Furthering Dubai’s commitment to accessible travel and to raise awareness of autism, Emirates has 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, as well as providing 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 Emirates Commercial Operations in the Gulf, Middle East & Central Asia, and Mostafa Karam – SVP – Emirates Customer Affairs & Service Audit.

The group used the Autism Friendly Route through Dubai International Airport which includes 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 support throughout the journey.

EK2605 departed DXB at 11:20am and landed again at 12:20pm, 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 to 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, with a view to supporting neurodiverse needs and Dubai’s commitment to People of Determination.

At the event, members of IBCCES were tasked to provide insights and notes on the inflight experience for neurodiverse customers. Emirates and IBCCES are working together to develop an official Autism-friendly inflight certification, which could be eventually used by other airlines.

This certification will complement Emirates’ recent achievements, where all Dubai Check In facilities – Emirates City Check-In & Travel Store in DIFC, Emirates Cruise Check In – Port Rashid, Emirates Cruise Check In – Dubai Harbour and Emirates City Check-In Ajman and Emirates’ dedicated hub in Terminal 3 DXB were awarded the Certified Autism Center Designation.

This also builds on the recent recognition of Dubai International Airport as the first international airport to earn the designation from IBCCES, as well as aligning with the Department of Economy and Tourism’s vision of becoming the first Certified Autism Destination in the Middle East.

By working together – Emirates, Dubai’s Department of Economy and Tourism, and Dubai Airports in collaboration with the General Directorate of Residency and Foreign Affairs, Dubai Police and Dubai Customs, are making travel more inclusive and accessible for all, reflecting Dubai’s commitment to becoming a leading destination for travellers with diverse needs and aligning with Dubai’s Social Agenda 33, under the theme ‘Family: The Foundation of Our Nation’.
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