Wings for All offers a hands-on travel experience | Tech US News

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Patryce Huggins is a United Airlines flight attendant with 16 years of experience. She is also the mother of a 12-year-old son who has autism.

She said she understands the challenges flying can pose.

“I understand how parents feel about bringing their kids and not knowing what to expect, and for them, it’s all about routine, so I’m here to help make it easier for them,” Huggins said.

She hopes travelers will use patience and try to understand that delays, sitting or other aspects of air travel can be difficult for others.


What You Need to Know

  • Wings for All is an event that helps people with disabilities feel more comfortable flying
  • It gives people the chance to experience going through security, waiting at a gate, boarding and sitting on a plane
  • There are hopes to hold the event again

“Not all kids are the same. It’s not that one kid misbehaves,” he said. “There might be something else going on. Before you jump to conclusions and think someone is acting up, give it a minute. That parent might need a little extra help.”

Huggins thanks Wings for All, an effort organized by the Arc of Onondaga, United Airlines and the Syracuse Regional Airport Authority. Visitors experience going through security, waiting to board, boarding and sitting on a plane as if they were going somewhere. But it stays on the floor.

Organizers say it’s a win-win for everyone involved.

“The families of the people who are participating today, they get a lot out of it and they’re able to get, maybe, a hands-on experience to go through all the things that are travel,” said United Airlines’ director of sales. Stephen Bunkiewicz. “We have an opportunity to help them experience that, and maybe learn about some different special needs they may have on board.”

Two of the many visitors who participated were Jillian Wexler and her son Graham. She said there are many things she considers when she thinks about flying.

“I’m not sure how he’s going to deal with the pressure, even sitting with a bunch of people around him, even though we’ll be with him,” he said. “Even sometimes we leave your things when we have to board, that can be a challenge. So having the opportunity to practice and see how you do it before taking a flight is a great idea.”

Huggins said he plans to continue helping travelers get comfortable.

“Autism is my life now at this point, and I’ve done it. I’ve been on airplanes and cried with parents before when they’ve been through it. So I’m here for it. I told you before, I’ve got tissues in my pocket. I’m ready. So, you know, just be patient, be kind. You don’t know what kind of battle he’s fighting,” Huggins said.

So many families signed up for the event that a waiting list had to be created. There are hopes to have more events like this in the future.

The last time Wings for All took place at this airport was in 2019, before the pandemic.

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