Autism and Flying: Your Guide to Travelling Through UK Airports

Aberdeen Airport Autism Services

Aberdeen Airport provides additional support for people on the autism spectrum.

You can download a visual journey of the airport in advance so you know exactly what to expect when you arrive, from what the terminal building looks like and how to check-in, to exactly what going through security entails, as this can be the most worrying part of the process for a lot of people. The guide contains both written instructions and accompanying photographs.

There is an additional guide for children that contains fun activities to carry out as well as what to expect at the airport.

Familiarisation visits can also be arranged for people who live local to Aberdeen Airport. These allow you to experience the airport during quieter hours in advance of your trip so you know what to expect.

Aberdeen Airport provides lanyards if requested, which will allow airport staff to discreetly identify people who require additional support at the airport.

Aberdeen Airport Autism Contacts

Assistance Provider Phone Number01224 725767
Assistance Provider Email
Duty Manager Team (For Familiarisation Visits & Lanyards)

Belfast City Airport Autism Services

George Best Belfast City Airport does offer advice and guidance for those with autism, although it’s primarily aimed at children.

The Autism in the Air videos were developed by PEAT (Parents Education as Autism Therapists) and Queen’s University Belfast School of Education. There are five videos in total, beginning with the one above.

Hidden disability lanyards are available for travellers who require them. They are a bright green colour and allow airport staff to identify those who might need extra assistance. These can be collected from the Special Assistance desk in the main terminal on the day of travel, or can be collected in advance if you prefer. You’re free to keep lanyards and they can be reused on your next trip.

Belfast City Airport Autism Contacts

Airport Information Number02890 939093

Belfast International Airport Autism Services

Belfast International Airport’s autism awareness policies are refreshingly thorough, with detailed guides that make everything clear and stress-free.

Autism Awareness Lanyards are available to assist with your journey through Belfast International Airport.

They also provide a Countdown Timer, for people who have difficulty waiting during busy times, and a Travel Calendar, to help travellers outline their trip in a visual format.

Familiarisation visits can also be arranged upon request.

Belfast International Airport Autism Contacts


Birmingham Airport Autism Services

The National Autistic Society named Birmingham an Autism Friendly Airport in 2017 thanks to their work with Autism West Midlands and the OCS Group.

If you have autism, or you’re the parent or carer of someone with autism, Birmingham Airport provides a complete guide. It contains tips for getting to the airport, advice on going through security, and your wait before boarding the plane.

There is a similar guide for children, that breaks down the stages of travelling through an airport to put their mind at ease.

Autism West Midlands’ guide to travelling by plane may also be of use if you’re unsure, or it’s been a while since you last travelled.

If you’re looking to book autism assistance, Birmingham Airport advises you do this through your airline or tour operator at least 48 hours before departure.

However, hidden disabilities lanyards can be collected from the Assisted Travel reception desk on the day of travel.

Birmingham Airport Autism Contacts

Assisted Travel Phone No.0121 767 7878
Assisted Travel Email

Bournemouth Airport Autism Services

Bournemouth Airport is much easier to navigate than other airports as it’s relatively small, however they do provide a number of autism assistance services.

The airport works in partnership Autism Wessex to provide training to staff members, and pre-travel visits can be arranged with the charity if you require.

Bournemouth Airport operates a lanyard system so that staff can provide you with extra assistance.

A Guide to Travelling Through Bournemouth Airport is available, which outlines things that might make autistic passengers anxious, as well as things to do before travelling and a complete walkthrough of the airport.

Bournemouth Airport Autism Contacts

Autism Wessex01305 213135
Disability Service Provider07534988571
Bournemouth Airport Main Switchboard01202 364000

Bristol Airport Autism Services

Bristol Airport gained an Autism Friendly Award in February 2018 from the National Autistic Society, and all customer-facing staff have received full training.

The airport has worked with OCS Group and the National Autistic Society to develop a hidden disabilities assistance card and lanyard. This card is a discreet way of showing airport staff that you might need additional help as you travel through Bristol Airport

Thumbs Up World also helped the airport to create a guide for children with autism, with information on getting to the airport, what happens in the terminal, how to identify customer services staff and security screening.

