Arizona and I were invited to participate in the AT&T and HollyRod Foundation event hosted by the American Airlines Abilities Employee Business Resource Group at LAX this past weekend.
“It’s Cool to Fly American” is an “airport experience and rehearsal” event, having already taken place in airports across the country and finally coming to Los Angeles. The event was created to provide a full airport travel experience to individuals with intellectual or developmental disabilities.
Arizona has been a pretty consistent airplane passenger since the age of 2 months old; we still get on a plane at least twice a year and sometimes more. Over the years there have been issues and anxieties surrounding her food allergies (and special snacks and liquids making it through security), waiting in long lines, general sensory overload (sights + sounds + crowds), being seated next to strangers, loud and unexpected noises at the airport or on the plane, crowded accommodations, fear of airplane toilets, claustrophobia, ignorant passengers with unkind words along the way …
I am grateful to American Airlines for designing a program to highlight the challenges and issues that come with traveling with an individual with special needs. I wish we could have experienced an event like this years ago.
Here’s a snapshot of how it works:
“It’s Cool to Fly American” is designed to alleviate some of the stress that families who have a child with autism experience when traveling by air. The event will be realistic and provides families with the opportunity to practice entering the airport, obtaining boarding passes, going through security, and boarding the plane. The aircraft will taxi around the airport for a short period of approximately 30 minutes.
There will be familiar faces that will take part in this event such as uniformed gate agents, pilots, and flight attendants so that your child becomes familiar with the typical airport and onboard experience. This also gives our American Employees, Transportation Security Administration professionals and other personnel the opportunity to observe, interact and deliver their services in a structured leaning environment. This experience is equally useful for families that have a member with other intellectual or developmental disabilities that are concerned about the ability of their family members to travel. Our goal is to create an environment with all of the sounds and sensations your child could experience in flight – without ever leaving the ground.
When RSVP’ing for the event, we were encouraged to bring any items that would be helpful to alleviate any stress out of the travel experience: bringing technology devices, service dogs, ear plugs / head phones, books, sensory items, comfort items and more so that it would be as successful experience as possible for our child.
Thank you, American Airlines, for bringing more awareness to our world!