People with hidden disabilities like autism, dementia or ADHD can now travel a little easier after Wellington Airport launched a new initiative to discreetly let staff know when a person may need extra help.
Anyone passing through the Airport can now request a special lanyard, which is green with sunflowers and will help staff assist those who may need extra care.
The lanyard is entirely voluntary and will indicate when a passenger may need more time to process information or need clear verbal instructions as it can be difficult to understand facial expressions or body language.
It will help those that have trouble reading departure or boarding signs, and those who need to always stay with family or friends.
Seventeen-year-old Jesse Auelua has autism and his mother Tessa Auelua said for their family the new sunflower lanyard will be a huge help when they fly.
"Jesse moves about very slowly and this can be particularly challenging and noticeable in situations like security when people are in a rush to get to their plane. Wearing the lanyard will give us a discreet way to let people know there is a reason Jesse is taking so long, which will make it less stressful for all of us."
Wellington Airport is the first airport in New Zealand to launch the Hidden Disability initiative, which was first introduced in the UK and is gradually being rolled out globally.
The move was created in partnership with Autism New Zealand, which has also helped train staff in how to assist people who may need support.
Chief executive Dane Dougan said the lanyards will ensure the community feels confident and comfortable when travelling through the airport, which can be a time of heightened stress.
"For many people, autism isn't apparent, which means creating understanding and awareness of their personal needs can be difficult. The lanyards are an instantaneous indication of a person's needs, and we are confident they will improve the airport experience for our community."
He said minimising uncertainty was a key part of training with frontline staff and having the lanyard means if someone is looking a bit anxious there will be people there that know how to help them.
"The more places that we can create less stress, and less anxiety, the better."
Wellington Airport head of operations Matthew Palliser said airports are busy environments that can be stressful for some travellers, particularly for those with disabilities.
"The new lanyard initiative will make it much easier for our staff to recognise when passengers may need extra help and we hope it will ensure all travellers have a positive experience at Wellington Airport."
Flying through the Airport with a hidden disability?
Sunflower lanyards are available by emailing email@example.com.
Passengers should get in touch at least one week before they fly.