Flying With Children With Special Needs In The UK

If you are flying with a child with special needs, such as physical or mental disabilities or emotional needs, sometimes it can be stressful and things don't go to plan. You may not be able to find appropriate assistance or your child may get stressed. It's not always easy, but there are things you can do it make it easier for you and your child to ensure all their needs are met and everything goes as smoothly as possible. 

Here are some tips on flying with children with special needs in the UK and how you can make it as stress-free as possible.

Plan everything in advance


My first piece of advice would be to plan everything in advance. 

It's useful in advance if you check the layout of the airport, where the lifts are, where the disabled toilets are, and where the restaurants are.  This information should be online. 

Also, go to the information desk at the airport when you arrive. they should be able to give you a map of the airport and help you with any questions.  Birmingham even has a downloadable map of the airport suitable for children with details of procedures. It's important to tell your child at a level they can understand some of the basic procedures if you think it will help them have an uneventful journey.  

If your child gets stressed easily, ask where the quiet areas are. This is always useful to know! If they have coping mechanisms to deal with stress, ensure you remind them what to do. Sometimes an app can help with relaxation techniques. 

The airport may also be able to give you assistance if needed. This can be, help to get through the airport quickly if your child has autism, ADHD or learning difficulties as well as help if your child had physical difficulties. 

Check if there is help available

child wheelchair

As above check what help is available. This can be from the airport, the tour operator or the airline, and book in advance if you can. This can be the use of a wheelchair in the airport, assistance to push your child in a wheelchair, help to get through security quickly and safely, and assistance to get to the gate as well. Luggage assistance can also be given. 

Some airports, like Edinburgh, can arrange a familiarisation visit to the airport to go through processes and procedures in advance. Wouldn't it be great if other airports did this too? 

On the plane 

child on plane

You cannot take your wheelchair on the plane, it needs to be stored in the hold, but you are entitled to support to get on the plane. You should talk to your airline to find out what help they provide. 

Assistance dogs are allowed on flights from the UK, you need to follow the rules on pets and travel but emotional support animals are generally not.  

If your child has emotional support needs or learning disabilities, plan what you need to keep them happy on the aeroplane. In fact, all children benefit from this. A special toy or two, games to keep them occupied, an iPad with suitable activities, and any of their favourite snacks are all extremely useful. In extreme circumstances then a doctor may recommend medication for the flight and to deal with short-term stress and anxiety. 

Airlines have their own rules about travelling with oxygen and some charge to provide it in-flight. Your child may need a fitness to fly test, so check with your doctor if your child has a lung condition. 


Airports are busy and noisy places and planning in advance, with assistance from the airport, airline or tour operator can really help to make flying from the UK with children with special needs as stress-free as possible. 

*Collaborative post

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