Opening up the World for Children with Autism - United Hub

Opening up the world for children with autism

By Matt Adams , April 20, 2018

A version of this story appears in the April issue of Hemispheres in honor of National Autism Awareness Month

The raw emotions are still evident, even more than a decade later, when Houston-based Captain Kyle Gardner and his wife Irma talk about their first attempted flight as a family with their son Nicky. They were standing in the gate area at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport on their way to Los Angeles, but Nicky was struggling. As other passengers looked on, he threw himself onto the floor and let loose, screaming and flailing his arms and legs as Irma tried to calm him.

"I said to Kyle, 'I can't do this,'" Irma recalls. "There was no way I could put him on that flight. We were so anxious, and people were staring at us. They couldn't see that he has a disability, they just thought he was being a brat. I was so upset that I picked him up and we left."

Nicky, who is now 15, was diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder shortly after his third birthday. As a young boy, he had a hard time adjusting to new environments, especially those, like airports, filled with noise and movement, and his discomfort could quickly escalate, leaving Kyle and Irma feeling powerless.

Houston-based Captain Kyle Gardner and his sons at Houston\u2019s October Wings for All eventKyle and his sons at Houston's October Wings for All event

While traumatic, the Gardners' experience is hardly unique among families with autistic children. That's why in recent years, airlines like ours and 45 airport authorities across the U.S. have teamed up with the Arc, a nationwide organization serving people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, to host Wings for Autism and Wings for All (the name varies by city) airport immersion sessions designed to give children with autism a greater level of familiarity and comfort when traveling.

When he first heard about the program at Houston's George Bush International Airport in 2014, Kyle jumped at the chance to volunteer. Twice a year, he puts on his uniform and helps lead a Wings for All group on a dry run through the airport, from the ticketing area, through security, to the boarding gate and onto on of our parked aircraft. Once on board, Kyle, his fellow pilots and a team of flight attendants put on a mock flight.

Kyle recognizes in the kids the same anxiety and fear that he once observed in Nicky. But, given his unique personal connection, he's able to reassure them and their parents that, with enough practice and a patient approach, anything is possible.

"There's one child who has come multiple times," he says, "but he was never able to get down the jetbridge. Last time, he made it all the way onto the plane, and that was a big accomplishment. These families keep coming back, and each time their kids make small improvements."

Nicky, Irma, Kyle and the Gardners\u2019 youngest son, Sebastian, at Machu Picchu, PeruNicky, Irma, Kyle and the Gardners' youngest son, Sebastian, at Machu Picchu, Peru

The Gardners didn't have a support system like Wings for Autism/Wings for All when Nicky was young, and they admit it was difficult. Eventually, through perseverance, they helped him become the seasoned flyer he is today, with a passport book that's filling up with stamps. At the Houston Wings for All event last October, Nicky accompanied his mom and dad and shared his experiences with the attendees, serving as inspiration for those who worry that air travel is beyond their grasp.

"We didn't want Nicky to only see the world through books," Irma says, "we wanted him to see it for himself. He loves flying now, and I feel like we don't have any limitations."

What keeps Kyle going back to Wings for All year after year is the hope that other families can reach that point, too. "Getting their child onto an airplane for the first time means that maybe one day they can visit Grandma or go to Disneyland together. You can't measure the impact," he says. "They are so grateful for that opportunity, and that's what stays with me. At United, caring is second only to safety, and our participation in Wings for Autism and Wings for All underscores that."

Houston's next Wings for All event is scheduled for April 24. For details, visit the Arc of Texas webpage.

Working to bring people home – repatriation flights underway

By The Hub team , April 03, 2020

When and where possible, we are working to repatriate travelers who are stranded abroad in the wake of the COVID-19 crisis. Our teams are working closely with government officials here in the U.S. as well as in other countries where flying has been restricted to gain the necessary approvals to operate service. In regions where government actions have barred international flying, we have coordinated with the the U.S. State Department and local government officials to re-instate some flights. Additionally, we have been operating several extra flights to countries in Central America and South America as we continue to play a role in connecting people and uniting the world.

