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Are Airports Dealing with Hidden Disabilities the Right Way?

  • Written by Roberto Castiglioni

sunflower lanyard schemeIn recent times, more and more airports from around the world have been adopting the Sunflower Lanyard to better assist persons with hidden disabilities. But are lanyards the right answer to help people through their airport journey?

The lanyard project started at Gatwick Airport, U.K., in 2014. It was the product of a local initiative to support children with Autism making their way through the complex airport environment. In 2016 Gatwick airport was the first in the world to formally adopt the Sunflower Lanyard scheme.

In 2016, the U.K. Civil Aviation Authority made the first official mention of this (then) new tool in their Guidance for airports on providing assistance to people with hidden disabilities (CAP 1411).

In the document, the key objective of the use of lanyards is focused on better-assisting persons with hidden disabilities through security. The document also highlights that lanyards (or equivalent methods) should be made available to passengers as an option.

In late 2017, Heathrow Airport adopted the Sunflower Lanyard Scheme to enhance support for persons with hidden disabilities. This resulted in Heathrow being the international launch pad for this initiative.

Even during the recent Pandemic, more and more airports from around the world have been adopting the lanyard scheme for their passengers with hidden disabilities.

Truth be told, this is a penny-wise scheme, relatively low-cost and no-tech to better assist people, but it risks becoming pound-foolish if the right training is not disseminated across the entire workforce.

Unfortunately, this is where the low-cost idea becomes far more onerous. As the aviation sector slowly recovers from almost two years of inactivity and financial resources are far from replenished, expenditures need to be prioritized.

In this scenario. it serves little to no purpose to launch such an otherwise successful initiative if the right training protocols are not in place. In fact, whilst wider availability of lanyards across airports is welcome, it may even end up becoming a cause for disappointment if, for instance, security staff are not adequately trained.

The key to achieving customer service excellence is to meet individual expectations, even more so if customers are in need of additional support at critical touchpoints. We strongly hope this is a top priority for airports that have adopted the Sunflower Lanyard scheme.


I and my severely disabled wife wish to express our sincere gratefulness for the help and support this website gave us to enable us to reach a resolution with the air carrier.

John Greenwood.

Company Info

Reduced Mobility Rights Limited
Registered in England and Wales.
Company No : 07748812
9 Dalton House, 60 Windsor Avenue, London
United Kingdom, SW19 2RR
Phone: +44.(0)7786.993741



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