The decorations are packed away and back in the attic, the voice of Slade's Noddy Holder announcing “It's Christmas” can no longer be heard on the radio and the only Quality Street chocolates left in the tin are the rather unappetising blue ones and a lone toffee penny. Resolutions have been made, some have already been broken, children have returned to school for the spring term and some of us are back to work with a bump – welcome to January. January is historically the busiest month for bookings within the travel sector as people attempt to stave off the winter blues by giving themselves a summer break to look forward to later on in the year. While the cost of living crisis may mean that this year's vacation is on hold, there's no harm in dreaming of a future Sunflower friendly getaway.

Whether it be your annual two weeks in the sun, a city break with your partner or an overnight business trip, going away from home for many people with disabilities can be challenging. Simply leaving the safety of an environment that you're accustomed to, where all of your supports are in place can be stressful. The anxiety this causes for some people presents a significant obstacle.

The Sunflower is here to help alleviate some of these anxieties. Thanks, in part, to our In The Air campaign, there are now five airlines and over 180 airports across 26 countries that recognise the Hidden Disabilities Sunflower making air travel more accessible.

Our aim is a world where people with invisible disabilities are confident to travel independently knowing that they will receive the support that they may need at every stage of their journey. From the terminal to boarding the flight, on the flight and arriving at their destination!

Larnaka and Pafos airports

The entrance to Larnaka airport at night

If you're planning a future trip to Cyprus, you'll be pleased to hear that both Larnaka and Pafos International airports, part of the Hermes airport group, have been members of the Sunflower programme for over a year. The ground team at both these airports have worked hard to embed the Sunflower and support passengers with invisible disabilities.

In our effort to further enhance our services to persons with disabilities and reduced mobility, and in recognising the importance of hidden disabilities, we included the Sunflower lanyard programme in our services. The lanyards are offered free from Hermes Airports and can be obtained from the Assistance to Persons with Disabilities offices, which are at the entrances of both Larnaka & Pafos International Airports.

We are proud that Larnaka and Pafos airports offer the Sunflower lanyard, an innovative customer service programme designed to assist travellers. Not all disabilities are visible, and this programme allows our staff to identify passengers who may need an extra level of customer service and ensure that everyone has a great experience when travelling through our airports." Maria Kouroupi, Senior Manager Aviation Development, Marketing & Communications of Hermes Airports.

A more accessible experience at the airport

the inside of an airport terminal. Two men flank a woman, they all wear surgical masks. There are an elderly man and woman in front of them who are in wheelchairs. The elderly man carries a Sunflower

Since launching on International Day of People With Disabilities in 2021, Hermes airports have received some great feedback detailing exactly how the Sunflower helps make airport security a much more accessible experience:

I just wanted to send an email to express my gratitude and thanks to a (unfortunately unknown) member of the departures team.

My son left Larnaka airport on Friday 30th for Gatwick via easy jet, he has autism and he wears his “Hidden Disabilities lanyard” so staff can be aware. He had issues with his boarding pass scanning to open the gate to security and I tried to attract the attention of the two ladies there but they didn’t see me. However, a priest did and came and helped my son pass through the automatic doors. He was putting his papers in his wallet when a young lady who was helping people with the immigration photograph machines must have noticed his lanyard and she took my son through the rest of the process. I was watching from the departures opening to make sure he had gotten through ok. I have to say I had tears of gratitude at this lovely young lady helping so professionally and kindly.

We used to use the disabilities assistance team and always they were perfect, my son is a little older now and is trying to be more independent and it’s just wonderful to know your staff are so well trained to be aware of travellers with hidden disabilities.”

And, via social media, one passenger tweeted:

@CyprusAeropolis Just wanted to thank you and your airport staff. I travelled using my Sunflower lanyard and special assistance and was amazed at the service provided. No waiting around and staff helped every step of the way. Thank you!”

Four people stand in an airport terminal. They all wear surgical masks. the two men wear high vis jackets. One of the women wears a Sunflower lanyard

At Schiphol airport, the home of the Sunflower friendly airline KLM, passengers that have worn the Hidden Disabilities Sunflower lanyard have also shared their positive experiences:

We flew to Spain with the extreme crowds at Schiphol. An employee saw the Sunflower lanyard and pulled us out of line and took us to a quiet area where we could proceed to the gate. I don't know what would have happened if we had to queue for 4 hours. Fantastic!”

Another passenger commented:

Huge compliment to Schiphol and KLM. Everyone knew the Sunflower lanyard and we were helped in a great way, both on the ground and in the air, what a relief!”

Let's see how far the Sunflower travels

A map of the world with green, yellow and red dots on indicating where people have travelled to

In 2022 we asked you to help us bust the misconception that people with disabilities don't want to, or can't, travel. So far over 300 people have shared their Sunflower travels with us via TikTok and Instagram and added the country they visited to our 'Sunflower travels' map. Why not share your experiences with us from any recent, or future, trips by tagging us, the airline and the airports you visited in your TikTok or Instagram posts and adding your details here

Find out which airports support the Sunflower here.