Bristol Airport provides easy-to-read maps of the terminals and car park.

The airport advises you to arrange special assistance with your airline prior to travel. When you arrive at Bristol Airport, you can then report to the OCS reception desk opposite Ritazza in the terminal building departure concourse.

Bristol Airport Autism Contacts

OCS Phone No.01275 473403
OCS Email

Cardiff Airport Autism Services

For those worried about travelling from Cardiff Airport, check out this story about five-year-old Harrison. Once too stressed to fly at all, travelling through the airport is now a less taxing experience.

Autism Puzzles delivered intensive training to the PRM (Passengers with Reduced Mobility) team, and they are now recognised as Autism Champions. They are available at the PRM desk 24 hours a day for passengers to consult with and ask questions.

You can arrange a familiarisations tour of the airport in advance of your trip in order to get to grips with the place and what you can expect on the day.

Cardiff Airport operates a wristband system</a if you have autism, or you’re the carer of someone who does. This will let staff know you might require special assistance around the airport. Wristbands can be collected from the special assistance desk in the check-in hall, or they can be posted out to you directly.

Cardiff Airport Autism Contacts

Special Assistance Phone No.01446 729329
Special Assistance Email

Durham Tees Valley Airport Autism Services

Durham Tees Valley does not feature information about assistance for those with hidden disabilities on its website. The special assistance page deals primarily with physical disabilities.

However, when we reached out to Durham Tees Valley Airport, they responded with the following:

All of the operations staff that deal with Passengers with Reduced Mobility and hidden disabilities passengers have been trained in dealing with all aspects from the check-in process through security and onto the aircraft.

The Airport Duty Managers are also able to assist when necessary.

If you would like to give the ADM a call on 07768 155678 they can arrange any assistance you require before you travel.

Durham Tees Valley Airport Autism Contacts

Airport Duty Manager07768 155678

East Midlands Airport Autism Services

East Midlands Airport offers a variety of support services for people with autism and other hidden disabilities.

The airport runs a hidden disabilities lanyard system, which will indicate to staff that the wearer might need additional time, car and understanding while travelling. Lanyards can be obtained at the Passenger Services Desk in the check-in hall, or the airport can post one out to you in advance.

East Midlands Airport’s Airport Awareness Booklet will provide you with information on what to expect at the airport as well as some activities for children.

A downloadable Assistance Passport is also available, which enables you to specify situations that could cause stress or anxiety. Bring this with you to the airport when you travel so that staff can make your journey as smooth as possible.

East Midlands Airport Autism Contacts

Phone No.0800 083 8759

Edinburgh Airport Autism Services

Edinburgh Airport has a dedicated page for those travelling with additional needs, and the information contained on it is clear, concise and thorough.

They provide a downloadable booking form which they request is completed and returned to at least 24 hours before your date of travel.

They advise arriving at the airport early to avoid any additional stress, and will provide an Additional Needs contact number for when you arrive.

Please note that if you are travelling in a group, the Edinburgh Airport Additional Needs team is only able to fast-track the passenger requiring assistance and up to two immediate carers.

Edinburgh Airport also operates a lanyard/pin system, which will make staff aware that you may be in need of assistance and tailor their approach accordingly. They can send a lanyard or pin by post, or you can collect one at the Special Assistance Reception on your day of travel.

You are also able to book a pre-visit in order to familiarise yourself with the sights and sounds of the airport if you wish.

For children with additional needs, Edinburgh Airport provides an animated video, and a children’s guide book for boys or girls. Simply contact Additional Needs and they will happily post a book out to you.

An online visual guide to Edinburgh Airport is also available, which will help you to prepare for your arrival at the airport.

Edinburgh Airport Autism Contacts

Additional Needs

Exeter Airport Autism Services

Special travel assistance from trained Exeter Airport staff can be made available from the moment you arrive at the airport.

Please take a look at the procedures video above to familiarise yourself with the process of checking in and going through security at Exeter Airport.

Lanyards are available for those with hidden disabilities. These will enable airport staff to recognise you and cater to your need. Simply report to the Special Assistance Desk to obtain one of these.

