Children with autism can be fast-tracked through security at Manchester Airport to make travelling easier for them and their families.
The airport launched the scheme after recognising that those with the condition can find it a ‘confusing and frightening experience’.
Parents can contact the airport ahead of their trip to get a booklet (that was designed with significant input from ASGMA) – specific to each terminal – and a video giving children a step-by-step guide of what they can expect.
Once families confirm to the airport that their child is on the autism spectrum they will be given a wristband to wear at the airport – which alerts staff and allows them to be fast-tracked through security.
Families with prams and pushchairs are already taken through the faster lane, but it is a perk that other passengers have to pay extra for.
A spokesman for the airport said the scheme was relaunched at the end of 2013 by singer and actor Keith Duffy, whose daughter, Mia, has autism – and has since been used by almost 800 people.
Parents are asked to prove their child is on the spectrum and can do so via a disability living allowance letter, an occupational therapy report or a disability nurse report.
Keith Duffy launched the Airport Awareness scheme for passengers with autism at Manchester Airport
If someone was to turn up on the day without proof, airport staff still ‘try to help’, but warned against it and are doing what they can to ensure the system isn’t abused.
A Manchester Airport spokesperson said: “Manchester Airport’s ‘Airport Awareness’ is to help parents and carers of children on the autistic spectrum understand what will happen on their journey through the airport.
“When parents request the wristband for their child we do ask for proof of autism to make sure the facility is only used by those who require it.”
“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.
Manchester Airport has produced a booklet and video to help families with autistic children
“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.”
Keith Duffy, who appears in the airport videos, said: “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.”
Passengers travelling in the next fortnight are being told to call 08714 777 747.
Anyone travelling after then can fill out the form at www.manchesterairport.co.uk/help-and-advice/feedback/ putting ‘airport awareness’ in the subject line.
The videos can also be viewed at www.manchesterairport.co.uk .