May 8, 2014

JetBlue and Autism Speaks Host Blue Horizons for Autism Airport Rehearsal Event at Burbank Bob Hope Airport

Last week, JetBlue partnered with Autism Speaks and Pacific Child and Family Associates on to host more than 300 people for a Blue Horizons for Autism airport rehearsal event at Burbank Bob Hope Airport.

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Blue Horizons for Autism provides families and individuals affected by autism with the opportunity to navigate the air travel experience in a realistic, relaxed environment, surrounded by other families in the autism community.  Air travel can be challenging for individuals affected by autism due to symptoms associated with the disorder, including hypersensitivity to large crowds, loud noises and communication difficulties. As a result, many families do not fly due to the fear of the response it could elicit from their children with autism, and subsequently fellow travelers and airline crewmembers.

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Blue Horizons for Autism events simulate the entire process associated with traveling by plane. The families begin their day by checking-in at the airport’s ticket counter. Families then proceed through security screening, and wait at a designated gate for the arrival of their flight. Upon boarding the plane, JetBlue crewmembers lead the families through pre-takeoff procedures. To simulate the in air experience, the plane taxies and pulls into another gate to disembark.

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In addition to providing the families with an opportunity to experience air travel, Blue Horizons for Autism also educates airport and airline crewmembers about autism and how to best meet the needs of this growing community of one in 88. JetBlue is working with Autism Speaks to roll out additional Blue Horizons for Autism events throughout its 85-city network. Plans are underway for the second annual event at New York’s JFK Airport in September as well as the first international event in Santiago, Dominican Republic later this fall.

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In conjunction with Blue Horizons for Autism, Autism Speaks developed Adventures in Autism: A Guide to the Airport Experience to help prepare individuals with autism in advance of their trips.

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September 26, 2013

Blue Horizons for Autism: Families practice the travel experience at JFK Airport

Last week, Autism Speaks and JetBlue hosted more than 100 families for Blue Horizons for Autism, an airport rehearsal travel experience, at New York’s JFK Airport.  This was the first-ever large scale autism travel practice event held at JFK.

 

 

Autism now affects one in 88 children. Blue Horizons simulated the entire process associated with air travel. Families began their day at by checking-in at JetBlue’s ticket counter. Next, they proceeded through TSA security and the waited at a designated gate for their mock flight. Upon boarding the plane, JetBlue crewmembers led the families through routine pre-takeoff procedures. To simulate the in-air experience, the plane taxied for 20 minutes around the airport and pulled into another gate to disembark. Following the experience, participants were treated to a reception to celebrate their accomplishment. Refreshments were generously provided by Wyndham Worldwide and Baked by Melissa.

     “Participating in Blue Horizons has been one of the most rewarding experiences in my life.  It’s great to be able to help these families grow more comfortable with a new experience, and it helps us learn exactly how we can better serve all our customers. I’d encourage everyone to take the time and learn. You never know when you might need to lend a helping hand, especially one that will make all the difference! “

- Robbie Rosenbaum, GM, JFK Airport Operations, JetBlue

Ten behavioral specialists from Nassau Suffolk Services for Autism were onsite and volunteered their time to help support the participants throughout the day. Earlier in the week, Autism Speaks staff educated our crewmembers and TSA staff about autism and how to best meet the needs of families and travelers affected by autism.

Blue Horizons for Autism at JFK was such a success. JetBlue and Autism Speaks are hoping to conduct programs in its five other  6 focus cities – Boston, New York, Los Angeles, Orlando, Fort Lauderdale,  and San Juan in the near future and eventually  in all of  our BlueCities.

“This was important to me as a crewmember and the parent of a child on the spectrum. I want to express my heartfelt gratitude for everyone’s participation as our 1st Blue Horizons for Autism Event at T5 was a huge success. My daughter was able to be in an airport for the first time and we stayed for two hours.  We also made it onto the plane but had to leave shortly after because she became very nervous. We’ll try again next time but thanks to everyone for your dedication to bringing humanity back to air travel. “ 

-Corwin Kong, Manager, Security, JetBlue

 

Learn more about our work with autism awareness

Learn more about Autism Speaks

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September 21, 2013

Blue Horizons for Autism

Travel for families with autistic children can be a stressful time. Together with Autism Speaks our JFK team put on Blue Horizons for Autism, our program to help families walk through the airport and plane experience, and let our more sensitive customers get use to the sights and sounds of travel without even needing to take off!

