The Sunflower Lanyard25 June 2019
A relatively new initiative at UK Airports is the Sunflower lanyard which anyone with a hidden disability/condition such as autism can obtain at airports to help make travel an easier experience.
My son Harry is aged 10 and he has Ulcerative Colitis, which is a form of Inflammatory Bowel Disease, for Harry the lanyard was a godsend. On arrival at Gatwick North Airport at an eye-wateringly early 3.30am we went to the special assistance desk which is located to the far right hand side of the terminal entrance. Harry was given a lanyard and we were told that the airport staff would recognise the lanyard and direct us through security and beyond.
At security screening, a member of security walked us through the gates and in to the hand luggage screening area. The staff member asked what condition Harry had so he would know how best to help him. He mentioned that he had recently undertaken Autism Friendly training and had heard of IBD. Excellent training!
After we made it through security, (slight issue with a hidden Kindle in son’s bag – but at least we didn’t set off the Explosive Detection device like we did at Ebbsfleet last year but that’s another delightful travel story…) we could then walk straight through the special assistance lane to the shops and restaurants – again minimal walking and queuing.
After a good breakfast at Wetherspoons we walked to the boarding gate but we could have requested a lift from one of the numerous special assistance carts, Harry at this point was feeling ok and not too tired.
At the boarding gate the TUI staff asked whether Harry wanted to be boarded first or last and then showed us to a waiting area before escorting us to the plane.
On board, staff members were attentive and informed us of where the nearest toilets were.
We travelled to Milas Bodrum Airport and at the eVisa entry point we were shown to the disabled customer queue, and apart from a slight issue with husbands visa, a super experience so far.
Part 2 the journey home.
After a fantastic holiday, it was time to leave for home. When we arrived at Milas Bodrum the airport was quiet so we went through the initial security scan with little bother then queued to check our hold luggage – rather nervous at this point as we had spent far too much time in the shops and our bags were on the (OMG) heavy side.
Harry was really tired so he went and sat down until we got to the front of the queue.
The check in staff were Turkish and I was delighted (and relieved) to see they recognised the lanyard and asked what help Harry needed. They wanted to call for a wheelchair but we explained through broken English and hand gestures that Harry was ok to walk.
Through to security the officers walked us to the front of the queue and we went through with minimal wait.
Our flight was delayed due to problems at Gatwick so we waited till most of the passengers were on the plane before we boarded.
Again more delays with the plane not going anywhere for over an hour but that's all part of travelling...the toilets were open for use and Harry was given a cup of water as the plane was getting a little hot.
When we reached Gatwick, Harry had a funny tummy so went to the toilet whilst we waited for the luggage. He didn't feel confident enough to use the disabled toilet as there was not a sign that said not every disability is visible (Gatwick North).
After we collected our luggage we were signposted to follow the disabled entrance for passport control so again very minimal queuing.
All in all, we were very impressed with staff at both Gatwick North and at Bodrum and the assistance given to Harry.
Top tip: Do make use of the sunflower lanyard if you have someone with a hidden disability in your party, they are very helpful for getting support and can be obtained either at the airport or they can be posted out in advance.
See more on Revo's Accessible Places campaign work here