We have operated more than 68 repatriation flights from Panama City, Guatemala City, Quito, Lima, San Pedro Sula, Tegucigalpa and Roatan, bringing nearly 9,200 people home. We will continue working with government officials to operate extra flights to Houston from Quito, San Pedro Sula, Tegucigalpa and from Lima to Washington Dulles and beginning April 5, we will begin operating multiple charter flights between Delhi and San Francisco. We continue to review more opportunities for flights between the United States and other countries to bring citizens home.

Video provided by the U.S. Embassy Ecuador of Americans returning home on United.

Additionally, our Customer Solutions and Recovery team is working with customers in the following markets to rebook them on flights back to the United States as capacity allows, either on our aircraft or on one of our airline partners' planes:

  • Quito, Ecuador
  • Managua, Nicaragua
  • Roatan, Honduras
  • San Pedro Sula, Honduras
  • Amsterdam
  • Brussels
  • Munich
  • Singapore
  • Tokyo-Haneda
  • Seoul, South Korea
  • Melbourne, Australia

We also recently reinstated several international flights back into our schedule to support customers and essential businesses which depend on these routes. As a result, we will be the only airline to offer service between Newark/New York and London, San Francisco and Sydney, as well as Houston and São Paulo, Brazil.

United Zoom backgrounds for AvGeeks

By The Hub team , April 02, 2020

Calling all AvGeeks and travelers! Here's a fun way to take your next video call….from a United Polaris® seat, the cockpit or cruising altitude. We're introducing United-themed backgrounds for use on Zoom, a video conferencing tool that many people are using to stay connected.

So for your next meeting or catch up with friends and family, download the app to either your computer or mobile device to get started. If you've already downloaded Zoom you can skip ahead to updating your background image (see instructions below).

  1. Start here by downloading your favorite United image to your computer or mobile device. Just click "download" in the bottom left corner of the image.
  2. Next go to your Zoom app (you'll need to download the app to access backgrounds) and click on the arrow to the right of your video camera icon in the bottom of the screen.
  3. From here select, "choose virtual background" to upload your uniquely United photo.







Domestic and international schedule reductions

By The Hub team , April 02, 2020

While travel demand and government restrictions continue to impact our schedule, we know some people around the globe are displaced and still need to get home. While our international schedule will be reduced by about 90% in April, we will continue flying six daily operations to and from the following destinations — covering Asia, Australia, Latin America, the Middle East and Europe — in an effort to get customers where they need to be. This remains a fluid situation, but United continues to play a role in connecting people and uniting the world, especially in these challenging times. Learn more about what we're doing to keep customers and employees safe.

Flights continuing from now through May schedule:

  • New York/Newark – Frankfurt (Flights 960/961)
  • New York/Newark – London (Flights 16/17)
  • New York/Newark – Tel Aviv (Flights 90/91)
  • Houston – Sao Paulo (Flights 62/63)
  • San Francisco – Tokyo-Narita (Flights 837/838)
  • San Francisco – Sydney (Flights 863/870)

In addition to the above, we will continue to operate the following flights to help displaced customers who still need to get home. In destinations where government actions have barred us from flying, we are actively looking for ways to bring customers who have been impacted by travel restrictions back to the United States. This includes working with the U.S. State Department and the local governments to gain permission to operate service.

Atlantic

The following flights will continue through March 28 westbound:

  • New York/Newark – Amsterdam (Flights 70/71)
  • New York/Newark – Munich (Flights 30/31)
  • New York/Newark – Brussels (Flights 999/998)
  • New York/Newark – Cape Town (Flights 1122/1123)
  • Washington-Dulles – London (Flights 918/919)
  • San Francisco – Frankfurt (Flights 58/59)

The final westbound departures on all other Atlantic routes will take place on March 25.

Pacific

  • We will continue to fly San Francisco-Seoul (Flights 893/892) through March 29 and San Francisco-Tahiti (Flights 115/114) through March 28.
  • Our final eastbound departures on all other Pacific routes will take place on March 25.
  • We will maintain some Guam flights as well as a portion of our Island Hopper service.
  • Hawaii's governor issued a mandatory 14-day self-quarantine order for all travelers arriving or returning to Hawaii. Travelers must complete a Hawaii Department of Agriculture form that will be distributed on board their flight which will also include the requirements for the 14-day quarantine, as well as the penalties. You must show a government issued ID upon arrival along with your form. You can find more information on the governor's website.

