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Flying When A Child Has An Illness or Disability

Flying When A Child Has An Illness or Hidden Disability



I’ve spoken to some fellow parents, whose children happen to be on the autistic spectrum. For some of their fantastic travel tips for kids on the autistic spectrum see here. Do look out for the sunflower lanyard for hidden disabilities. You can often request these to be sent to you before you travel. For example here is how to get one if you are flying through Heathrow airport.

airport awareness autism MAN

This post also contains useful travel information and tips and details what airports provide for special needs.

Manchester Airport

For example, Manchester Airport has a programme called  ‘Airport Awareness’, which provides travel advice and assistance for parents and carers of children on the Autistic Spectrum. 

You can ring the customer contact centre on  (+44)  (0)871 477 7747 and give them your details. You will receive a wristband and booklet. The airport staff look out for the wristbands and help you through the airport. The pack explains the whole airport process to reduce travel anxieties. Furthermore, if your child doesn’t want to wear the wristband , you still can. Instead of having to wait in a long queue, you will be prioritised. Other airports take note of this wristband

Edinburgh airport

Edinburgh Airport also provides factsheets which help breakdown the journey through the airport into key stages.

Arriving and checking-in 

Please email for more information.


In the USA, Wings for Aviation and the TSA have teamed up with JetBlue and the Charles River Centre at Boston Logan Airport to not only provide training for airport and airline staff, but allow families to familiarise themselves with the airport and travel procedures and kids get a chance to practice the key stages, including boarding the aircraft. This event is held twice a year. For more information please email Wings for Aviation often visit other USA airports for one day events too.

In general, always have a look online at your airports website, as they very often provide additional resources either with videos that you can watch from home or guides to help you navigate through the terminal. 

Other illnesses or disabilities

Regarding other illnesses or disabilities, there are some requirements in place, depending on the severity of an infant or childs’ illness or disability. The first point of call, is always to contact your airline directly.

When the issue is more severe, parents will need to complete a medical form for the airline medical centre to assess the risk to that child whilst travelling, and to ensure that proper care can be provided. This can be anything from a condition from birth, to a temporary illness, injury or surgery, but should not result in a refusal to travel.

Any other less serious illness or disability should not need pre-planning, unless of course it is contagious! For instance, you cannot fly if you or your child has open chicken pox spots which are not completely scabbed over.

flying sick illness disability, monarch

Seating is pre-assigned in an area of the cabin that is more comfortable or where the
passenger requests, usually a bassinet/bulkhead seat but not the emergency exit. Some airlines  provide a special chair for free.

In all cases, many airlines offer a quicker check in process by using the Special Assistance Desk, which means there is usually no queuing involved. If any medical equipment is being carried as part of the baggage allowance, they are free of any excess charges.

Some airlines, like Emirates, use a company that will assist any passengers if there is any member who is ill or disabled, again free of charge, quite often requested if Mum or Dad is travelling alone with the child/children.

At airport security, passengers are encouraged to use the Family route, if it is available. This speeds up the whole security process and again avoids long queues.
Most airlines also offer pre-boarding to anyone with babies or young children, but particularly for those with additional needs.

To help prepare a child for a flight, you may be interested in these tips too.

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Keryn Means

Sunday 15th of March 2020

So many great tips! Traveling with a child with autism can be so stressful, but the resources out there are getting better and better.