Organization looks to ease air travel stresses for young passengers with autism


(NEW YORK) — Air travel for passengers with autism, especially younger flyers, can be stressful and nerve-wracking, according to Alan Day.

Day, a former travel agent who has a son on the autism spectrum, said the long check-in procedures, the noise of the terminal and other aspects of the procedure make trips more difficult.

“I saw how many other issues came up and it’s people with much greater struggles than him that still needed lots of extra help to be able to travel. And that’s always inspired me,” Day said.

Day co-founded Autism Double-Checked, which has pushed to raise awareness among airlines, hotels and other travel businesses on the issues that autistic travelers face. The organization also trains hospitality staff to be more accommodating.

The company runs a special program at Bradley Airport in Connecticut that gives parents a practice run. Day said that this has helped the young flyers on the spectrum get more accustomed to the protocols at their own pace.

“They’re going to come in. They’re going to check in. They will get a gate pass just like a boarding pass for a real flight that will go through an actual TSA line. They will have to be screened, go through the metal detector, then they’ll come to the gate, they’ll wait at the gate and they will be called,” Day said.

Kristen Catino, whose son Jake is on the autism spectrum, participated in an event and said she saw a major difference in a future trip.

“As soon as he stepped into the airport…he said he was nervous, but he walked through. He handled it like a champ,” Catino said of her son.

Day said other airports and airlines, including Breeze Airways, have expressed interest in holding these events and have been great partners. Tom Doxey, the president of Breeze Airways, said he hopes the program can grow.

“So our hope with this is that the more we do this and the more other airlines see us doing this, and it’s not just airlines, it’s hotels and airports,” Doxey said. “And it’s the entire sort of travel ecosystem that it really catches on.”

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