Lonely Planet Writer

The world’s busiest airport gets a new calming room for travellers with autism

The world’s busiest airport will get a little bit calmer for some travellers with the addition of calming room for customers on the autism spectrum.

Atlanta security line.
Security line at the Atlanta airport. Image by Josh Hallett / CC BY 2.0

Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, along with Delta Airlines and autism advocacy group The Arc, launched a multi-sensory room at the airport on 12 April, in honour of Autism Awareness Month. The room is designed to provide a calming and supportive environment. The room is located in a quiet area and contains a “mini ball pit, a bubbling water sculpture, a tactile activity panel and other items children can interact with to help calm and prepare them for their travel experience”, according to a Delta statement.

The Arc hosted a tour of the new room when it opened, where Delta pilots and flight attendants assisted families in boarding a Boeing 777 to help get them familiar with air travel and alleviate any worries about the process of boarding a plane. First Officer Erich Riese, who has a nine-year-old son on the autism spectrum, shared his tips for travelling, which include reminding children of their upcoming trip regularly, booking a window seat near the front of the plane, packing a carry-on of comforts from home and boarding the flight last. “When my son was born, I couldn’t wait for him to be old enough to travel with me,” Reise said. “When doctors diagnosed him with autism, we looked at his diagnosis as a positive. Instead of traveling less, we travelled more…the key is to simplify, simplify, simplify.”