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Travel assistance for hidden disabilities @ Gatwick Airport
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Travel assistance for hidden disabilities @ Gatwick Airport

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Refreshed 12th Apr (Posted 4th Apr)
If you are travelling with someone with a hidden disability Heathrow airport will now offer you a sunflower lanyard so that staff know they may need extra time and care.

Sainsburys have also been trialling this about.sainsburys.co.uk/new…ial

Advice for passengers or their carers with hidden disabilities travelling through Gatwick.

Airport journeys can be stressful for many people, especially if you are unsure of what to expect on the day. Here you can find advice to help parents and carers who are travelling with children and vulnerable adults whose difficulties may not be immediately apparent to our staff.

For more information please email us at: HiddenDisability@gatwickairport.com

Sometimes visiting an airport in advance of your trip can help, especially with young children. While we do not offer specific tours, if you visit Gatwick, you will be able to familiarise yourselves with the airport layout and check-in areas.

I know people will say this is not a deal - but a friend who has tried the scheme was full of praise for it.
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Thanks for posting this. I've started to notice the signs stating 'Not all disabilities are visible' which is great.

I was diagnosed with bowel cancer in my early 40's, which is relatively young for this type of cancer. Thankfully I'm still here 6 years later watching my kids (who were only 4, 6 and 8 at the time) grow up and I'm truly grateful to the NHS for that.

However, I'm left with having to wear a colostomy bag for the rest of my life (small price in exchange for life), but occasionally I could really do with using the disabled toilets and I've lost count of the number of times I've heard whispers and comments either entering or leaving to the point that its made me really self conscious to the point where more often than not I just use the regular toilet cubicle. For anyone with a similar condition they'll know that its not the most comfortable or hygienic place to do what you need to do!

Admittedly, wherever I am it's been mainly from customers but it has also been from staff...I guess they see someone who looks young 'ish' still (!) and able bodied and think I just don't care that those toilets are there for 'genuinely' disabled people or that I'm someone who prefers to snort his coke in more comfortable surroundings than a toilet cubicle!

I take the point from the person who said it singled you out but I think the benefits of this outweigh the negatives. Anything that helps people with hidden disabilities and alleviates some of the challenges most people take for granted gets my vote.
37396767-mWWzY.jpg
Fantastic idea, the app is doing it no favours tho, heat
Used this last year for my daughter with Aspergers when flying to Turkey. Along with the lanyard, you can request a booklet to help people with hidden disabilities to get familiar with the airport and travelling through it before the arrive. You also get access to the disability waiting area, quicker security and are assisted to the gate and through to the door of the plane. Couldn't have had a better experience using the hidden disability people at Gatwick.
robpw204/04/2019 20:07

IM torn by this - i like the idea that more people are respecting people …IM torn by this - i like the idea that more people are respecting people with hidden disabilities etc but i think we have to be careful about marking disabled people ..


I'm more worried by people using it to jump queues. My son has autism and we used it last year on our flight to the states. Getting through departure was a breeze and pretty much meltdown free.The flight staff made a real fuss of him on the flight too . If it's not abused it's invaluable to genuine people who need it
Edited by: "FRANKtheTANK" 4th Apr
75 Comments
This sounds amazing! Great idea!
Thank you for sharing
Used this last year for my daughter with Aspergers when flying to Turkey. Along with the lanyard, you can request a booklet to help people with hidden disabilities to get familiar with the airport and travelling through it before the arrive. You also get access to the disability waiting area, quicker security and are assisted to the gate and through to the door of the plane. Couldn't have had a better experience using the hidden disability people at Gatwick.
dorsetboy7 m ago

Used this last year for my daughter with Aspergers when flying to Turkey. …Used this last year for my daughter with Aspergers when flying to Turkey. Along with the lanyard, you can request a booklet to help people with hidden disabilities to get familiar with the airport and travelling through it before the arrive. You also get access to the disability waiting area, quicker security and are assisted to the gate and through to the door of the plane. Couldn't have had a better experience using the hidden disability people at Gatwick.



