SYRACUSE, N.Y. (WSYR-TV) — This Saturday, the Syracuse Hancock International Airport brought back a successful “Wings for All” event. It’s in partnership with The Arc US, Arc of Onondaga, and United Airlines.

The event served as an airport rehearsal program for individuals with autism as well as intellectual and development disabilities.

The inaugural Syracuse version of the highly sought-after event was held in 2019 and Saturday’s event marked the return of the rehearsal program to Syracuse after a three-year pause due to COVID-19.

The program aims to alleviate some of the stress that individuals with autism and IDD and their
families experience when traveling by air. The rehearsal provides families the opportunity to
experience and learn about how their loved ones will react to the wide-ranging stimuli found in the airport environment.

“Travel is stressful for anybody… now try adding in autism, an intellectual or developmental disability it becomes downright frightening for some families,” said Matt Szwejbka with the Syracuse Airport.

Additionally, airport, airline, and Transportation Security Administration (TSA) professionals were given the opportunity to interact with and learn from people with autism and IDD, as well as their families. This provides a better understanding of how to provide services to better accommodate the unique needs of travelers with autism and IDD.

Approximately 20 families of individuals with autism and IDD rehearsed the entire airport process, including parking and walking to the terminal, checking in for their flight, passing
through the TSA security checkpoint, navigating the terminal to their gate and boarding an aircraft provided by United Airlines.

United Airlines is already committing to holding Wings for All again in Syracuse next year.