Posted on November 26, 2019

Hamad International Airport (HIA) has opened the ‘Shafallah Center Lounge’, a special handling lounge, in partnership with the “Shafallah Center”, one of Qatar Foundation for Social Work’s (QFSW) affiliated centres.

The inauguration was attended by Amal Abdullatif Al Mannai, Chief Executive Officer of Qatar Foundation for Social Work and Laalei Abu Alfain, Acting Executive Director of the Shafallah Center as well as Saeed Yousef Al Sulaiti, Vice President Security and Abdulaziz Al Mass, Vice President Marketing and Corporate Communications at Hamad International Airport. The newly opened lounge is located on concourse C at the airport terminal and is catered for departing and transferring passengers with special needs, including those with autism spectrum disorder (ASD).

This initiative is a part of the MoU between HIA and Shafallah Center to provide additional services to passengers with special needs and ensure their comfort and convenience while travelling. The initiative also focuses on passengers within the autism spectrum who face unique challenges while travelling and navigating through an airport environment. The special handling lounge is equipped with assistive technology, an innovative technology that provides calming and relaxing sensations for those with ASD.

The lounge features educational, rehabilitative and recreational interactive devices and equipment that aim to promote, integrate and empower people with special needs in the community while providing them with assistive technologies and solutions that give them a seamless and stress-free experience when travelling through HIA. The deployment of the sensory room aids in the development of sensory skills by integrating audio-visual and sensory effects such as sound, image and touch to help people with special needs meet their needs for communication and self-adjustment.

Engr. Badr Mohammed Al Meer, Chief Operating Officer at Hamad International Airport stated: “Our goal is to provide all our passengers with the same level of satisfaction when it comes to experiencing HIA’s services and facilities. By widening access for our passengers by tailored assistance for those with special needs and training our staff to cater to them better, we fulfil our commitment to making HIA the airport-of-choice for all passengers.” Airport staff will be available for on-ground support and have received specialized training from experienced Shafallah Center staff on how to provide special care and assistance to passengers with special needs including those with ASD. Those who want to access this facility can approach the airport staff who will facilitate the same.

HIA offers entirely barrier-free access and dedicated facilities to make travelling frictionless and more comfortable for passengers with special needs and reduced mobility. The terminal is equipped with various conveyance equipment to assist with either vertical or horizontal circulation of passengers with reduced mobility (PRM). It also features reserved parking spaces, companion toilets for those that require assistance, reserved seating and is fully equipped with specialist equipment like medi-lifts, PRM ready buggies, aisle chairs and PRM lifting slings.

Acting Executive Director of the Shafallah Center, Mrs Laalei Abu Alfain said: “The centre takes pride in this joint achievement as it oversaw the process of equipping the lounge with the latest technology, ensuring that passengers with disabilities will have seamless and comfortable travel experience. The lounge will provide passengers with special needs with several features including a sensory room for the children with autism spectrum disorder and electronic carpets to provide children with many games and activities to help them spend their time at the airport in a useful way.”

Shafallah Center has previously provided a specialized program to train ground handling staff at HIA on how to provide special care and assistance to passengers with special needs, including those with Autism. Mrs Laalei Abu Alfain has praised the continuous cooperation between Shafallah Center and HIA, while highlighting the airport’s commitment to developing industry-level services for people with disabilities.

HIA is currently a candidate for the “Best Airport in the World 2020” award by Skytrax which also classified it as a five-star airport in 2017, making it one among only five other airports in the world and the only one in the Middle East to achieve this prestigious status. Currently holding the “Fourth-Best Airport in the World” and the “Best Airport in the Middle East” titles, HIA continuously works to improve all aspects of the passenger experience. The results of the Skytrax World Airport Awards will be announced in March 2020. Passengers can vote for HIA by visiting the Official Skytrax World Airport Survey website at: http://www.worldairportsurvey.com/Surveys/favorite_airport.html

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