Thank you for posting this and mentioning Gatwick, as I was reading the original post I was wondering if Gatwick did something similar, need this at the end of the month
thank you op
Most (most, not all) major uk aiports support this, ive used it flying from Norwich
37396767-mWWzY.jpg
Fantastic idea, the app is doing it no favours tho, heat
Nice to know.... Thank you for sharing OP
Heathrow or Gatwick (or both?)

Title says Gatwick, description days Heathrow staff.
Heat🔥🔥.... Also available at East Midlands
Also at Bristol Airport
Used the Gatwick one before, I left my earplugs at home once I explained my condition they were happy to assist and gave me a really good set.
Left a good review on their fb page upon my return
Edited by: "wanderer" 4th Apr
Used this in Leeds as I have autism - absolutely fantastic
hotdealsareus12304/04/2019 18:24

Heat🔥🔥.... Also available at East Midlands


how do ya get it from East Midlands,many thanks
Pricklerickle4 m ago

how do ya get it from East Midlands,many thanks


Think there was a post on here about it.... Here's a link I just found.

eastmidlandsairport.com/hel…es/

I used it last year... Sure I contacted them and they sent me lanyards in the post, you can arrange to collect at the airport I think.
IM torn by this - i like the idea that more people are respecting people with hidden disabilities etc but i think we have to be careful about marking disabled people ..
robpw204/04/2019 20:07

IM torn by this - i like the idea that more people are respecting people …IM torn by this - i like the idea that more people are respecting people with hidden disabilities etc but i think we have to be careful about marking disabled people ..


I'm more worried by people using it to jump queues. My son has autism and we used it last year on our flight to the states. Getting through departure was a breeze and pretty much meltdown free.The flight staff made a real fuss of him on the flight too . If it's not abused it's invaluable to genuine people who need it
Edited by: "FRANKtheTANK" 4th Apr
You can request special assistance also when booking a flight. I pre-booked via easyJet and was able to get a wheelchair to assist me as I struggle to walk short/long distances. Took the stress out of flying and gave me an easy flight!
Posted it as Heathrow as that's where a friend used it. Not sure why the title got changed to Gatwick and I'm glad to know it's available elsewhere too. Just thought it needed more publicity.
Also available at Birmingham airport. Apparently, it’s the same lanyard and is getting worldwide recognition. It’s best to plan ahead and inform airlines and the airport. We took my daughter to Dubai, then on to Saudi Arabia. Worked everywhere except in Jeddah. Not the lanyard as much, but the fact that I had emailed before hand and had the emails printed and showed it to the supervisor on site. The emails confirmed they would assist with boarding etc. Pretty much had someone help us from the gate to boarding and from leaving the plane to out through security.
Thanks for posting this. I've started to notice the signs stating 'Not all disabilities are visible' which is great.

I was diagnosed with bowel cancer in my early 40's, which is relatively young for this type of cancer. Thankfully I'm still here 6 years later watching my kids (who were only 4, 6 and 8 at the time) grow up and I'm truly grateful to the NHS for that.

However, I'm left with having to wear a colostomy bag for the rest of my life (small price in exchange for life), but occasionally I could really do with using the disabled toilets and I've lost count of the number of times I've heard whispers and comments either entering or leaving to the point that its made me really self conscious to the point where more often than not I just use the regular toilet cubicle. For anyone with a similar condition they'll know that its not the most comfortable or hygienic place to do what you need to do!

Admittedly, wherever I am it's been mainly from customers but it has also been from staff...I guess they see someone who looks young 'ish' still (!) and able bodied and think I just don't care that those toilets are there for 'genuinely' disabled people or that I'm someone who prefers to snort his coke in more comfortable surroundings than a toilet cubicle!

