Delta, in partnership with Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport and autism advocacy group The Arc, launched the Atlanta Airport’s first multisensory room on April 12 to provide a calming, supportive environment for customers on the autism spectrum.
The room, located in a quiet space on F Concourse, contains a mini ball pit, bubbling water sculpture, a tactile activity panel and other items children can interact with to help calm and prepare them for their travel experience.
"Today Delta follows through with a commitment we made a year ago to ensure our customers traveling with children on the autism spectrum can experience the airport in a comfortable environment,” said Jon Edwards, Managing Director – Airport Customer Service, Atlanta, before cutting the ribbon.
Letty Ashworth, Director – Global Diversity, added that the room “provides a calming effect for travelers on the autism spectrum before getting on an airplane. It will help them better acclimate to the air travel experience.”
Following the ribbon cutting, Delta took part in an familiarization tour hosted by The Arc. During the tour, Delta pilots and flight attendants accompanied children and their parents in boarding a Boeing 777 to help get them familiar with air travel and alleviate any fears and uncertainties about the boarding process.
Delta Captain Erich Ries, who has a 9-year-old son on the autism spectrum, came over the intercom to provide travel tips and best practices based on his personal experience. These tips include:
- -Prepare children for the upcoming trip by reminding them of it regularly
- -Book a window seat near the front of the aircraft
- -Pack a small carry-on bag containing comforts from home
- -Board last as it minimizes the time spent on the airplane
“When my son was born, I couldn’t wait for him to be old enough to travel with me,” Ries said. “When doctors diagnosed him with autism, we looked at his diagnosis as a positive. Instead of traveling less, we traveled more… The key is to simplify, simplify, simplify.”
Delta’s multisensory room launch and other autism events throughout the month of April are part of the airline’s initiative to raise awareness about the disability during Autism Awareness Month, and to improve the air travel experience of all, including for those on the autism spectrum.