Latin America/South America

  • We will continue to fly Newark/New York – Sao Paulo (Flights 149/148) through March 27 outbound.
  • The last southbound departures on most other routes will take place March 24.

Mexico

  • We will reduce our Mexico operation over the next five days. After March 24, we will maintain a small number of daytime flights to certain destinations in Mexico — more to come in the next few days.

Canada

  • We will suspend all flying to Canada effective April 1.

In destinations where government actions have barred us from flying, we are actively looking for ways to bring customers who have been impacted by travel restrictions back to the United States. This includes working with the U.S. State Department and the local governments to gain permission to operate service.

The revised international schedule will be viewable on united.com on Sunday, March 22. We will continue to update our customers with information as it's available.

If you're scheduled to travel through May 31, 2020, and would like to change your plans, there is no fee to do so, regardless of when you purchased your ticket or where you're traveling. Please visit united.com for more information, or reference our step-by-step guide on how to change your flight, cancel and rebook later.

Domestic schedule

Effective April 8, we are further reducing our domestic service between some of our airport hub locations and 31 airports across the United States. We will continue offering service to all of these airports through other United hubs. Additionally, effective April 8, we will suspend service between the mainland and Hilo, Maui, Kona and Lihue - and we will maintain our daily service between our San Francisco hub and Honolulu, which has been reduced to one flight daily. We will continue to operate daily service between Honolulu and Guam.

We are closely monitoring demand as well as changes in state and local curfews and government restrictions across the U.S. and will adjust our schedule accordingly throughout the month.

These the changes result in a 67% overall domestic reduction from a previous 52%, and our overall capacity will now be down 78% overall.

