Travelers rushing through a busy airport terminal
Accessibility & Technology

Aira At The Airport

Jul 14, 2022

Aira At The Airport

There are challenges involved in traveling through airports, always, for everyone. Add a visual impairment to the mix and you’ve got an excellent excuse to just stay at home. A travel companion could solve a lot of the problems, but there isn’t always one available. You can request assistance at the airport, but it may arrive holding a sign you cannot read and pushing a wheelchair you do not need.

For a while now we’ve been thinking the best solution to navigating the inside of an airport would come in the form of an interior mapping system and a really, really smart digital assistant. As much as we love the incredible strides technology is helping us take, navigation systems and digital assistants have not yet proven to be precise enough for this task. While we were waiting patiently for that, we started hearing about something called Aira (pronounced I-ra), a technology that depends on humans for accuracy.

Travelers in London Heathrow Airport.
Travelers in London Heathrow Airport.

How Aira Works

Turns out, that even in this intensely technological time, people still provide the most dependable source of assistance. Imagine that. Aira is a service that connects you with an agent via smartphone for live remote assistance, they call it “visual interpreting.” This independence-enhancing accessibility solution could possibly take the pain out of asking for help. You are not disturbing anyone; it is exactly what they are there to do.

The agents are trained to guide you. They can see a 120-degree view through the camera of your phone, much more than you’re seeing. Aira customers are called “Explorers,” and that makes it sound a little like we’re playing a game, but why not, perhaps it will make airport travel fun again.

How Much Aira Costs

Aira is a subscription service, now starting at $29 a month for 30 minutes with an agent, $99 for 120 minutes, and up from there. The service is accessed by a mobile app. Paying subscribers can call an agent for assistance navigating through any airport within the service area of North America, the United Kingdom, Australia, and New Zealand.

Where Aira is Free

There is also a network of airports that subscribe to Aira and provide free guest access to their customers. At last count, 50+ airports were actively participating in the Aira Network including JFK International, LaGuardia, Newark, Syracuse, Boston Logan, Charlotte Douglas, Dallas Love Field, and Toronto Pearson. A complete list of free airport locations seemed to be elusive. A representative from Aira suggested using the in-app search to find all locations on the network, but that did not render a list either. When in doubt, we suggest calling an agent on the app, or Aira customer service at one of the phone numbers listed below, to confirm if the airport you’re heading to provides the visual interpreting service for free.

Get started with the Aira app on the App Store and on Google Play.

Website: Aira

Customer Service:

North America: 800.835.1934

Australia: 800.765.096 

United Kingdom: 800.046.5668 

New Zealand: 800.425.451

This post was originally published on Jan 17, 2019, and updated on Jul 14, 2022.

Note: We receive no compensation from organizations, products or services mentioned on OE Patients.

 

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About the Author: Dorrie Rush

Dorrie Rush is the Chief Content Officer and Visual Accessibility Expert at Ophthalmic Edge Patients (OE Patients), an online resource, presented by the Association for Macular Diseases, providing practical information and empowering advice for living a full and successful life with vision loss.

She is the former Director of the Grunwald Technology Center and Information Resource Service at Lighthouse International 2001 to 2016. Dorrie is known to have an eccentric view, which is particularly useful in compensating for her central vision loss from Stargardt Disease.

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