Emirates Launches Autism-Friendly Travel Rehearsal Program

An autistic passenger with Emirates cabin crew.
Photo Credit: Emirates

Emirates, solidifying Dubai’s dedication to inclusive travel and autism awareness, recently hosted 30 UAE families with neurodiverse children for a unique experience.

These families participated in a travel rehearsal program on April 24th, navigating Dubai International Airport’s (DXB) Terminal 3 and experiencing a familiarization flight.

Empowering Families Through Practice

The program aimed to equip children with the tools to manage anxieties associated with air travel. It provided a realistic setting to practice the check-in process, navigate the airport environment, and experience a flight firsthand.

This included inflight service, announcements, and the sights and sounds of takeoff and landing.

The initiative brought together key stakeholders. Her Excellency Hessa BuHumaid, Director General of Dubai’s Community Development Authority, joined 30 children (aged 8-12) from various autism centers alongside their caregivers.

Notably, an additional child with Angelman Syndrome, a condition causing developmental delays, was also included.

This collaborative effort extended to airline staff. Adil Al Ghaith (SVP Emirates Commercial Operations, Gulf, Middle East & Central Asia) and Mostafa Karam (SVP Emirates Customer Affairs & Service Audit) were present for the event.

Accompanying them were specially trained check-in staff and cabin crew dedicated to supporting the families throughout their journey.

Addressing Travel Concerns

The program addressed a critical need. A study by the International Board of Credentialing and Continuing Education Standards (IBCCES) revealed that only 13% of families with neurodiverse children travel.

The reluctance stems from anxieties associated with being around airports and flights. However, 93% expressed a willingness to travel more often with increased support and autism-friendly options.

Building a More Inclusive Travel Experience

Emirates’ travel rehearsal initiative tackles this challenge head-on. By familiarizing families with the airport and aircraft environment, the program empowers them to navigate travel with greater confidence.

Additionally, Emirates offers comprehensive training to all staff members, fostering a deeper understanding of neurodiversity.

This initiative is just the beginning. Emirates has plans for further programs to cater to neurodiverse needs.

This vision aligns with Dubai’s commitment to “People of Determination,” a term encompassing individuals with disabilities.

Setting the Standard for Autism-Friendly Travel

The event also saw IBCCES members providing valuable insights on the inflight experience for neurodiverse passengers.

This collaboration aims to establish an official Autism-friendly inflight certification program, potentially setting a new industry standard.

This initiative builds upon Emirates’ recent achievements, including the Certified Autism Center™ designation awarded to all Dubai check-in facilities.

It further aligns with Dubai International Airport’s recognition as the first autism-friendly airport globally. Ultimately, it contributes to Dubai’s vision of becoming the Middle East’s first Certified Autism Destination™.


By joining forces with Dubai’s Department of Economy and Tourism, Dubai Airports, and various government entities, Emirates is paving the way for a more inclusive travel experience.

This collaborative approach reflects Dubai’s commitment to becoming a leading destination for travelers with diverse needs and aligns with Dubai’s Social Agenda 33, focusing on families as the foundation of the nation.

Emirates Employee Training

Emirates’ dedication extends beyond passengers. The airline has also invested heavily in employee training.

Over 29,000 cabin crew and ground staff have completed the online course “Introduction to Autism and Hidden Disabilities.”

Launched in 2022, the program covers various topics, promoting awareness and equipping staff with the skills to support passengers with autism and hidden disabilities.

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By Len Varley - Assistant Editor 4 Min Read
4 Min Read
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