Emirates engages families with neurodivergent children to improve travel experience

Emirates and Dubai International Airport (DXB) said they are focused on improving the travel experience for neurodivergent passengers.

Image: Emirates Airlines

They now facilitate ‘travel rehearsals’ where children can practice their journey through the airport and onboard aircraft. They are also working directly with families.

Humza Dabab recently flew from Melbourne to Dubai with his mother and two siblings and was treated to a VIP experience from Emirates – his favourite airline. This was his first flight with Emirates, though his parents advised he is already very familiar with all facets of Emirates through his own studies – from the aircraft itself, to the inflight entertainment ice, the cabin crew uniform and the safety video. Humza bought his own safety belt to simulate and act out the safety advisory, to which he has memorised all the words, and has a collection of Emirates aircraft models to practice the take-off and landing experience. Humza’s mother Lamees said: “The plane is Humza’s happy place. The destination is not even the most exciting part of the journey, I can wholeheartedly say it is the plane ride itself. He is so excited to be finally travelling with Emirates.”

Humza is autistic and being on time is a crucial requirement for his particular needs. The potential of running late or missing the flight would cause significant anxiety which must be alleviated in advance. Emirates and Dubai International Airport employees are trained and prepared for these requests and can facilitate priority boarding for neurodivergent passengers, referred to as People of Determination in the UAE, as well as offering a support system in the airport for customers who declare their additional needs.

Emirates has also been working closely with Dubai Airports to facilitate travel rehearsals for neurodiverse children, including students from the Mohammed bin Rashid Center for Special Education. These rehearsals form part of the accessible and inclusive travel programme developed by Dubai Airports and Emirates, designed to help customers familiarise themselves with the airport environment, its people and processes, prior to travel. The students are accompanied by family members and therapists through the airport and aircraft to simulate an authentic travel experience, including the physical artefacts and processes that passengers will go through on the day of travel, like boarding passes and security screening. The practice process helps the families gain confidence in managing the experience, whilst also enabling Emirates and Dubai Airports to constantly improve services for passengers with additional needs.