Auckland Airport Simplifies Travel for those with Hidden Disabilities

As the aviation industry reopens in New Zealand, Auckland Airport and Air New Zealand are introducing the Sunflower Hidden Disabilities programme to make travel headache-free for every traveller. 

Making travel easy for everyone

After almost two years of isolation internationally due to the pandemic, key players in New Zealand’s aviation industry have noticed a crucial gap of care in its service. 

The Hidden Disabilities Sunflower lanyard, a bright green lanyard with sunflowers patterned all over, is a popular and discrete way people can notice an individual with a hidden disability, thereby knowing that they may need some additional support or something as simple as more time and patience when navigating security and other areas of the airport. 

The Sunflower lanyard is used internationally and is a common way whereby those with hidden disabilities can receive the slight extra help and care they require without having to share it verbally with everyone they come across. By simply wearing the lanyard in a public place that recognises it in their operations, the lives of those with non-visible disabilities whilst out-and-about are made much simpler. 

Anna Cassels-Brown, General Manager of Operations at Auckland Airport, spoke of how important it is that everyone can travel comfortably and safely, especially as travel reopens in New Zealand post-COVID restrictions. When considering that most people have either aid or a device that gives others around them a visual clue that they’re disabled and require a little extra help, Cassels-Brown highlights that “up to three-quarters of disabled people are not so easily identified”:

“We love to travel, but we know airports can be complex and stressful at times. The pandemic has added to this, with the introduction of additional health and border processes. Even a couple of years of limited travel opportunities has made us all a little rusty when it comes to flying.”

Cassels-Brown continued to explain Auckland Airport’s motivations behind starting the programme: 

“By introducing the Hidden Disabilities Sunflower at Auckland Airport, we can support people with non-visible disabilities whose particular requirements aren’t immediately obvious – including for example people with autism, dementia, anxiety, or conditions that cause chronic pain.”

How will it work?

All staff working in public-facing roles in Auckland Airport’s domestic and international terminals are trained to recognise the sunflower symbol and understand the kind of assistance a traveller wearing one might need. 

Cassels-Brown said that staff are “really excited to be introducing a programme that not only brings a positive change for travellers but has broadened their understanding of hidden disabilities.”

Auckland Airport is also working with border agencies, airline staff retailers across the airport and terminals, and other organisations that interact with travellers and guests in the terminals. 

Chief People Officer for Air New Zealand Nikki Dines, has spoken on how working with Auckland Airport will ensure that all customers who need more support will have a more seamless and less stressful travel experience.

“The Hidden Disabilities Sunflower Lanyard is such a great way to help our people and customers connect to ensure a great journey and signal some customers may need extra assistance. As the world opens back up, we want all customers to feel supported to travel.”

Air New Zealand launches new route between Auckland and New York using B787-9
Air New Zealand is New Zealand’s flag carrier | © Cammynz

The largest airport and busiest airport in New Zealand is adopting a very important programme that’ll help make travelling through and into the airport much easier for everyone. 

In the UK, Gatwick Airport adopted the Hidden Disabilities Sunflower Lanyard in 2016. And while one can argue that Auckland is relatively late, they are still one of few. Regardless, this move surely marks the beginning of other major airports across the world, that haven’t already adopted the same programme.


What do you think of the introduction of the programme? Let us know.

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Jasmine Adjallah
Jasmine Adjallah
Jr Reporter - Aspiring to work in a journalism, PR, Communications/media role, Jasmine is using her gap year as an opportunity to learn, gain experience and grow as a person. Interested in the sports, aviation and broadcasting world. At Travel Radar she is a Jr. Reporter working with the publication over Summer 2022.


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