Before travelling, you can speak to our Special Assistance team. They are here to help you fly comfortably and safely, and will discuss your journey and any help you might need. 

Our Special Assistance team can help arrange:

  • Priority check in
  • Pre-boarding or delayed boarding, based on what best suits your need
  • Pre-assigned standard seat assignments
  • Bulkhead seating requests
  • Informing our fabulous crew of your requirements

You can also read more about what to expect during your journey below. 

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Flying with a hidden disability

Watch how travelling with a disability (that isn't immediately obvious) can be tricky and how our specially designed symbol can help can help.

Hidden Disability Symbol

For customers with hidden disabilities, we’ve created a symbol that discreetly lets our teams know you need a bit of help. It can be used at any point in your journey when shown to anyone in a Virgin Atlantic uniform they'll know that you need a little extra help, reassurance and patience.

The symbol can be downloaded by clicking here and either saved on your phone or printed out to have as an insert for your passport. You can also pick up the symbol as a card or pin badge at check-in.

Our hidden disability symbol can be used for a variety of different conditions such as autism, a hearing impairment, dementia, or severe anxiety, or if you are travelling with someone who has.

What to expect

Arriving at the airport

Airport terminals can be busy places so it’s great to arrive prepared. Familiarise yourself with the websites of the airports you’re travelling through and establish the layout so you have an idea of what’s where. When you arrive at the airport, look out for the signs directing you to departures. Once there, you’ll see large screens which will display what check-in zone your airline is situated within. For example, at London Heathrow you’ll find us in Zone A of Terminal 3. The different zones are well signposted so you should easily be able to find where you need to go.

We always try to have a number of people in our uniform walking around our check in area. If you need any assistance or have any questions, please let them know and they’ll be sure to help. If you’re making use of our hidden disability bookmark or symbol, remember to show it!  

Check In desk

At check in, you’ll need to present your passport and hand over any baggage that you’d like to check into the hold of the aircraft. You’ll receive your boarding passes and will then be able to make your way through Security. 


Going through Security can be overwhelming, but knowing what to do in advance will certainly help. Some airports have Special Assistance lanes for those requiring assistance, which are great! Your check in agent will be able to inform you if the airport you’re travelling through has one of these. As you make your way from check in to Security, you’ll see lots of posters regarding items which are restricted and can’t be carried in your hand baggage

Going through Security, you’ll need to hand over your boarding pass. This lets the agent know that you’re a passenger and you have a flight departing that day. You’ll then go through to the scanning area which may look a little daunting, but it’s fine. You’ll need to place your hand baggage into one of the trays onto the conveyor belt. Any laptops, powerbanks, liquids etc will need to be placed outside of your hand baggage so may need to be placed into a separate tray. You’ll then be directed through the x-ray scanning machine. This looks for any metal that may be on your person, so remember to remove any coins or phones that you may have in your pockets. Also, if you’re wearing them, remember to remove your belt and/or watch! If the scanner beeps, don’t worry, the Security agent at the scanner will talk you through the next steps. 

Departure lounge

Once through Security, the area you’ll then be in is known as the departure lounge. This is where you’ll wait until boarding of your flight starts. Within the departure lounge, there may be some shops or restaurants to help pass your time. Some airports have Special Assistance areas where you can wait away from the hustle and bustle of the airport. Look out for signs directing you to Special Assistance or ask a member of staff on the information desks in the departure lounge, and they’ll be able to point you in the right direction. Within the departure lounge, there’s a number of large screens displaying flight numbers, departure times and the gate the aircraft will be boarding from. Keep an eye on the screen for this information. When it appears, you’ll be able to make your way to the gate using the signs to help guide you. If you have Special Assistance, an agent will help guide you to the gate.

Departure Gate

When you arrive at the gate, you’ll be asked to show your passport and boarding pass so please have these to hand. You’ll then be invited to take a seat and wait until boarding commences. Listen out for an announcement inviting any Special Assistance passengers, or those who need additional time to board, to go ahead and board the aircraft, this will be your cue to preboard. Alternatively if you would like to wait until most of the other customers have boarded the aircraft, you can wait in the departure gate until the final boarding call is made.  

Travelling onboard one of our aircraft is a fantastic experience, yet if you haven’t travelled before or you’re a bit nervous, we can appreciate it can be a little daunting.

We’re hoping the following will help you, or your loved one, understand what to expect to put your mind at ease and reassure you that these noises and sensations are all good.

Getting on the aircraft

You may pick up on several noises such as the air conditioning keeping the inside of the aircraft cool; or the noises of the trucks loading your bags, or cargo, underneath.

A number of things have already taken place before you’ve even reached your seat. Our engineers and security teams would also have completed a check of the aircraft to make sure it’s ready for you to board.

Before take off, please show our cabin crew your hidden disability symbol, this way if you need anything during the flight, our cabin crew are best informed to support you.

