JetBlue Airways today announces its next “Wings For Autism” event. For the past three years, the airline’s 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 practices the boarding process, the program provides families with the time, resources and compassion for their children to become more comfortable with this new experience.
JetBlue works 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.
“‘Every child deserves the chance to go on a vacation with his or her family. ‘Wings For Autism’ introduces travel to families affected by autism, many of whom thought travel was not ever going to be a possibility,” said Ian Deason , director of airport operations, JetBlue. “Flying is our core business. Our crewmembers found an extraordinary way to utilize our work to provide an invaluable experience to a previously underserved community. Our core values include caring, integrity and passion which our crewmembers live on a daily basis. It is truly inspiring to see our crew be able to make the dream of a family vacation a reality.”
JetBlue, in collaboration with The Charles River Center, Massachusetts Port Authority and Transportation Security Administration (TSA) created “Wings for Autism” in 2011. Since its launch, JetBlue has provided the aircraft for these exploratory field trips and along with other airlines’ crewmembers volunteer their time to raise awareness for this worthy cause. 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.
“The Charles River Center realized there was a need for a program like this but we never expected Logan Airport, MassPort and JetBlue to respond so positively. The team we’ve created here in Boston is making a difference in so many people’s lives and allowing these children to experience their world,” stated Jennifer Robtoy , director of autism services, The Charles River Center. “The idea that families have a whole world opened up to them from participating in our program is truly amazing. All of the volunteers at these events are the key to making the program as realistic as possible and I can’t thank everyone enough for all they’ve done for all of these families.”
This year, JetBlue will extend the program to other cities in its network. On May 4, JetBlue’s Burbank and Long Beach Airport crewmembers will partner to host the first-ever “Wings For Autism” event at Burbank Bob Hope Airport (BUR). Also, later this year the airline will coordinate its first “Wings For Autism” program at New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport.
JetBlue’s Boston crewmembers show an unparalleled dedication to their community, as crewmembers participate in a variety of volunteer initiatives each year. However, “Wings For Autism” is one of the largest volunteer programs each year in Boston. For the past two years, JetBlue’s Boston crew has been awarded the JetBlue ‘Community Connection’ team award for giving back to the Boston community. JetBlue’s ‘Community Connection’ initiative was created to align with the passions of the airline’s crewmembers who serve their communities through acts of volunteerism. JetBlue recognizes crewmembers that embody the brand’s efforts to inspire humanity. The airline’s Corporate Social Responsibility platform rewards its 14,000+ crewmembers for their community service both individually and on a team basis.