YYC Calgary International Airport works to improve familiarity with air travel for those with autism
(Calgary, AB) – Back for the third year in a row, The Calgary Airport Authority (Authority) once again was host to the YYC Navigators program in partnership with Air Canada and Air Canada Rouge. The program focuses on providing individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), and their families, with the opportunity to become more familiar with airport processes and the air travel experience. Working with Air Canada, Air Canada Rouge, Society for Treatment of Autism (STA) and numerous other autism support organizations, this year’s program included more than 90 participants - the largest group the airport has hosted in the three years the program has been offered. It was also the first time that the participants were able to go through the process in YYC’s new state-of-the-art International Terminal.
“We’ve heard from the many participants over the years that this program has been very helpful to families who are planning a trip and want to take their family members with ASD through the process in advance,” said Peggy Blacklock, Manager, Airport Community Engagement for The Calgary Airport Authority. “It really allows them to get a first-hand experience before their flight so that they can determine whether air travel is a viable option for their family.”
Individuals with autism have a tendency to dislike new or unfamiliar situations, may have abnormal responses to sensory stimulation, or have other communication/language insufficiencies. As airport processes are unfamiliar for many, and some families are unsure if they can travel due to sensory and communication challenges, many choose to not travel by air andprograms such as this, make the air travel experience more attainable.
“Although vacations are something most families look forward to, they can be extremely stressful if a family member has ASD. Unfamiliar environments, routines, sights and sounds can trigger anxiety, so some families avoid travel altogether,” said Dr. Kimberley Ward, Deputy Executive Director for Society for Treatment of Autism. “The YYC Navigator’s Program gives families a chance to become more familiar with the airport and the routines involved. We are excited that this year’s event introduced families to the new terminal. We anticipate that taking part in the program will give families the confidence to consider international travel, perhaps that trip to Disneyland they have been worried about booking.”
“Air Canada’s Calgary team is thrilled to participate again in YYC’s Navigators Program to introduce children with ASD and their families to our customer service teams, pilots and flight attendants. ASD has touched many of our friends and families, and our team is pleased to help these children become familiar with some of the routines around air travel, from arriving at the airport to being onboard an aircraft,” said Mark Dantu, Air Canada’s Manager, Station Operations in Calgary.
Families participating in this year’s event went through the entire airport process in the new terminal from curb to gate. Upon arriving, families checked in with their airline, Air Canada, went through the pre-board security process, boarded the Air Canada Rouge aircraft and went through all flight safety announcements. They finished their trip with a visit from Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) representatives, who stamped their mock passports.
Participating agencies include Society for Treatment of Autism, Ability 4 Good, Lead Foundation, Renfrew Educational Services and New Heights School & Learning Services.
A special thanks to our event sponsors and partners: Air Canada, Air Canada Rouge and their staff who flew in for this event, HMSHost, CBSA, Canadian Air Transport Security Authority (CATSA) and Mountain View Printing.
ABOUT THE CALGARY AIRPORT AUTHORITY
The Calgary Airport Authority is a not-for-profit, non-share capital organization, incorporated under the Alberta Regional Airports Authorities Act, and is responsible for the safe, secure and efficient management of the YYC Calgary International Airport (YYC) and Springbank Airport (YBW) under long-term lease from the Government of Canada. YYC's mandate is to advance economic and community development by providing improved airline and transportation services for the benefit of the public. The Authority has invested over $4 billion into the continued development of YYC, opening Canada's longest runway in 2014 and a new International Terminal in 2016. YYC is a key economic driver for Calgary and Alberta, generating more than $8 billion in economic activity annually and creating 48,000 jobs.
For more information contact:
Calgary Airport Authority
P: 403 735 5899