If you would like a guided familiarisation tour of the airport, please contact Exeter Airport at least two weeks before the day of travel.

Exeter Airport Autism Contacts

Special Assistance Phone Number07896 168 326
Special Assistance Email

Gatwick Airport Autism Services

Gatwick is the UK’s first airport to have its own in-house sensory room.

This soothing environment is filled with floor cushions, bean bags and digital wall displays, as well as an interactive zone to keep you occupied while waiting for your flight.

The sensory room is wheelchair accessible and free to use if you’re departing from North Terminal, but please remember to pre-book to guarantee a space.

Gatwick also provides an autism-friendly guide to travelling through the airport, which should help you to familiarise yourself with the environment before you arrive.

Unfortunately, Gatwick doesn’t provide advanced guided tours of the airport, but you are welcome to visit and get to know the general layout and the check-in areas if you wish.

The airport also employs a hidden disability lanyard scheme which you can choose to wear as you make your way through Gatwick, alerting staff in a discrete manner that you may need a bit of extra help or more time. You’re free to head to one of the assistance reception areas to pick one up when you arrive.

Copy of Exeter Airport Autism Contacts

Special Assistance Phone Number07896 168 326
Special Assistance Email

Glasgow Airport Autism Services

Glasgow Airport has been working with a number of charities to improve their staff training and awareness of hidden disabilities, and to improve the assistance that they provide.

As a result, they have developed a hidden disability lanyard system, which will discretely identify passengers that require additional support to security and other airport staff. Simply check-in at the special assistance desk to obtain a lanyard, which is located in the main check-in area on the ground floor. They are also there to provide you with support on how else to travel through the airport.

When you’re booking assistance for your journey, book DPNA assistance to indicate what kind of support you need. You can also contact the airport before you travel to explain your needs, and they can then outline the options that are available to you.

If the airport is quiet, they may even be able to organise a pre-visit for you, where you will be guided around the airport by a member of staff.

Visual guide –

Manchester Airport Autism Services

Manchester Airport has launched a new video to accompany their redesigned ‘Airport Awareness’ literature aimed at helping families with autistic children.

The Airport Awareness initiative was originally launched in 2009 but has been refreshed to include a booklet and video for families travelling through any of Manchester airport’s three terminals.

Ex-Boyzone Singer and Coronation Street actor Keith Duffy is backing Manchester Airport’s Awareness initiative and appears in the videos.

Keith has been an autism ‘awareness’ campaigner since his 13-year-old daughter Mia was diagnosed with the condition at age 18 months and is a patron and active fundraiser for Irish Autism Action.

In 2009, Keith and his wife Lisa won ITV’s All Star Mr & Mrs and donated the £10,000 prize money to an autism charity.

Keith said: “I’ve been actively fundraising and raising awareness for children with autism for many years now, ever since my daughter Mia was diagnosed in 2001. I think it’s brilliant what Manchester Airport is doing to help both children and parents affected by autism.

“This initiative will make a real difference to families travelling through the airport and I’m delighted to be supporting Manchester Airport with this.”

The booklets and accompanying videos show a typical scenario from arriving at Manchester Airport to checking in, going through security, boarding the plane and the return journey.

Information about each stage of travelling through Manchester Airport is featured and the booklets are also illustrated with photographs.

Manchester Airport’s Customer Services Director, Tricia Williams said: “This initiative is unique to Manchester Airport and following feedback from parents and carers who have in previous years used our booklet, we decided to create accompanying videos to provide a visual aid as well.

“We appreciate that an airport can be a very confusing and even frightening place for someone on the autistic spectrum so we have worked with local autism organisations over the last few years to help autistic children and their families as much as we can when they are travelling through our airport.

“The booklets and videos allow parents to plan their journey with their child, helping them to understand what to expect when they arrive at, travel through and return to Manchester Airport and we’re delighted that this initiative has already received so much positive feedback.”

The ‘Airport Awareness’ booklets are available to download at, or alternatively hard copies can be requested free of charge via Manchester Airport’s Customer Contact Centre by telephoning 08714 777 747 or emailing

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