I take the point from the person who said it singled you out but I think the benefits of this outweigh the negatives. Anything that helps people with hidden disabilities and alleviates some of the challenges most people take for granted gets my vote.
sabresonic04/04/2019 23:24

Thanks for posting this. I've started to notice the signs stating 'Not …Thanks for posting this. I've started to notice the signs stating 'Not all disabilities are visible' which is great. I was diagnosed with bowel cancer in my early 40's, which is relatively young for this type of cancer. Thankfully I'm still here 6 years later watching my kids (who were only 4, 6 and 8 at the time) grow up and I'm truly grateful to the NHS for that. However, I'm left with having to wear a colostomy bag for the rest of my life (small price in exchange for life), but occasionally I could really do with using the disabled toilets and I've lost count of the number of times I've heard whispers and comments either entering or leaving to the point that its made me really self conscious to the point where more often than not I just use the regular toilet cubicle. For anyone with a similar condition they'll know that its not the most comfortable or hygienic place to do what you need to do! Admittedly, wherever I am it's been mainly from customers but it has also been from staff...I guess they see someone who looks young 'ish' still (!) and able bodied and think I just don't care that those toilets are there for 'genuinely' disabled people or that I'm someone who prefers to snort his coke in more comfortable surroundings than a toilet cubicle!I take the point from the person who said it singled you out but I think the benefits of this outweigh the negatives. Anything that helps people with hidden disabilities and alleviates some of the challenges most people take for granted gets my vote.


My friend died of bowell cancer he was in his 20s so very young glad your still kicking though - i do understand that schemes like this are genuinely trying to help people with hidden disabilities get assitance etc and its good to know there is support- i have a disability myself some days more obvious than others. my objection to it i guess it reminds me in a sense of the pink triangle etc and i dont think label people will nesscarialy change peoples attitudes etc or might dilute further the help they can give because no two people with disabiliies have the same needs etc and we need to be careful not to forget that we are all individuals. I have a real issue with people who try to force help on me .. i was in amsterdam on a train platform waiting for someone in my chair and these two station staff were insistent they should push me somewhere .. i was like im fine thanks but they wouldnt take no for an answer .. least one of the locals understood and intervened. im very independendent despite my disabilities.
Gatwick North also has a children's sensory room
dorsetboy20 h, 21 m ago

Used this last year for my daughter with Aspergers when flying to Turkey. …Used this last year for my daughter with Aspergers when flying to Turkey. Along with the lanyard, you can request a booklet to help people with hidden disabilities to get familiar with the airport and travelling through it before the arrive. You also get access to the disability waiting area, quicker security and are assisted to the gate and through to the door of the plane. Couldn't have had a better experience using the hidden disability people at Gatwick.


Thanks for this, was just about to ask what exactly they do differently as the website is really vague

Glad your daughter found it helpful
Edited by: "hukdm" 5th Apr
Is this available at Heathrow??
Special assistance is available at Manchester airport too, not with the sunflower lanyard though. However used it many times; the staff are lovely
It’s about time there was a comprehensive guide to all the places that will offer help for hidden disabilities. I have autism and often travel (sometimes alone) and I can get so overwhelmed and anxious. Flying is the ultimate anxiety-inducing experience, so for a little stress to be averted before a flight... that’s always good.

I’ve had very mixed experiences with travel companies. I use trains the most to travel within and outside the UK and some have almost nothing in place, others are better.

After a very stressful experience with Eurostar, I will give them some credit for allowing me to go through the Business Premier security, letting me wait in a secluded area and allowing me to board the train before everyone else. You just need to let them know before you travel and make yourself known to the assistance desk. Someone can accompany you through if needed, too.

