Tag Archives: Autism Awareness

Now Boarding Special Passengers: OAJ to “FUN”

Few things bring as much wonderment and awe to children as the miracle of flight. For kids with autism though, experiencing this miracle is often difficult due to their sensitivities to noise, large groups and the unknown. That’s where a SkyWest crew recently stepped in to help a group of these children have the opportunity to experience flight in safe, non-stressful environment in Jacksonville, North Carolina (OAJ). The event was one that all those involved with will not soon forget.

Together with Delta Global Services (DGS), OAJ Airport and the Exceptional Family Member Program, SkyWest crewmembers welcomed children with autism from military families on board a CRJ200, allowing these children an opportunity to participate in a flight rehearsal. While never actually leaving the ground, the crew pulled out all the stops to ensure it was a day the kids would remember forever.

Prior to boarding, the children were given wings and boarding passes with airport code “FUN” being their final destination. With a sense of eagerness mixed with nervousness, the children boarded the aircraft with family members. They were met on board by the captain of the flight, Atlanta CRJ Captain Princy Lala – a former Marine who jumped at the chance to be part of the event. After making the standard opening announcements, Captain Lala told the children they would be flying into “FUN” at an altitude of sea-level.

After his remarks came the safety briefing from Flight Attendant Stephanie Clausel, and then full-service drinks and snacks were provided, including a pizza provided by the crew. During this time, Captain Lala and First Officer Sam Anderson were busy playing the children’s favorite songs from the intercom.

One by one, each child was called into the flight deck to be an honorary pilot, sit in the right-seat, take pictures and, of course, page their parents on the intercom.

“It was an amazing, amazing, amazing thing,” said Captain Lala, who heard child after child say they now wanted to be a pilot just like him.

“It was my honor and pleasure to be a part of this event,” he continued. “Thank you, SkyWest, for providing me the opportunity to be in a position to bring smiles to the kids and Marine Corps families and to our company, in line with our guiding principles.”

Thank you to the crew who volunteered their time and expertise to share their love of flying and provide these families with memories that will last a lifetime! Learn more about joining the SkyWest team.

SkyWest Offers Flight Rehearsal with Wings for Autism

Freddy Lemmo
Corporate Communications Coordinator

For many, the task of going to the airport, boarding a plane and reaching their final destination is pretty simple. Most travelers have learned that lines and big crowds in the airport are a typical part of the travel process. But for others, especially those on the autism spectrum, and their families, the task of going to the airport can be new and stressful. That’s why SkyWest Airlines once again teamed up with Fresno Yosemite International Airport, The Arc of Fresno, TSA, Delta Global Service and Hewlett Packard, to offer Wings for Autism in Fresno for some very special passengers.

Wings for Autism offers airport “rehearsals” specifically designed to alleviate the stress that children with autism or intellectual/developmental disabilities, and their families, experience when flying.

“Going through security for the first time was a little intimidating,” said SFO First Officer Antonio Puentes, who volunteered at the event. The event was even more meaningful for First Officer Puentes because his son, Mateo, is autistic. “Coming through and you’ve got these machines, and you’ve got people standing around. You’ve got the big conveyor belts. That can be very stressful. And so getting through that with an extra help was a tremendous benefit for them.”

As part of the event, 50 children and their families got a first-hand look at what to expect at the airport and on an aircraft. After checking in at the ticket counter, they were greeted by members of the TSA, who explained what to expect in the screening process. They then gathered at the gate, where SkyWest crewmembers greeted them and talked to each child individually.

The children then boarded a SkyWest CRJ200, complete with a special sendoff from crews lined up on each side of the aircraft. After a full safety demonstration from the flight attendants, they taxied around the airport while enjoying snacks and beverages. They were welcomed back to the gate with high fives and plenty of smiles.

“It’s such a great experience, being able to fly and go new places, and they get to experience that by going through this process first,” said Melissa Perry of the Fresno Yosemite Airport. “They are getting a social story to help them through exactly what they did today, and then they can take that with them when they get ready to go on their [next] trip.”

Thank you to the SkyWest people who volunteered countless hours of coordination and expertise to share their love of flying and provide these families with memories that will last a lifetime! Learn more about joining the SkyWest team.