Alaska Airlines’ practice flights for first-time flyers, families and those with cognitive and developmental disabilities, including autism, are some of the most coveted experiences to get comfortable with air travel without ever having to leave the airport. But in as little as an hour those events can fill up.
We wanted to do more for our guests.
Earlier this month, Alaska launched a free app in the Apple Store and Google Play called Fly for All. Designed for first-time flyers, guests traveling with children, unaccompanied minors and those with cognitive and developmental disabilities, including autism, the app will help ease the anxiety of air travel by walking guests through the steps they’ll follow when getting ready to fly.
The app features a series of photos and descriptions (social stories), with an optional read-aloud setting, that describes every step of the travel process from packing your bag to landing at your destination. It also features interactive content, including a travel checklist, matching games and communication cards anyone can use to communicate non-verbally with employees and other travelers.
The app on mobile:
The app on a tablet:
The app also highlights information about accessible travel services, such as Alaska’s accessible travel policies and a program called TSA Cares, which can provide assistance through the security process.
“Everyone should be able to feel comfortable flying, but not everyone does,” said Ray Prentice, director of customer advocacy. “We’re an airline that strives to provide remarkable experiences for everyone. Which aligns with our values and is the right thing to do – and the app helps us all get there.”
Started with an idea. Now we’re here.
Our internal disability board and frontline employees are always looking for feedback and guidance to create a better, hassle-free travel experience for everyone.
The Fly for All app began as an idea more than a year ago when Prentice, who also is a co-chair of Alaska’s internal disability board, met Infiniteach, a tech company, that focuses on building app solutions for individuals with cognitive and developmental disabilities, at a national disability conference.
The Fly for All app is just one of many ways we’re supporting flyers of all needs and abilities.
During October, which is Disability Employment Awareness Month, we’ve hosted Wings for Autism events in Spokane and Fresno in partnership with local Arc organizations, and similar events in Portland and Redmond in collaboration with the Oregon Society of Autism. Another one in Anchorage, co-hosted by The Arc of Anchorage, is scheduled on Nov. 2. Event registration and outreach are handled by the co-hosting disability organizations.
Alaska also collaborates with Guide Dogs for the Blind and Canine Companions for Independence to provide airport access for puppies in training, partners with the Paralyzed Veterans of America to improve employee education for the proper handling of guests’ mobility devices, and is working with United Spinal Association and other organizations to increase the hiring of individuals with disabilities.