Does anyone know whether there is anything in place during actual flights? I know I get very claustrophobic and anxious and it has made me avoid flying.
robo98905/04/2019 14:27

Comment deleted


I'm sorry but who are you to say that not a "real" disability???
beeeenah38 m ago

Special assistance is available at Manchester airport too, not with the …Special assistance is available at Manchester airport too, not with the sunflower lanyard though. However used it many times; the staff are lovely


Glad it worked out for you. I saw a woman being given one of these lanyards a few weeks ago at Manchester airport.
I have the outwardly obvious mobility issues and sad to say the 6 times I have used the special assistance service there (3 return journeys) the service was hopeless. Glasgow and Newcastle get it right every time. Manchester is a joke.
It’s not the staff who take you through checkin to blame. It’s after you are left at the collection point beside Pret A Manger that it all goes to hell in a handcart. This year and last I was left there, nobody came to take me to the departure gate. I nearly missed the plane last year.
Coming back in is a nightmare, they have a ready supply of jobsworths. There are a few that are spot on but sadly they are outnumbered by the rest.
sabresonic04/04/2019 23:24

Thanks for posting this. I've started to notice the signs stating 'Not …Thanks for posting this. I've started to notice the signs stating 'Not all disabilities are visible' which is great. I was diagnosed with bowel cancer in my early 40's, which is relatively young for this type of cancer. Thankfully I'm still here 6 years later watching my kids (who were only 4, 6 and 8 at the time) grow up and I'm truly grateful to the NHS for that. However, I'm left with having to wear a colostomy bag for the rest of my life (small price in exchange for life), but occasionally I could really do with using the disabled toilets and I've lost count of the number of times I've heard whispers and comments either entering or leaving to the point that its made me really self conscious to the point where more often than not I just use the regular toilet cubicle. For anyone with a similar condition they'll know that its not the most comfortable or hygienic place to do what you need to do! Admittedly, wherever I am it's been mainly from customers but it has also been from staff...I guess they see someone who looks young 'ish' still (!) and able bodied and think I just don't care that those toilets are there for 'genuinely' disabled people or that I'm someone who prefers to snort his coke in more comfortable surroundings than a toilet cubicle!I take the point from the person who said it singled you out but I think the benefits of this outweigh the negatives. Anything that helps people with hidden disabilities and alleviates some of the challenges most people take for granted gets my vote.


I too have experienced similar situations as 'sabresonic', where because I wasn't in a wheelchair, I was deemed as not needing to use the disabled facilities. I have a damaged spine in three areas and have had surgery on two of them. I do use a walking stick but more importantly in this situation, I have to self-catheterise and to do so I need to have space and somewhere to lay out my 'kit', such as the new catheter, wipes and sterilising gel. The paramount need for me is for the facility to be clean as poss which most disabled facilities are. I'm at high risk of serious UTIs of which I have suffered many and been seriously ill with sepsis through it on two occasions.Most times when I have ended up with a UTI is after I have used a normal toilet cubicle and nowhere to place my kit safely. So like 'sabresonic' I have had people sneer at me and question me because I am able to walk in and out albeit with a walking aid as to why I did use them. On one occasion I actually gave the person who questioned me, the opportunity to go back in the disabled facility and witness first hand why I needed to use them but strangely enough she declined.

So for places such as Gatwick airport to offer the service for people with hidden disabilities is a big thumbs up for me. A few companies such as Asda are now displaying signs on the facilities pointing out that not all disabilities are visible and this makes life a lot more bearable when out and about. Well done Gatick airport for the initiative.
This is great as it saves me paying for the fast security line at the airport.
FRANKtheTANK04/04/2019 20:32

I'm more worried by people using it to jump queues. My son has autism and …I'm more worried by people using it to jump queues. My son has autism and we used it last year on our flight to the states. Getting through departure was a breeze and pretty much meltdown free.The flight staff made a real fuss of him on the flight too . If it's not abused it's invaluable to genuine people who need it


Sadly that is so true. Coming back from Egypt a fortnight ago, there were six persons in wheelchairs waiting to board as priority plus me who had found out there was an airbridge at the gate so politely declined the chair as I can manage on level ground. When we arrived back into Manchester, there was no airbridge and yet there was only me and one woman accompanying her husband who needed a wheelchair. We both remarked to each other about where the heck did the other supposedly disabled people go. Answer, in the rush to get to the baggage section, they had managed to get down a huge flight of steps off the plane. Makes me so mad
Robbieee20 m ago

I'm sorry but who are you to say that not a "real" disability???