Take your seat

Once you’ve taken your seat it’s the perfect time to relax and check out our Vera magazine or browse our duty free catalogue. This is the time where your pilots will be hard at work preparing the aircraft for its journey. They’ll be checking the paper work for the flight path and any weather expected on route. You may also see one of your pilots in a high-vis vest walking around the outside of the aircraft. They’ll be checking that there’s no damage and that everything looks good. Once you’re all onboard, the crew will make an announcement asking you to fasten your seatbelts and then you’re ready to go! You’ll hear the whirring sounds of the engines as they start up. 

Getting ready for take off

Your pilots will then push back the aircraft from the stand, which is where the aircraft was parked when you boarded. You’ll notice the aircraft is moving backwards – like a car reversing – but isn’t going very fast. At this point, it’s being helped by a tug; this is a small vehicle which pushes the aircraft to help manoeuvre it into place. When away from the stand the tug is removed and your pilots will slowly manoeuvre the aircraft forwards and will taxi it to the start of the runway. Taxiways aren’t smooth so you may notice a few bumps as the aircraft goes over these. You’ll hear a double ding over the tannoy which is the pilots letting the crew know that they’re ready to take off.    

Immediately before take off, your pilots will follow many checks including checking the breaks and moving certain controls on the wing, these are called the flaps and slats. If you’re seated by a window over the wing, you may even be able to see them do this! They’ll also put more power into the engines to help line up the aircraft on the runway, ready for take off.

Take off

On take off, you’ll notice loud noises as the pilots put extra thrust into the engines. This is so the aircraft has enough power to take off. The aircraft will quickly pick up speed and you’ll notice and feel a few loud bumps. This is the aircraft travelling over the cats eyes which run down the middle of the runway, it’s a good indication that the aircraft is going in a straight line! As the speed increases, you’ll notice the front of the aircraft lifts up and will be at an angle, this means you’ve taken off! When the aircraft has some height, you’ll hear a few noises such as the overheard lockers rumbling and feel some bumps as the wheels come up and fold into the aircraft.

At about 1,000 feet, the pilots will lower the nose of the aircraft and the engines will become quieter as they don’t need as much power. As you’re now in the air, the aircraft needs to move faster so the flaps and slats on the wings are put away to make the aircraft more aerodynamic. You may hear a whirring sound as this is done. More than likely, it may also feel a little bumpy but don’t worry about this, this is the aircraft just passing through the clouds and the aircraft will settle once it’s passed these. 

During the flight

At 10,000 feet, if safe to do so, the pilots will turn off the seat belt sign so you can now move around the cabin or visit the bathroom, if you need to. You’ll hear lots of dings again over the tannoy. The aircraft is very long and there’s lot of crew onboard. They use these dings to communicate to one another.

During the flight, the crew will offer you food and drink. You’ll be able to watch movies on our fantastic inflight entertainment, listen to some music or catch up on some sleep. If you encounter any turbulence, the pilots may make an announcement asking you to fasten your seatbelt. Turbulence happens when there’s been a change in the movement of the air that the aircraft’s travelling through, so can make things a little bumpy. There’s no need to worry as turbulence is perfectly safe and your pilots are always in control of the aircraft. 


When you near your destination, your pilots will start their descent. The Captain or First Officer will make an announcement to let you know this is happening. You’ll hear a reduction in engine noise, and if you look towards the front of the aircraft, you’ll notice that it looks like it’s travelling downhill. This just means that you’re decreasing your height and are near to landing. Again, if you’re by the window over the wing, you’ll see the flaps on the wings move. You’ll also feel the aircraft turning as it gets into position to line up with the runway and land. 


On landing, you’ll feel the aircraft decrease in height and will notice a bump as the wheels make contact with runway. The engines will rumble and will be very loud, this isn’t anything to worry about. As you move down the runway, the flaps on the wings of the aircraft go up and act as spoilers to help slow you down. The aircraft will then gradually reduce its speed and you’ll taxi to the gate, where the seatbelt signs will be turned off by your pilots. You’ll then be able to retrieve your items from the overhead lockers and leave the aircraft – make sure you have all of your belongings with you, as you won’t be able to go back on if you forget anything.

Arriving at your destination 

Just before landing, you’ll hear an announcement by our crew requesting for any Special Assistance passengers to remain onboard until the majority of passengers have disembarked. When the aircraft has reached the gate, the seatbelt sign will come off and fellow passengers will stand and remove their belongings from the overhead bins. You’re welcome to remain in your seat until the other passengers have disembarked and then take your time to collect your belongings and leave the aircraft.

If you have Special Assistance booked, you’ll be met at the aircraft door and assisted through to arrivals. If you’d like to negotiate these yourself or with your party, follow the signs to immigration, baggage reclaim and onto arrivals. 

If you have any questions on any of the above, please do contact our dedicated Special Assistance team who will be pleased to help.