British Airways has become the first UK airline to officially support the Hidden Disabilities Sunflower. This partnership forms part of the airline’s continued efforts to make travel simpler and easier for customers with additional assistance needs.

Welcoming our first UK airline is an important milestone for the Sunflower, it means that our wearers can embark on their travels secure in the knowledge that they will be supported throughout the entire customer journey, helping to reduce the stress and anxiety that can sometimes be associated with travel.

“I felt visible. I felt confident. And that's what the Sunflower is all about. ”

At the beginning of February, Maddie White, a Sunflower wearer, boarded a British Airways flight to Newcastle wearing her Sunflower.

Maddie has anxiety, a mental health condition that can make you feel worried or scared. While it's a normal human response to be anxious in certain situations, people like Maddie, with an anxiety disorder feel anxious all, or most of the time. Anxiety can cause physical symptoms such as a fast heartbeat or sweating. Maddie's anxiety means that she sometimes finds situations where she has to interact with others quite difficult. Without the Sunflower lanyard to accompany her, Maddie previously found air travel an extremely uncomfortable occurrence. She would be anxious about not knowing where to go or what time she needed to be there by.

To help us understand the difference the Sunflower has made to Maddie's experience of air travel, she documented her British Airways journey, from arriving at check-in at Heathrow, through to disembarking the aircraft in Newcastle.



How was your experience flying with British Airways?

“With British Airways being the first UK airline to support the Sunflower it meant that I could receive end-to-end support that I previously haven't had when travelling. From Heathrow through to Newcastle I had the support from both staff in the terminal and onboard. When on the plane the cabin crew asked me whether they could do anything to support me and would check to make sure I was ok. This meant that I felt secure that should I need it, I had the support of the crew and it made me think that I could definitely travel with British Airways on my own and it wouldn't set off any of my triggers.

I felt visible. I felt confident. And that's what the Sunflower is all about. ”

BA Better World

British Airways is committed to placing diversity, inclusion and sustainability at its heart, as part of its BA Better World programme. To support this Maddie and Paul from Hidden Disabilities Sunflower, met with BA's specialist Accessibility team in Newcastle. Here, Maddie shared her experiences as a Sunflower lanyard wearer with two British Airways colleagues, Demi and Jill.

What difference does wearing a Sunflower lanyard make?

“Just leaving the house can be a stressful experience for many people with disabilities. Airport travel can be fraught with concerns. What have I got, what haven't I got? What time do I need to be at the airport? Where do I need to go to check my luggage?

I can ask for help with my lanyard on, without judgement and this changes the travel experience for me.

When you board an aircraft, you can be very hyper-aware of yourself and everyone around you. So, having the Sunflower lanyard on and knowing that the cabin crew are there to support you, is very reassuring.”

An accessible airline

Paul White, CEO of Hidden Disabilities Sunflower said: “I am delighted that British Airways is the first UK airline to launch the Sunflower. As well as being supported at over 130 airports globally, people with non-visible disabilities wearing the Sunflower will be supported on British Airways flights. This is a significant step in our goal for Sunflower wearers to feel confident to travel independently, knowing that they will be supported when they need to be.”

Welcoming the new partnership, Tom Stevens, British Airways’ Director of Brand and Customer Experience, said:

“Almost half a million customers who require additional assistance fly with British Airways each year. We’re proud to be the first UK airline to partner with Hidden Disabilities Sunflower and are committed to doing everything we can to support customers who may need additional assistance as part of our BA Better World programme, so they can have the best possible experience when travelling with us.”

Increasing the awareness of non-visible disabilities across the airline and promoting the Sunflower will contribute to enhancing the customer experience for British Airways customers. Hidden Disabilities Sunflower training has been embedded into British Airways’ training modules. British Airways colleagues will also have access to specialised videos via the airline’s staff intranet. Our training provides British Airways colleagues with an understanding of what an invisible disability is and how to become more confident to approach and support customers wearing a Sunflower lanyard.

Please note, images were taken before the start of the Covid-19 pandemic.