Sunflower, moving towards a more inclusive future. Thank you, but we aspire for more.

As a mother of a child with autism and a sibling of a person with Down syndrome, we deeply understand the importance of initiatives that facilitate life for people with disabilities. One of the most notable is the Sunflower Program (Hidden Disabilities Sunflower).

Therefore, in this newsletter, we aim to explain the benefits of this initiative, recognize the efforts in its implementation, and, in particular, thank the aviation industry for making travel more accessible. We encourage other industries to follow their example, and our own industry to continue doing so.


As a starting point, we must recognize that traveling can be an inherently stressful experience for many people due to various factors such as logistics, long waits, crowds, and even the mere fact of being onboard an aircraft flying through the air.

Additionally, for those with disabilities, these challenges can be significantly intensified, transforming their ordinary journeys into overwhelming and exhausting experiences. It is estimated that 16% of the world’s population (1.3 billion people) has some form of disability, and this figure will continue to increase in the coming years due to the gradual aging of society. Moreover, for many, between 60% and 70%, these disabilities are not visible and were acquired at some point in their lives, forming the largest minority group in the world—and one that any of us could join at any moment¹.

In this context, the Hidden Disabilities Sunflower program is a global phenomenon that started in 2016 at Gatwick Airport (LGW) in the United Kingdom in response to the need to provide a more inclusive environment for attending to people with invisible conditions such as autism, dementia, and hearing or visual impairments, among others.

This program, recognized for its simplicity and effectiveness, was initially designed to create a welcoming and supportive environment in airport premises for people who may require additional assistance or simply more time while traveling due to their specific needs. However, it is gradually expanding to other areas, demonstrating its versatility and utility.

But what exactly does it consist of? Essentially, it is an internationally recognized initiative that employs a discreet sunflower symbol, using lanyards, badges, or bracelets to identify people with hidden disabilities, providing them with help in a discreet and non-intrusive manner.

The sunflower, associated with happiness and hope, aims to reduce the stigma associated with invisible disabilities and promote a kinder and more understanding perception, while also allowing easy and quick identification in busy environments like airports. In this way, passengers wearing the sunflower symbol can discreetly convey their needs to airline staff, airport personnel, and other travelers, allowing them to navigate the complexities of air travel more easily.

Among the benefits, we can highlight an increased sense of confidence and tranquility for the traveler wearing the sunflower; the ability to communicate needs effortlessly, ensuring a smoother and as stress-free as possible journey; the reduction of anxiety by fostering a supportive environment; and the quick identification by airline staff, ensuring timely assistance and meeting their special needs.

Moreover, its adoption by airlines and airports has several far-reaching positive implications, such as enhancing the customer experience by offering exceptional service focused on ensuring accessibility; and, most importantly, transforming airports and flights into more inclusive spaces, ensuring that all passengers can enjoy the freedom of air travel, regardless of their visible or invisible disabilities.


In this regard, it is important to highlight that the number of airlines adopting the Sunflower initiative has been gradually increasing. For example, Ryanair was the pioneer in the United Kingdom; Air Canada, in early 2024, became the first airline in North America to adopt it, appointing a Director of Accessibility tasked with implementing an ambitious program over the next three years; and similarly, airlines such as Air France, KLM, Transavia, British Airways, and LATAM, along with airports worldwide, have recently joined this initiative².

This commitment to accessibility presents significant challenges for airlines, as it requires ongoing training for both airline and airport staff, and regular updates to ensure that all employees are aware of best practices and can adequately respond to the needs of these passengers.

However, these challenges also represent numerous opportunities for airlines, allowing them to develop more inclusive policies, improve training programs and evaluation systems to ensure the consistency and effectiveness of the implemented measures.

In this way, companies also strengthen their corporate image by demonstrating a commitment to inclusion and accessibility, projecting a positive and progressive vision. This, additionally, allows them to attract a broader audience that values this social responsibility and generate greater loyalty and preference among passengers, which, we believe, will contribute to more airlines joining this initiative, fostering a truly inclusive society and setting new standards in the aviation industry.

Moreover, to achieve proper implementation and operation of the program, it is crucial to gather feedback from passengers who use it so that airlines and airport managers can continue to collect and analyze these opinions to adapt and improve their services, ensuring that the changing needs of travelers with invisible disabilities are met.

To this end, it is important to establish effective channels and promote open communication with passengers, so they can provide information on areas for improvement, allowing precise and timely adjustments in procedures and policies, ensuring an increasingly inclusive and stress-free travel experience for all passengers.

In our opinion, by focusing on continuous improvement and innovation, airlines and airports can consolidate their commitment to accessibility and inclusion, benefiting not only passengers with invisible disabilities but the entire traveling community.


In the European and Spanish national context, the regulations on invisible disabilities are framed within the general legislation for the protection of people with disabilities³, without making a specific distinction between visible and invisible disabilities.

Among recent national initiatives, it is worth highlighting that AENA, the airport management company in Spain, has introduced a program aimed at helping travelers with invisible disabilities, which includes a special badge that passengers can request through their website. This aligns with the multiple European airports that provide this type of service to passengers. Currently, this service is available at 11 major airports, including Adolfo Suárez Madrid-Barajas (MAD) and Josep Tarradellas Barcelona-El Prat (BCN), with plans to expand to more airports in the future.

At the European level, this initiative has been implemented in various airports, such as Berlin-Brandenburg (BER), Frankfurt (FRA), Schiphol (AMS), Vienna (VIE), and Budapest (BUD), among others.

However, a review of the websites of many Spanish and European airlines shows that the adoption of the Sunflower program still has a significant way to go. Therefore, we encourage all our beloved airlines to join this initiative as soon as possible.


The Sunflower program is an essential initiative for building a more inclusive society, offering great support to people with invisible disabilities. Its gradual adoption by various actors in the aviation industry demonstrates a growing commitment to accessibility and empathy.

Therefore, at PionAirLaw, we strongly encourage airports and companies that have not yet implemented this program to do so as soon as possible, and we extend this invitation to other industries to join this necessary cause.

Lastly, we deeply thank the organizations that have already adopted this program, helping to make life easier and travel more comfortable for people with invisible disabilities. Your support makes a significant difference and brings us closer to a world where everyone is welcomed and understood.

1 Data obtained from Hidden Disabilities Sunflower.

2 Passengers can request the sunflower badge from the customer service of the airlines before their flight – and/or participating airports – and information on how to request it is generally available on the respective websites.

3 For illustrative purposes, we can refer to Regulation (EC) Nr. 1107/2006 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 5 July 2006 concerning the rights of disabled persons and persons with reduced mobility when travelling by air; or to Royal Legislative Decree 1/2013 of 29 November, which approves the Revised Text of the General Law on the rights of persons with disabilities and their social inclusion.

4 The Spanish Committee of Representatives of Persons with Disabilities (CERMI) emphasizes the importance of applying regulations equitably, regardless of the visibility of the disability, in order to avoid denial or minimization of their condition..

5 In this way, by wearing this badge, travelers can access security checks specifically designed for families and persons with reduced mobility (PRM) or, if not available, receive support from airport staff to facilitate their passage through general security checks.

6 You can check the updated list of participating airports and airlines on the HDSunflower website.

The information provided on this document does not, and is not intended to, constitute legal advice. All rights reserved. Reproduction in any form, distribution, transfer, and any kind of use of this document, either in its entirety or in part, is prohibited without prior authorization from PionAirLaw.