WATCH: Shannon opens Europe's first airport sensory room

Facility intended to offer 'relaxing environment' for passengers ahead of flying

Shannon opens Europe's first airport sensory room

Ryan Cunningham from Gaelscoil Donncha Rua checks out the new room Pictures: Diarmuid Greene/True Media

SHANNON has officially opened Europe’s first airport sensory room for passengers with autism.

The sensory room, located off the airport’s Departure Lounge, is intended to offer a “relaxing environment” for passengers ahead of flying and is aimed at children and adults with neurodevelopmental challenges, including autism.

Among those in attendance at the launch today – timed ahead of World Autism Day on April 2 – were RTE’s Marty Morrissey, Shannon Group chairman Rose Hynes, Shannon Group CEO Matthew Thomas, board members and staff.

Airport operations director Niall Maloney urged other airports to follow Shannon’s lead.

“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 programme 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.

“It’s one thing for Shannon to put these provisions in place but if all other airports participated in this programme so that when the passenger arrives on the other side, they also get special treatment, then that would be a huge gift to people with special needs and their families,”  he said.

Designed by Adam and Friends, the sensory room is tailored to be a soothing place away from the activity of a busy airport and comprises facilities such as aquatic bubble tube, an undulated wavy wall, colour changing LEDs, wheel projector and other items.

Rose Hynes 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 recognised 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.

“Being the first airport in Europe to develop a sensory room is in keeping with Shannon’s culture of willingness to do new things. We go further than others to create a positive experience for our passengers, particularly those who need special attention.

“The Autism programme is a natural extension of the Airport’s focus on customer care. We have already invested over €3 million 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 is very important to us,” she added.

Details on the Airport’s assistance programme for passengers with autism and special needs are available here.