Shannon Airport in Ireland has opened Europe’s first airport sensory room developed for adults and children with neurodevelopmental challenges such as autism. Located next to the airport’s departure lounge, the sensory room offers a relaxing environment for passengers ahead of their flight.
Designed by Adam & Friends, the room has been tailored to be a soothing place away from the activity of a busy airport and comprises facilities such as an aquatic bubble tube, an undulated wavy wall, color changing LEDs and wheel projector.
Last year Shannon Airport introduced an initiative where customers who need additional support can wear official caps and wristbands to ensure that they are immediately identified by staff and receive assistance, including gaining access to the sensory room.
Niall Maloney, director of operations at Shannon Airport, said, “I’m both delighted and proud that an Irish airport, Shannon Airport, is the first to introduce a sensory room in Europe. It’s in keeping with Shannon’s special reputation for looking after its passengers. The introduction last year of its hats and wristbands program, and the addition this year of the sensory room, is our way of showing our support for our customers with autism and special needs. I would dearly love it if other airports around Ireland and the world participated in this.”
Rose Hynes, chairman, Shannon Group, said, “We know that, for some of our families and individual passengers, air travel and moving through an airport environment – whether it’s dealing with check in, security or boarding – can be a daunting experience.
“Our staff recognized that autism has a profound effect on those with the condition and their families – and our job in Shannon is to deliver on our promise that Shannon really is easier to use than other airports. It is this strong sense of commitment and community which inspired our staff to develop and launch the airport’s Autism and Special Needs Awareness Programme last year – and it is that same sense of commitment to community that motivated them to develop Europe’s first airport sensory room.
“We have already invested more than €3m (US$3.7m) in upgrades to our terminal building to improve the passenger experience, and this work is continuing. Positive customer experience is important to us and customer loyalty even more so.”