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Traveling alone with autism

Biglerville...
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Traveling alone with autism

My adult son has high-functioning autism and will be flying alone. He needs to make a connecting flight at JFK on the way to his destination of Taiwan, and at SFO on the way home. He will be overwhelmed and very stressed to navigate the airport and do the connecting flights on his own. The airlines said they will not treat him "any differently than any other passenger." I am looking at airport concierge services, but I can't find any reviews to help me choose a good one. In fact, I can find little info on them. Has anyone here used one of these services?

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1. Re: Traveling alone with autism

Try asking on the travelling with disabilities forum as well.

Deb

Romford, United...
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2. Re: Traveling alone with autism

If you have already booked the ticket there is normally a section on the airline website for special assistance where you can book this service in advance-the service is normally provided by the airport concerned on behalf of the airline-I have always found this service at US airports to be excellent

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3. Re: Traveling alone with autism

Yes book assistance with your airline,ASAP they will ask what kind you need mobility wise, as I assume your son can manage stairs/ walking ok, I would be inclined to say learning disability ) I know I hate labels to ) and that he requires assistance from A to B, you really should not have to explain the inns and outs of the " disability " just what help

is required, to get on plane and off again !

In the UK companies are not allowed to discriminate between a physical and learning disability or indeed mental health issues. Unfortunately I can't help with US disability laws, but if I was you I would find outside from a Autism support group/charity.

Deb

Edited: 3:29 pm, July 26, 2013
Biglerville...
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4. Re: Traveling alone with autism

Thanks I just did that. I did not realize there was a forum dedicated to those traveling with disabilities. :)

Biglerville...
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5. Re: Traveling alone with autism

Yes, he basically needs wheelchair assistance, WITHOUT the wheelchair! He walks perfectly fine, but navigating such a large space alone would terrify him. He just needs someone to show him the way.

Romford, United...
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6. Re: Traveling alone with autism

They will escort/take him in a wheelchair or an electric buggy from aircraft to aircraft-just make sure you enter the request on the Advanced Passenger Information asap and everything will be fine

Mount Dora, Florida
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7. Re: Traveling alone with autism

I would request wheelchair service even though you son has no mobility issues. There is no place on my online page for requesting special services that would allow me to indicate I needed a guide rather than a wheelchair. Since the wheelchair assistant will meet all the needs you son will have to negotiate the airport, this seems to be the best service to request.

I think I would be concerned that your son meets the "fit to fly" requirements, and I would probably obtain a letter from his doctor confirming that he can manage the flight successfully if he has assistance reaching the correct gate.

My MIL suffered from dementia. She needed to fly across the US, and we were concerned that she would just walk away from her wheelchair and be lost for days in a large and busy airport. We talked with the airline and they allowed us to classify her as an "unaccompanied minor". We paid a $100 charge and the airline assigned someone to make sure she not only got to the right gate, but also that she got on the plane and into a seat. This was several years ago. I know the fee is higher (probably $1500. I do not know if disabled adults are still eligible for this service. If you are comfortable with wheelchair service, that is something for which you do not need to pay. In our case we were happy to pay the fee. It provided us great peace of mind because we knew she would always be watched and there was no opportunity for her to wander away.

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8. Re: Traveling alone with autism

Kathilynn,

How was your son's trip? Which method did you choose in the end? Did he make it to Taiwan without any issues?

I recently had my brother with high functioning autism needing to make a connecting flight from Singapore to JFK or Chiang Mai to JFK and scouring through many websites for just this info!

Just a couple of weekw ago my brother has been refused on a flight from Singapore to Chiang Mai because I who accompanied him to the gate alerted the attendant that he is diagnosed as mildly autistic and his autistic distinction may require directional guidance. His disability had been explained to the airline's agent prior to the day of flying and no where in their customer guidelines stated that a person with mild cognitive disability need a physician's note and someone to accompany him on flight.

The situation was very painful and we were subject to very public treatment and denial that was humiliating. To add insult to injury the staff told us that we would not be refunded for the ticket and did not bother to guide us any further on the matter.

Anyway, I would very much like to hear about you and your son's experience. thank you!

Biglerville...
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9. Re: Traveling alone with autism

Hello!

My son made it to Taiwan with little difficulty. My husband requested a Gate Pass from Ticketing at our first airport - IAD (Dulles), which allowed him to escort our son right to the gate for his flight. My husband explained the situation and an airline employee said he would personally walk our son to his seat at the end of boarding.

We had paid for private Airport Concierge services (almost $400) for someone to meet our son upon his arrival at JFK airport in New York City. That person did a great job and put him at ease. She was not allowed to go through security, but she arranged for someone there to take him, and he boarded his connecting flight early with other handicapped people. The agent also made arrangements for someone at the airlines (EVA Air) to help our son at the airport upon arrival in Taiwan and for them to call our other son to help the two to connect. Things went well.

Now we have to decide how we are going to handle his trip home, where he will need to connect in San Francisco, before returning to Dulles. We will probably pay for the concierge services again.

I think a lot depends on the airline and the airport. I would not want to bet that all of them allow the Gate Passes, but we had no problem with them at Dulles for United Air. They also told us we could get a Gate Pass to help pick him up in Dulles when he returns. We were somewhat limited because he took flights which left late at night.

I am so sorry and also saddened by the experiences you and your brother had. I would definitely file a complaint and again ask for a refund! If they refuse to act, I would go public with this story. Please update your story if you can. Thanks!

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10. Re: Traveling alone with autism

aishtiteru, look at it from the checkin persons POV, you arrive at the counter with someone who disability is severe enough that they cannot explain it themselves, but you need to explain to the staff what it is, and in effect ask for special assistance from them, without having arranged anything in advance.

From what you wrote, the checkin person might think they could not even make their way to the gate at the departure airport, let alone at a transfer one. It could almost have appeared that you were "dumping them" at the checkin point.

Don't misunderstand me, I'm not saying you were dumping them, nor that your bother couldn't have managed, just how it could >>appear<< to a checkin person.

I think the main fault lies with the agent you mentioned who should have thought of these issues ahead of time even if it was to give you guidance as to what to say (or perhaps, what *not* to say) at checkin.

Edited: 2:49 am, August 19, 2013