Helping Autism Aviators take flight
(Edmonton, AB) – A mock travel day for passengers with autism on Saturday, June 15, helped families and parents understand and navigate airports, making it easier to enjoy future flights and adventures.
Autism Aviators is a new partnership between Autism Edmonton, Flair Airlines, Canadian North and Edmonton International Airport (EIA) that gives families and those with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) the chance to experience check-in, screening and boarding for a flight. A Canadian North aircraft was designated specifically for the June 15 event and did not leave EIA. The mock exercise in a separate environment helped those with ASD and their caregivers learn airport processes in a lower stress environment. CATSA designated a separate screening line, just for the duration of this event. Extra staff from EIA and Flair Airlines volunteered to help the passengers and their families through the whole exercise.
Flair Airlines has been certified as Canada’s first Autism Aware airline and EIA has invested in Autism Awareness training for necessary staff.
“We are committed to providing the best possible experience for all our customers, and that starts with understanding their needs,” says Tom Ruth, EIA President and CEO. “A small investment of time on our part can help make flying possible, and hopefully an enjoyable activity for travellers with autism.”
People with ASD can have challenges with verbal or non-verbal communication and with maintaining focus. They may also feel anxious in unfamiliar situations. All of these challenges can make it difficult for autistic people to get through the security and boarding process necessary for flying. However, by rehearsing the process in advance and in the company of their families, people with autism can become much more confident about flying.
“We are very proud to be the first certified ‘Autism Aware’ airline in Canada,” said David Tait, Executive Chairman of Edmonton-based Flair Airlines. “All our flight attendants and customer service agents have completed specialized training in how to recognize and cater to the many very different special needs of autistic guests.”
Autism Edmonton arranged for the participants to register and get to EIA for the program. Special lanyards were provided to the travellers with autism, who can use these to identify themselves to airport or airline staff and volunteers on future trips. Participants also received helpful travel cards that they can carry to remind themselves of what is necessary at each stage of their future journeys, and to help them communicate their individual needs. A special backpack and gift were also part of the celebrations.
“Autism Edmonton is excited for the opportunity to be part of Autism Aviators. Airports are noisy, crowded, and have a lot of rules, which can be overwhelming for people on the spectrum. Autism Aviators helps participants get familiar with the airport process and feel more comfortable with air travel, all while allowing aviation and airport professionals to learn more about how best to support people on the spectrum,” says Carole Anne Patenaude, Autism Edmonton Executive Director.”
“As an airline, our core mission is to bridge vast distances and bring people together,” says Steve Hankirk, President of Canadian North. “We’re extremely proud to lend our support to this outstanding initiative that will help guests with ASD and their families to enjoy easier access to the important life experiences that are made possible through travel.”
The Autism Aviators program was started in Canada by Halifax Stanfield International Airport and Autism Nova Scotia, both of whom provided great assistance for the Edmonton Program. Autism Edmonton, Flair Airlines and EIA intend to continue this program to make flying accessible to as many people with autism as possible in the Edmonton Metropolitan Region. For further inquiries about the Autism Aviators program contact EIA at firstname.lastname@example.org.
About Autism Edmonton
Autism Edmonton enhances the lives of families and individuals living with autism, by providing life-long support and creating awareness, acceptance, and opportunities in our community. Since 1971, Autism Edmonton (Autism Society of Edmonton Area) has been providing services and support to people in the community who are living with autism spectrum disorder. Autism Edmonton has become known as a “go-to” source that connects families, individuals and professionals with autism-related resources. Autism Edmonton helps people navigate their options for services, find vital information, and develop skills and peer support through facilitated activity and discussion groups.
For more information please visit: autismedmonton.org or follow @AutismEdmonton on Twitter or @autismedmonton on Facebook
About flair airlines
For over a decade Flair operated as a charter carrier before transitioning to a low fare scheduled carrier in late 2017. With an all-jet fleet that now includes Boeing 737-800s, Edmonton-based Flair connects passengers from coast to coast with low fare services from Vancouver, Abbotsford, Kelowna, Calgary, Edmonton, Winnipeg, Toronto (YYZ) and Halifax. For more info, please see www.flyflair.com.
About Edmonton International Airport
Edmonton International Airport is a self-funded, not-for-profit corporation whose mandate is to drive economic prosperity for the Edmonton Metro Region. EIA is Canada’s fifth-busiest airport by passenger traffic and the largest major Canadian airport by land area. EIA offers non-stop connections to destinations across Canada, the US, Mexico, the Caribbean and Europe. EIA is a major economic driver, with an economic output of over $3.2 billion, supporting over 26,000 jobs. EIA’s Airport City propels new jobs, tourism and economic diversification – and creates a destination in and around EIA, featuring entertainment, e-commerce, retail, hospitality, cargo/logistics, bio-pharma, light manufacturing and many other industries. EIA is focused on digital strategy to ensure it becomes the airport of the future. For more information, please visit: flyeia.com, follow @flyeia on Twitter, Instagram, Linkedin or Facebook.