For families not attending in person, here are some great tips for parents traveling with autism:

1. After you book your flights, call JetBlue’s Disability Assistance Line to identify any special accommodations your family might need when traveling. Be sure to let crewmembers know of your requests when you check in or arrive at the gate. We are happy to help!

2. Practice waiting on lines before going to the airport. Bring incentives if necessary to help keep your child calm during waiting periods.

3. Make sure your child is aware that ALL electronic devices must be turned off before takeoff and landing. Be sure to have non-electronic toys or activities for these time
4. When dressing for the day, keep in mind that shoes, belts and jackets will have to be removed going through security. i.e. zips instead of buttons, slip-ons instead of tie shoes.

5. Going through the airport can be a challenge for any family but be kind to yourself and try to remember to have fun. Your destination awaits!

Get even more great travel tips from Autism Speaks here.

Learn more about JetBlue’s work on autism awareness here.

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May 11, 2013

Burbank’s First Ever Wings for Autism event

Our Burbank team recently participated in their first ever Wings for Autism—an event our Boston Crewmembers have been involved with since May 2011, originally introduced by the Charles River Center and ARC.

In partnership with Pacific Child and Family Associates, an organization that supports children and adults diagnosed with autism and other disabilities, the Burbank team welcomed approximately 200 participants to Terminal A. Just like in Boston, these families practiced checking in, going through security, and boarding the aircraft.

Our General Manager in Burbank Christine reports that the event was a huge success, and struck an emotional chord with our crewmembers; everyone was so touched to see these families so grateful for the experience. We have received many letters of appreciation from participants, and photos from the day.

Participant Letter

I just wanted to express my deepest thank you to JetBlue and their staff for such an amazing time with Wings for Autism. My son, David, had a blast. He was seated in the front row of the aircraft and asked a million questions. He has had anxiety of flying and this really helped him start over coming that fear. In fact, he now sees it a fun experience after all. Peace is a priceless gift, and I think JetBlue and Wings for Autism helped my son attempt to achieve it. Thank you again.

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May 4, 2013

Wings For Autism Takes Flight at Burbank Airport Today

We’re expanding our Wings For Autism program, originally introduced by the Charles River Center and ARC, by bringing the initiative to Burbank’s Bob Hope Airport for the first time. Wings For Autism practices air travel in a realistic and compassionate way. These rehearsal field trips help families practice going through TSA security and allow time for them to become familiar with the boarding process and the interior of an airplane. Most of all, Wings For Autism provides families with the time, resources and compassion for their children to become more comfortable with this new experience.

Today, more than 200 people from the Los Angeles area will participate in the first Wings For Autism event at Burbank’s Bob Hope Airport. We’ve partnered with Pacific Child and Family Associated and TSA for this event and crewmembers from Burbank, Long Beach and Las Vegas will be on hand to help families throughout the process.

Wings for Autism from JetBlue on Vimeo.

For the past three years, we’ve partnered with The Charles River Center and TSA to offer the Wings For Autism program in Boston, MA.  The program started with the Littlejohn family after a failed attempt at a family trip to Florida. To date, more than 400 families in the Boston area have had the opportunity to rehearse the travel experience and see if travel is feasible for their families.

We’re working with local organizations and airport authorities to roll this program out to other airports throughout its 77 city network.

To sign up for the Burbank “Wings For Autism event,” families can contact Arpi Arabian at Pacific Child and Family at arpiarabian@pacificchild.com.

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April 10, 2013

Photos: Wings for Autism Takes Flight


Over the weekend, the fifth Wings for Autism took place at Logan airport. The event began in May 2011, and our airline hasn’t missed one opportunity to get involved in this unique program. Each year, we partner with Massport, TSA, and other airlines to practice the airport experience with families of autistic children.

From checking in at the ticket counter and going through security to the boarding process, these moms and dads have the opportunity to show their autistic child firsthand every step of travel. Familiarizing the children, who are often scared of an airport’s hustle and bustle, reduces stress on the actual day of their journey. For the event, we opened up one of our A320 aircraft, giving the children a feel for sitting on a plane, fastening a seatbelt, and being served by an inflight crewmember. No aircraft on-the-ground experience would be complete without a peak inside the cockpit, and our volunteer pilots welcomed the children inside their world.


