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LAX and All Nippon Airways host autism flight experience day

LAX and All Nippon Airways host autism flight experience day

A safe and supportive environment – that’s the experience that Los Angeles World Airports (LAWA) and All Nippon Airways (ANA) provided today during the fourth Autism Flight Experience (AFE) Day at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX).  The AFE program helps persons with autism and their families prepare for future travel, and reduce anxieties and fears associated with flying by providing a simulated airport experience that includes checking into a flight, boarding an aircraft, and disembarking. 

             “LAWA is proud to offer the AFE program, which allows families to discover or rediscover the airport and flight experience in a safe, sensitive, and caring environment,” said LAWA Chief Executive Officer Deborah Flint.  “We hope that what the participants experienced today will not only make them feel welcome in an airport environment, but also get them excited about air travel.”

             “The Autism Flight Experience at LAX has helped hundreds of families acquaint themselves and their loved ones for air travel in a supportive environment,” said LAWA Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) Coordinator Lawrence Rolon.  “The demand for program participation far outweighs the available flights we are able to schedule with our participating airlines, and we are fortunate to have ANA as a major partner in reaching out to families with autism.” 

            ANA is the first international airline serving Asia to both host the AFE program and to participate in LAWA’s Voluntary Autism Self Identification Program for travelers with autism. “ANA is very proud to be the first international airline serving Asia to participate in the AFE program,” said Richard Ide, ANA’s Vice President of Airport Administration, The Americas.

“Going through security and taking a flight can be a daunting experience if you’re not used to it, and even more so if you have, or are traveling with someone who has, autism. Our duty is to ensure that each of our passengers has an enjoyable and relaxed travel experience; participating in this program is just one way we try to achieve this.”

             Today’s program was held at the Tom Bradley International Terminal.  Participants went through Transportation Security Administration (TSA) screening to Gate 133, where they met LAX Airport Police’s K-9 Unit, met and listened to remarks by LAX Airport Police Chief David Maggard, Mr. Rolon, and Mr. Ide.  Families then boarded an ANA Boeing 777 aircraft, where they listened to pre-flight announcements from ANA’s crew. After exiting the aircraft, attendees made their way through the Customs & Border Protection process.     

AFE participants also learned about LAWA’s Voluntary Autism Self-Identification Program, which allows travelers to share that they have an intellectual disability with airport employees through the use of wearable stickers.  These stickers, which are available for free from participating airlines, can help airport employees and LAX Airport Police respond to their needs in a way that is sensitive to their disability.

            Both the AFE and the Voluntary Autism Self-Identification programs began 2014 following collaboration by LAWA, members of the airport community, and families at the LeRoy Haynes Center schools, which offer education and treatment services for persons with autism. Their goal was to create programs and tools to help create a better understanding within the airport community of the challenges faced by travelers with intellectual disabilities.