While some have called the story of what London’s Heathrow Airport has allegedly done for an autistic man bogus, we’re holding onto hope that it’s true. If it is, it would certainly restore our faith in humanity. According to the BBC, in true Groundhog Day fashion, Heathrow has recreated the same conditions for 21-year-old Aaran Stewart four times a year for the past five years.
According to the story, this is so Stewart, who has severe autism and obsessive compulsive disorder, can attend Boston’s Higashi High School.
Aaran’s mother, Amanda, told Radio 4’s You & Yours that, if the conditions and/or routine were to vary at all, her son would likely not be able to fly.
"Without the procedure we wouldn't be getting on the plane. It has to be carried out absolutely pristinely otherwise we'll end up with a problem,” Aaran’s mom said.
The routine reportedly includes a visit to the same shops before heading to the same gate, and even involves meeting the same agents. As the article notes, however, there have been some changes in the route as one of the outlets has changed hands.
As Aaran’s mother explained, “It was an HMV but now it's a Dixons, so he retraced his steps inside as if it was HMV.”
The plan is so detailed that even the bus driver at the airport reportedly has to display the same information each time, or Aaran gets suspicious and won’t board the flight.
Head of Heathrow’s Passenger Support Services Mark Hicks notes that up to 2,500 people with disabilities use the airport daily (but likely none of these passengers have a plan this detailed). Hicks said that demand can sometimes outweigh the service in place but people who notify them ahead of time tend to receive improve service.
When the story was reposted on Jezebel, many expressed their skepticism in the comments. As one user put it, “Airport arrivals and departures are a well-oiled machine, and I think it would be hard for Heathrow, even if everyone wanted to, to make sure his flight left out of the same gate every time or had the same flight crew, or whatever.”
Another user pointed out that, while this might be possible at a tiny airport, it seems unlikely for such a major hub, ending her comment with, “But, I wanna belieeeeeeeve ;).”