Emirates offers programs to neurodivergent children to improve their travel experience

Emirates neurodivergent children travel flight

Working with local schools, autism groups and other stakeholders, Emirates and Dubai International Airport (DXB) are focused on improving the travel experience for neurodivergent passengers by facilitating “travel rehearsals” where children can replay their journey through airport and on board the aircraft, as well as working directly with families to delight superfans like 11-year-old Humza on his first flight with Emirates.

Humza Dabab recently flew from Melbourne to Dubai with his mother and two brothers and had a VIP experience with Emirates, which is his favorite airline. This was his first flight with Emirates, but his parents informed him that he had already studied all aspects of Emirates, including the aircraft itself, the in-flight entertainment system ice, cabin crew uniform and safety video. Humza purchased his own seat belt to simulate and execute the safety warning, which he completely memorized. Additionally, it has a collection of Emirates aircraft models to practice the takeoff and landing experience. Lamees, Humza’s mother, said: “The plane is Humza’s happy place. For him, the destination is not the most exciting part of the trip, I can honestly say that it is the plane journey itself. He is very excited because he will finally travel with Emirates.”

Humza is autistic and punctuality is an essential requirement of his specific needs. The possibility of delaying or missing your flight would cause significant anxiety that must be alleviated in advance. Emirates and Dubai International Airport employees are trained and prepared for these requests and can facilitate priority boarding for neurodivergent people, called “People of Determination” in the UAE, as well as offering an airport support system for customers who declare additional needs.

Emirates has also been working closely with Dubai Airports to facilitate travel trials for neurodiverse children, including students at the Mohammed bin Rashid Center for Special Education. These trials are part of the accessible and inclusive travel program developed by Dubai Airports and Emirates, designed to help customers familiarize themselves with the airport environment, staff and processes before travel. Program participants are accompanied by family members and therapists at the airport and on the aircraft to simulate an authentic travel experience, including the physical artifacts and processes passengers go through on the day of travel, such as boarding passes and security screening. The hands-on process helps families gain confidence and manage the experience, enabling Emirates and Dubai Airports to constantly improve services for passengers with additional needs.

Emirates helps neurodivergent passengers and people with hidden disabilities in several ways:

Emirates employee training

More than 29 cabin crew and ground staff around the world have completed Emirates’ “Introduction to Autism and Hidden Disabilities” training. The online course first launched in 2022 and covers a range of topics from the UAE's National Policy for People of Determination, which include how to recognize autism and respond with empathy, as well as providing practical tips on how to help passengers with disabilities. hidden information and information about official passenger support systems at the airport.

before the trip

Information in advance

Emirates helps passengers with hidden disabilities by providing as much information as possible in advance so families can plan, rehearse and have peace of mind about their upcoming trip. Passengers can check the page Accessible Travel on the Emirates website for information and to contact the Emirates local office in case of doubt.

Free seat selection and bulkhead seating for autistic passengers and companions

Passengers who declare a hidden disability will have the facility to select suitable seats free of charge, for example bulkhead seats (in the first row) and in the middle of the aircraft, for both the autistic passenger and their companion. This service can be requested at Emirates local office.

Book with “DPNA code” for additional support

DPNA is an aviation industry code for special service request (SSR) for “passengers with intellectual or developmental disabilities.” The DPNA code can be applied to a reservation made in person, over the phone or through a travel agency when a hidden disability is declared, so that the passenger is accompanied throughout the trip with support from trained personnel.

Guide for autistic people at Dubai International Airport

Emirates has collaborated with Dubai International Airport to develop a comprehensive pre-travel planning tool for passengers with hidden disabilities. O Autism Friendly Guide from Dubai International Airport provides step by step images for each part of the airport journey to boarding and details the services that are available.

Meals ordered in advance

Some passengers may need special meals during the flight if they have sensory sensitivity. These meals can be requested at least 24 hours in advance at website or on the Emirates app. The menu features gluten-free meal options, light dishes, vegetarian meals and meals for diabetics. For children's meals, families traveling with an autistic passenger can contact the Emirates local office in advance to make the request.

Pre-selection of the content you will watch on the Emirates app

Download the Emirates app and before their flight, passengers can plan and pre-select their favorite films, TV shows or music playlists. As soon as the passenger boards, the chosen items will be immediately synchronized with the entertainment system ice, saving time and allowing passengers to settle in more quickly to enjoy selected content.

Arrival at the airport

Free parking for 2 hours

People with hidden disabilities receive free parking in all Dubai International Airport terminals for 2 hours. Taxis for people with hidden disabilities can also be booked with Dubai Taxi on the toll-free number 80088088.

Sunflower Cord Use for Hidden Disabilities

O sunflower is a globally recognized symbol for hidden disabilities. Emirates and Dubai International airport staff with sunflower pins can be easily identified and are specially trained to help travelers with hidden disabilities. Passengers are encouraged to declare their hidden disability to these staff and wear a sunflower lanyard, allowing support throughout their airport journey. The sunflower lanyard can be collected at the information desk in Departure Terminal 3 and at specific collection points, which are easily identified in Terminals 1 and 2.

Autism-friendly route

The Autism Friendly Route at Dubai International Airport ensures that people with hidden disabilities pass through the airport using a dedicated route for them. The route includes access to priority check-in, passport verification, security and boarding lanes; and can be used using the sunflower cord. Staff specially trained and equipped to support people with hidden disabilities will be easily identified by wearing sunflower pins, allowing for greater visibility, communication and support throughout their airport journey.

Priority boarding or boarding last if you prefer

People who declare their hidden disabilities to Emirates staff have easier access to priority or last boarding if they prefer.

Emirates onboard experience

Families with children have close seats

Emirates does its best to accommodate families with children together, and passengers who declare their disability hidden are seated next to their companion or guardian.

Noise Canceling Headphones

Passengers with sensory and hearing needs in First Class and Business Class have access to noise-cancelling headphones to block out cabin sounds.

Sensitivity to light

If a customer, child or family member informs Emirates cabin crew that they are sensitive to light, cabin crew may turn off the passenger's personal light, close the window blind after takeoff and explain that the cabin lights will be decreased once meal services are completed.

Puzzles from Fly with Me magazine

Children on board who need a break from the screen or a distraction can request Emirates' “Fly with Me” activity pack, which features non-toxic coloring pencils, kid-friendly world maps, puzzles, drawing and coloring pages, as well as educational activities about Dubai and environmental protection.

entertainment in ice

Emirates passengers can spend time enjoying the extensive world-class entertainment library on board, offering more than 6.500 channels of on-demand entertainment, with up to 2 films and 1.500 hours of TV shows, as well as music, podcasts and audiobooks in 40 languages. O ice it also offers up to 100 video games, which can be played by two players in different seats if the game is multiplayer.

To improve the travel experience of neurodivergent passengers or people with hidden disabilities, Emirates collaborates with a number of stakeholders, including Dubai Airports, the General Directorate of Residency and Foreigners Affairs, Dubai Customs, Dubai Police, the Center of Dubai Autism and the Dubai Economy and Tourism Departments.

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Author aeroflap

Categories: Airlines, News

Tags: Airlines, Emirates, usaexport