transport Forum on the mobility implications of a global ageing population.

The panel will first meet on December 19.