DUBAI, UAE, 29 April 2024: Furthering Dubai’s commitment to accessible travel and raising awareness of autism, Emirates invited 30 UAE families with neurodiverse children to have a real check-in experience and familiarisation flight on the 24 April, in Terminal 3 Dubai International Airport (DXB). 

The initiative was designed to help the children practice and alleviate anxieties before travelling and provide a unique opportunity for Emirates to collaborate with key partners and garner insights for improving accessible travel.

Emirates hosted Her Excellency Hessa BuHumaid, Director General of the Community Development Authority of Dubai, as well as 30 neurodiverse children aged between 8 and 12 years old from Dubai Autism Centre, Safe Centre for Autism, Rashid Centre for People of Determination and the New England Centre Children Clinic to attend the flight, including their caregivers. Emirates also invited a neurodiverse child with Angelman Syndrome to join the experience, a condition which can cause delayed development, problems with speech and balance, intellectual disability and seizures. The group were joined by Adil Al Ghaith – SVP of Emirates Commercial Operations in the Gulf, Middle East & Central Asia, and Mostafa Karam – SVP of Emirates Customer Affairs & Service Audit.

The group used the Autism Friendly Route through Dubai International Airport, which included access to priority lanes for check-in, passport control, security, and boarding. Specially trained Emirates check-in staff and cabin crew were on hand to provide support throughout the journey. EK2605 departed DXB at 1120 and landed again at 1220, giving children a real-life experience of a flight, including inflight service, announcements from the cabin crew and Captain, and the sounds and sights of a real take-off and landing.

According to a study by the International Board of Credentialing and Continuing Education Standards (IBCCES) only 13% of families with neurodiverse children surveyed take family vacations because they cite the experience of the airport and flight as too stressful and triggering for the children’s sensory sensitivities. However, 93% of families surveyed said they would take more trips if there were more autism-certified options available and support in place. The aim of the Emirates travel rehearsal initiative is to help customers with autism and sensory disorders and their families prepare for travel through a guided tour of the airport and aircraft cabin environment, as well as providing comprehensive training and understanding of neurodiversity to all Emirates team members. More Emirates initiatives are planned in the future to support neurodiverse needs and Dubai’s commitment to People of Determination.

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