Hub city Route suspensions Remaining service
Denver Arcata/Eureka, CA
Appleton, WI
Hartford, CT
Charleston, SC
Grand Rapids, MI
Honolulu, HI
Hobbs, NM
Jacksonville, FL
Kona, HI
Lihue, HI
Kahului, HI
Shreveport, LA
Santa Rosa, CA
Syracuse, NY
SFO
ORD
IAD, ORD
EWR, IAD, IAH, ORD
ORD
SFO
IAH
EWR, IAD, IAH, ORD
Market Suspension
Market Suspension
Market Suspension
IAH
SFO
IAD, ORD
New York/Newark Austin, TX
Burlington, VT
Buffalo, NY
Akron/Canton, OH
Grand Rapids, MI
Hilton Head, SC
Honolulu, HI
Las Vegas, NV
Kansas City, MO
Milwaukee, WI
Madison, WI
Minneapolis, MN
New Orleans, LA
Omaha, NE
Norfolk, VA
Portland, OR
Phoenix, AZ
Providence, RI
San Diego, CA
San Antonio, TX
Seattle, WA
Salt Lake City, UT
Sacramento, CA
Orange County, CA
Syracuse, NY
Knoxville, TN
Fayetteville, AR
DEN, IAH, ORD, SFO
IAD, ORD
IAD, ORD
ORD
ORD
IAD
SFO
DEN, IAD, IAH, LAX, ORD, SFO
DEN, IAD, IAH, ORD
DEN, IAH, ORD
DEN, ORD
DEN, IAD, IAH, ORD
DEN, IAD, IAH, ORD
DEN, IAH, ORD
DEN, IAD, ORD
DEN, IAH, ORD, SFO
DEN, IAD, IAH, LAX, ORD, SFO
IAD, ORD
DEN, IAD, IAH, LAX, ORD, SFO
DEN, IAD, IAH, ORD
DEN, IAD, IAH, ORD, SFO
DEN, IAH, LAX, ORD, SFO
DEN, IAH, LAX, ORD, SFO
DEN, IAH, ORD, SFO
IAD, ORD
DEN, IAD, IAH, ORD
DEN, IAH, ORD
Washington-Dulles Austin, TX
Grand Rapids, MI
Honolulu, HI
Portland, OR
Sacramento, CA
DEN, IAH, ORD, SFO
ORD
SFO
DEN, IAH, ORD, SFO
DEN, IAH, LAX, ORD, SFO
Houston Hartford, CT
Boise, ID
Akron/Canton, OH
Grand Rapids, MI
Honolulu, HI
Lexington, KY
Ontario, CA
Norfolk, VA
Palm Springs, CA
Richmond, VA
Reno, NV
San Jose, CA
IAD, ORD
DEN, LAX, ORD, SFO
ORD
ORD
SFO
IAD, ORD
DEN, SFO
DEN, IAD, ORD
DEN, SFO
DEN, EWR, IAD, ORD
DEN, SFO
DEN
Los Angeles Arcata/Eureka, CA
Austin, TX
Boston, MA
Baltimore, DC
Bozeman, MT
Cleveland, OH
Eugene, OR
Honolulu, HI
Hilo, HI
Kona, HI
Lihue, HI
Orlando, FL
Mammoth Lakes, CA
Madison, WI
Kahului, HI
Palm Springs, CA
Redding, CA
Bend/Redmond, CA
Reno, NV
San Antonio, TX
Stockton, CA
Seattle, WA
St George, UT
SFO
DEN, IAH, ORD, SFO
DEN, EWR, IAD, IAH, ORD, SFO
DEN, IAH, ORD
DEN
DEN, EWR, IAD, IAH, ORD
DEN, SFO
SFO
Market Suspension
Market Suspension
Market Suspension
DEN, EWR, IAD, IAH, ORD, SFO
Market Suspension
DEN, ORD
Market Suspension
DEN, SFO
SFO
DEN, SFO
DEN, SFO
DEN, IAD, IAH, ORD
Market Suspension
DEN, IAD, IAH, ORD, SFO
DEN
Chicago Albuquerque, NM
Asheville, NC
Bismarck/Mandan, ND
Bozeman, MT
Kearney, NE
Panama City, FL
Eugene, OR
Fresno, CA
Spokane, WA
Hilton Head, SC
Honolulu, HI
Wilmington, NC
Jackson, MS
Kahului, HI
Palm Springs, CA
Reno, NV
San Jose, CA
Valparaiso, FL
DEN, IAH
IAD
DEN
DEN
DEN
IAH
DEN, SFO
DEN, LAX, SFO
DEN
IAD
SFO
IAD
IAH
Market Suspension
DEN, SFO
DEN, SFO
DEN
IAH
San Francisco Albuquerque, NM
Atlanta, GA
Nashville, TN
Baltimore, DC
Bozeman, MT
Cleveland, OH
Columbus, OH
Dallas/Fort Worth, TX
Detroit, MI
Fort Lauderdale, FL
Spokane, WA
Indianapolis, IN
Kona, HI
Lihue, HI
Kansas City, MO
Mammoth Lakes, CA
Madison, WI
Minneapolis, MN
New Orleans, LA
Kahului, HI
Oklahoma City, OK
Omaha, NE
Philadelphia, PA
Pittsburgh, PA
Raleigh/Durham, NC
San Antonio, TX
St Louis, MO
Tampa, FL
Fayetteville, AR
DEN, IAH
DEN, EWR, IAD, IAH, ORD
DEN, EWR, IAD, IAH, ORD
DEN, IAH, ORD
DEN
DEN, EWR, IAD, IAH, ORD
DEN, EWR, IAD, IAH, ORD
DEN, EWR, IAD, IAH, ORD
DEN, EWR, IAD, IAH, ORD
DEN, EWR, IAD, IAH, ORD
DEN
DEN, EWR, IAD, IAH, ORD
Market Suspension
Market Suspension
DEN, IAD, IAH, ORD
Market Suspension
DEN, ORD
DEN, IAD, IAH, ORD
DEN, IAD, IAH, ORD
Market Suspension
DEN, IAD, IAH, ORD
DEN, IAH, ORD
DEN, IAH, ORD
DEN, EWR, IAD, IAH, ORD
DEN, EWR, IAD, IAH, ORD
DEN, IAD, IAH, ORD
DEN, EWR, IAD, IAH, ORD
DEN, EWR, IAD, IAH, ORD
DEN, IAH, ORD
Scroll to top