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