Let’s not turn this into a disability competition. The website covers Autism, ADHD, bowl issues, dementia etc and they don’t discriminate about who does or doesn’t deserve help. I suggest we celebrate a good initiative.
My son has autism and I for one am hugely grateful when organisations take the time to show a little kindness and consideration.
I think the lanyard is a great idea as it avoids people thinking that they are rewarding what others may perceive as a naughty child with special treatment. (My son will often have a meltdown or get over excited when in new places.). It can be extremely embarrassing and while most people are kind, a significant part of the population show irritation and annoyance. Anything that makes things a little easier is always welcome.
beeeenah51 m ago

Special assistance is available at Manchester airport too, not with the …Special assistance is available at Manchester airport too, not with the sunflower lanyard though. However used it many times; the staff are lovely



It is available at Manchester. My brother in law has Downs Syndrome. We were told by the staff at Jet2 check in about the scheme approx. 2 years ago. We got a lanyard straightaway from a desk nearby. It has really helped to make the experience a lot less stressful.
robpw28 h, 25 m ago

My friend died of bowell cancer he was in his 20s so very young glad your …My friend died of bowell cancer he was in his 20s so very young glad your still kicking though - i do understand that schemes like this are genuinely trying to help people with hidden disabilities get assitance etc and its good to know there is support- i have a disability myself some days more obvious than others. my objection to it i guess it reminds me in a sense of the pink triangle etc and i dont think label people will nesscarialy change peoples attitudes etc or might dilute further the help they can give because no two people with disabiliies have the same needs etc and we need to be careful not to forget that we are all individuals. I have a real issue with people who try to force help on me .. i was in amsterdam on a train platform waiting for someone in my chair and these two station staff were insistent they should push me somewhere .. i was like im fine thanks but they wouldnt take no for an answer .. least one of the locals understood and intervened. im very independendent despite my disabilities.


I'm sorry to hear about your friend, that's very young. I wouldn't have considered myself to be young at 40 but my consultant said this type of cancer doesn't generally materialise until much later in life. Cancer has effected many family members, I was diagnosed 6 weeks after my Mum died of stomach cancer. Because of my family history my consultant organised some DNA testing and it was discovered that I had inherited a faulty gene from my Mum's side. I now have to deal with the possibility I may have passed the faulty gene onto my three daughters, which as a Dad is a terrible thing to carry even though its completely out of my hands, its a 50/50 chance. The only positive benefit of that finding is that my kids will get screened when they are old enough, they'll be monitored and preventative surgery can be offered.

One of my closest friends is a wheelchair user, in my experience most people with disabilities want to be independent...they just need the opportunity to exercise that independence, like being able to gain access to places those without disabilities can.
robo98905/04/2019 14:27

Comment deleted


That is a nasty and offensive comment and I have reported it as such! I have no wish to know what your disability is but I am sure it is very unpleasant from what you say but I would have thought you may have a little more understanding of others who have disabilities even though you think that the disability is inconsequential.
Great idea. Thanks for posting.
flex13 m ago

Sadly that is so true. Coming back from Egypt a fortnight ago, there were …Sadly that is so true. Coming back from Egypt a fortnight ago, there were six persons in wheelchairs waiting to board as priority plus me who had found out there was an airbridge at the gate so politely declined the chair as I can manage on level ground. When we arrived back into Manchester, there was no airbridge and yet there was only me and one woman accompanying her husband who needed a wheelchair. We both remarked to each other about where the heck did the other supposedly disabled people go. Answer, in the rush to get to the baggage section, they had managed to get down a huge flight of steps off the plane. Makes me so mad


When I travelled to Munich from Manchester in January with my husband a woman sat across from us in the waiting area jumped out her wheelchair and was telling somebody on the phone how she used the assistance to get through quicker as she was late for her flight. Makes me very annoyed at people abusing the service
robo98905/04/2019 14:27

Comment deleted


What a shame that you seem more of an "Expert" on what hidden disabilities are, than you are in treating people with respect..
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