Each and every day thousands of guests fill YYC as they head off to various destinations whether for business or for pleasure. For some, the process is familiar. Bag tags, check. Boarding pass, check. Security screening, check. Have some free time? Enjoy some shopping and/or a pre-flight meal or beverage, check. On the flip side, those who are a bit less familiar may feel the opposite experience rings true. Those are our guests with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), and their families. The unfamiliar processes of airports can incite anxiety and discomfort as travel can be a little intimidating for those sensitive to the ultra-stimulating sounds, sights and people in a bustling facility. Individuals with ASD have a tendency to dislike new or unfamiliar situations, may have abnormal responses to sensory stimulation, or have other communication/language insufficiencies, keeping many families away from air travel.
This is why The Calgary Airport Authority, in partnership with Air Canada, ASD-focused agencies and other airport partners have brought the YYC Navigators familiarization program back for the fourth year in a row.
Today, more than 85 guests from 26 families joined us for the entire curb to aircraft airport experience.
Simulating the travel journey, the 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 – making them honorary Team YYC members.
“During each of these steps we were guided by specialists from the agencies and YYC staff who helped us identify the ‘safe spaces’ around the airport and potential sensory triggers for our child,” said one of the past participants “We were able to spot our child’s stressors and obstacles during the process; but most importantly, we were able to find solutions to these challenges.”
Each year through this program, we gain invaluable insights into how to make travel not only more attainable, but also more enjoyable — for all of our guests — no matter who they are or where they come from. We’re able to give back to the community we serve one memorable moment at a time.
“About a month after we participated in the YYC Navigators program we flew to Vancouver,” she says. “There were some stressful moments but our Navigators training made us feel confident and prepared to face whatever came our way. We made it!!!”
Elevated Experiences. Now Arriving at YYC.
We’d like to extend a thank you to our community agencies for their involvement: Society for Treatment of Autism, Ability 4 Good, Lead Foundation, Renfrew Educational Services and New Heights School & Learning Services.
And a special thanks to our event sponsors and partners who help make Navigators take flight: 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.