Since 2011, we’ve helped 1,500 families get comfortable with traveling with an autistic child, and this year alone saw more than 300 families in attendance. The next event will take place in November – stay tuned for details.

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April 2, 2013

Making Travel Possible For Families Affected By Autism

We’re pleased to announce our next “Wings For Autism” event. For the past three years, our Boston crewmembers have volunteered their time to introduce the possibility of travel to children with autism spectrum disorders.

Autism now affects one in 88 children. Taking a family vacation with a child with autism can be stressful and for many families it is often an impossible dream. Anxiety, long lines, loud noises and unfamiliarity all come into play when navigating through the airport. “Wings For Autism” not only allows families to practice the boarding process, but the program also provides families with the time, resources and compassion for their children to become more comfortable with this new experience.  We work closely with The Charles River Center to train crewmembers to meet both the anticipated as well as unexpected needs of families traveling with a child with special needs.

“Wings For Autism” experiential field trips allow families to get familiar with air travel in a realistic, yet relaxed setting. The trips include:

  • Trained JetBlue crewmembers providing assistance throughout the process
  • The use of a stationary JetBlue aircraft for families to practice the boarding process
  • Time for families to become familiar with a plane’s interior
  • The opportunity to meet the pilots and inflight crewmembers
  • Family activities, unlimited JetBlue snacks, and more

The Boston “Wings For Autism” program will take place on Sat. April 6 from 9am to 1 pm. Families interested in participating, should visit Charlesrivercenter.org.

Check out our previous “Wings For Autism” events

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November 10, 2012

2012 Wings for Autism Event in Boston

Our Wings for Autism event took place in Boston last Saturday, when we helped numerous families practice the travel experience from start to finish. This is our fourth time partnering with Massport, the TSA, and the Charles River Foundation to support this unique opportunity for children with autism and their families. More than 175 people came out to participate in the event.

Many parents dream of whisking their children off on a fun-filled family vacation, but haven’t made the attempt because they’re worried about how their autistic son or daughter will react to the hectic airport environment. From the buzz of people rushing from A to B, to the security process and boarding an aircraft, the whole experience can be overwhelming for an autistic child.

Wings for Autism aims to minimize these fears by giving families access to different aspects of air travel, all without leaving the airport:

  • The check-in process
  • TSA screening
  • Boarding
  • Preparing for take-off
  • Deplaning

Family testimonial

Here’s letter from some grateful parents to our Boston General Manager Norbert about their experience at Wings for Autism:

“First, I want to thank you and all of the people involved with putting on an outstanding event at Logan. My wife and I were blown away with how well the event was organized, and the seamless execution. Most of all, we were so impressed with how friendly, polite, and engaging everyone was. We felt so welcome and our boys had a great time.

We had always thought of JetBlue as a first class airline, but Wings for Autism confirmed it for us! Thank you again for all that you did for our boys, and I look forward to doing more business with JetBlue going forward as my way of thanking your company for their involvement in Wings for Autism.”

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June 19, 2012

JetBlue Supports Autism Speaks

We recently joined together for the 2012 Walk Now for Autism Speaks event in New York City. Autism Speaks is a nonprofit organization dedicated to increasing awareness of autism spectrum disorders, and funds research into the causes, prevention, and treatments for autism. Approximately 25,000 people walked along the South Street Seaport to support the cause.

 

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May 21, 2012

Wings For Autism Takes Flight For Third Year


On Saturday, our third Wings for Autism event took place at our Boston station and close to 500 participants turned out. For many families, this was the first time they stepped inside an airport—let alone board a plane—since welcoming an autistic child into their family; that meant 15 or more years for some people. Since airports can be intimidating for children with disabilities, some parents feel limited in their travel options and saw Wings for Autism as an opportunity to work through the challenges.


The Wings for Autism event was created to offer a safe environment for families to practice traveling with an autistic child, and be surrounded by others in similar situations. By getting comfortable with the airport and flight experience (without actually leaving the airport!), both parents and their children with special needs could gain the familiarity and confidence needed to fly for real when the time comes. Here’s what was practiced:

  • The check-in process
  • TSA screening
  • Boarding
  • Preparing for take-off
  • Deplaning


The families also received a safety briefing and toured the flight deck with our Captains and First Officers!

 

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