Special Needs Travel

10 Best Airlines for Families with Autism

Last updated 14th May 2018

Traveling can be stressful. Even the most organized family, can have issues throughout their flying situations, including with airlines. Some airlines are great at accommodating families that have disabilities and autism. Here is a list of the best airlines for families with autism to have the best travel experience throughout the world.

Air France

Air France does their best to accommodate all flyers that have any disabilities, from children to adults. Their website is very clear about their Saphir Program; this program goes over many disabilities. One thing that is great about Air France is that if you miss your flight, they will do all that they can to help you book another flight. Including missing a flight, missed connection or delays.

During your flight, Air France has a great variety of onboard entertainment for both parents and kids. The kid has options of kid-friendly movies, games, and music. With this variety, kids will be able to stay occupied.

Autism Travel Tip

If you have any specific questions or concerns, call them when you are booking your reservations. You will also want to call 48 hours before flights to request any accommodations that you will or may need. Air France is wheelchair friendly, and even helpful for support companion dogs, as long as you can provide all the information necessary, such as the medical clearance.

Air New Zealand

Space can sometimes become an issue on a flight especially on a long distance trip. When traveling with kids, Air New Zealand’s Skycouch can upgrade flights to accommodate more room, and even have space to lie down. The Skycouch features similar seats to economy seats except there are additional footrests and armrest on the window side. Technically every passenger can choose to keep his or her adjustable footrest up or down. Moreover, the window armrests move up creating even more space. For those interested, the upgrade charge for economy Skycouch depends on the flight and on the number of family members traveling together.

Autism Travel Tip

Air New Zealand also has resources available that parents can look at before flying. Depending on the disabilities of your kids, they provide you with links to the CARES and MERU travel chair. Based on your children’s needs, you can order these, so you child will have a much more comfortable flight.

Alaska Air

The U.S based airline has some innovative concepts that have distinguished it from its competitors. It offers entertainment tablets rentals for travelers who forgot theirs, on most flights over 3.5 hours long. They are free for passengers in First Class and available for rent in Economy class. Every tablet comes pre-loaded with movies, TV shows, music, and games. In addition, passengers can pre book and pay for their onboard meals and drinks. That ensures that parents no longer have to stress over certain food choices being sold out. The airline does not charge families for the transportation of car seats and strollers as long as they are sent with the checked in luggage.

Autism Travel Tip

Since 2014, Alaska Airlines has hosted several “Wings for Autism” events all aimed at giving families a real taste of air travel. Moreover, the airline offers staff escorting from and to the aircraft for families who request it.

ANA, All Nippon Airways

When flying with ANA, it does not matter whether one is flying in economy or first class, the crew is committed to providing the same excellent service. Extras for families include toys and meals for special diets, complimentary blankets and pillows. In higher classes like a business and first the airline supplies amenities like noise canceling headphones,  slippers, and pajamas.

Autism Travel Tip

ANA is on the frontline when it comes to encouraging families with autism to fly. In fact, the airline hosted a special event to promote the AFE program at Los Angeles International airport. The Autism Flight Experience program helps families with autism prepare for future travel by providing a simulated airport experience.  Furthermore, participants got to learn about the LAWA’s Voluntary Autism Self-Identification Program. The program allows travelers with autism to share they have an intellectual disability with airport staff by wearing special stickers.

El Al

When flying El Al, rest assured that making children comfortable is a priority. They have onboard entertainment, and parents can request special children’s meal. Over the summer months and Jewish holidays, the airline features their ELALCHIK Flights. These selected flights feature kids’ cartoon and storybook characters. The fun starts the minute the families board the aircraft and are greeted by the airline clown.  The clown then hands each kid a coloring book and entertains him or her with games and onboard activities. Some kids even get to be chosen as DAYALCHICKS – or young crew assistants that get to visit the cockpit and learn how to pilot a plane. Another unique concept that the airline promotes is celebrations. Passengers can celebrate birthdays, anniversary and even pop the question. The airline has kits that include champagne and chocolates that can be purchased ahead of time.

Autism Travel Tip

Like other airlines, El Al does provide accommodations like pre boarding and bulkhead seats for families with autism. The airline has developed a “pleasant flight” workshop for travelers with fears of flying. Though not geared towards families with autism the workshop featured at Tel Aviv’s Ben Gurion airport can be helpful for some.


Emirates Airways is one of the great airlines to fly with because they try to make each and every passenger feel comfortable. They offer many ways to entertain children from interactive games, movies and even their Fly With Me Animals. For a souvenir, each child gets a stuffed animal. They can collect or trade them. Emirates also offers delicious meals for traveling that are kids approved. Emirates also offers an explorer pack full of games and crafts for the flights. It also includes a travel journal that your children can write about their travels. One last great thing, is they have a cabin camera that you can take a picture of your child. You can have this picture framed, or add it to their travel journal as an everlasting memory.

Autism Travel Tip

With all airlines, you are going to want to read their website and find out the requirements to go with children with disabilities. Some require notice at booking, and others will need a medical waiver. Make sure that if you need a medical waiver that it is filled out in proper time requirements.

Etihad Airways

Parents traveling with Etihad Airways can rely on an extra pair of hands to help with the kids. Their Flying Nanny! Norland, a U.K. childcare college approves the Flying nanny for yearly year professionals. The nannies will entertain traveling kids with Arts, crafts & origami, hand puppets face painting and even magic tricks. Moreover, a nanny can greet parents with kids at the gate and help them, board the plane. If the flying nanny isn’t reason enough to book the airline then, their spacious airport family rooms, on board entertainment featuring with 140 movies and 350 TV channels along with diverse kids’ meal choices might convince the skeptics.

Autism Travel Tip

While preparing your flight with Etihad Airways, make sure you have your medical clearance forms ready ahead of time. The medical exams need to be less than 14 days old and emailed to Etihad 24 hours before the flight. By providing the email, this will allow time for them to make any necessary arrangements before the trip.

Jet Blue

Jet Blue has been a trailblazer in the hospitality industry when it comes to autism. The company started their Wings for Autism a program that helps introduce kids with autism to flying several years ago. During the Wings with Autism events; families with autism come to the airport, go through the security process and check their luggage to board a company aircraft. The staff welcomes everyone on board and then proceeds to explain the emergency routine. After a short stay onboard that includes snacks, the families deplane.

Autism Travel Tip

Parents flying with Jet Blue should notify the airline of their kids’ diagnosis and request bulk seating when possible .The airline can provide, disability seating and pre-boarding before the other passengers board the aircraft.

LATAM Airlines

Families flying with LATAM can be assured the company will give top priority to requested accommodations. The accommodations include providing special-needs families with a separate check in counter, pre boarding privileges and priority at retrieving the checked in luggage at the end of the trip.

Autism Travel Tip

Like with other airlines, passengers traveling with LATAM should let the airline know about any disability or condition that can impact their flight. Passengers have the option of purchasing an additional extra seat for additional room if desired.

Virgin Atlantic

Flying with Virgin Atlantic is ideal for parents. The company has a ‘no boredom’ policy, to ensure children have the best time they can. Kids get an activity backpack at boarding. They can also spend endless hours watching movies and TV shows as well as enjoy available kid -friendly meals available.

Autism Travel Tip

U.K. passengers with autism are welcome to visit the company’s ‘Rig at The Base. The Base includes Economy, Premium Economy and Business Class seating. Furthermore, the company is trying out their “bookmark” program. The program entailed families notifying the specialized staff on flights from Gatwick to Orlando of hidden disabilities and getting a bookmark to carry in their passports to identify them as requiring special assistance.