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Autism Speaks and JetBlue Partner with Port Authority and TSA For Blue Horizons for Autism

First-ever large scale autism travel practice event at JFK Airport draws 300 people from the autism community --

NEW YORK, N.Y. (September 24, 2013) – Autism Speaks and JetBlue Airways in partnership with Port Authority and TSA, on Saturday, September 21, hosted more than 300 people during Blue Horizons for Autism. This was the first autism travel practice event of its kind held at New York’s JFK Airport. The event was sponsored in part by Wyndham Worldwide, one of the world’s largest hospitality companies.

JetBlue is New York’s Hometown Airline™. It was important to the airline to host the first event through this partnership at its home Terminal - T5 - at JFK Airport. Blue Horizons for Autism provided families and individuals affected by autism with the opportunity to navigate the air travel experience in a realistic, relaxed environment, surrounded by other families in the autism community.  Air travel can be challenging for individuals affected by autism due to symptoms associated with the disorder, including hypersensitivity to large crowds, loud noises and communication difficulties. As a result, many families do not fly due to the fear of the response it could elicit from their children with autism, and subsequently fellow travelers and airline crewmembers.

The program simulated the entire process associated with traveling by plane. The families began their day at JFK by checking-in at JetBlue’s ticket counter. Families proceeded through security screening, and waited at a designated gate for the arrival of their flight. Upon boarding the plane, JetBlue crewmembers led the families through pre-takeoff procedures. To simulate the in air experience, the plane taxied and pulled into another gate to disembark. Ten behavior analysts from Nassau Suffolk Services for Autism were onsite and volunteered their time to help support the participants throughout the day. Following the experience, attendees went to a reception to celebrate their accomplishment. Refreshments were generously provided by Baked By Melissa.

“Traveling by plane can be stressful for families affected by autism, and many of them choose not to fly because of the difficulties that can arise in the airport and on a plane,” said Lisa Goring, vice president of Family Services at Autism Speaks. “Thanks to the support of JetBlue, TSA, Port Authority and Wyndham Worldwide, the families who participated in Blue Horizons for Autism took part in a realistic simulation that will enable them to plan future trips. The program was also a wonderful opportunity for airport and airline crewmembers to learn about autism so that they are better equipped to recognize and assist individuals in our community.”    

In addition to providing the families with an opportunity to experience air travel, Blue Horizons for Autism also educated airport and airline crewmembers about autism and how to best meet the needs of this growing community of one in 88 individuals.

Prior to Saturday’s event, Autism Speaks experts held training sessions at JFK with more than 50 JetBlue crewmembers and TSA personnel. The sessions included an overview of autism, as well as tips and strategies to make the air travel experience as pleasant and successful as possible for everyone involved.

“This is truly a crewmember-driven initiative. They recognized a unique customer need and wanted to learn how to better serve families traveling with autism,” said Kate Wetzel, manager, corporate social responsibility at JetBlue Airways.  “Seeing families board a plane for the first time shows how invaluable this training is. Arming our crewmembers with the tools to assist all families ensures a positive travel experience for everyone. Kicking off this partnership in our NYHometown was important to us.”

In conjunction with Blue Horizons for Autism, Autism Speaks developed Adventures in Autism: A Guide to the Airport Experience to help prepare individuals with autism in advance of their trips. Wyndham Worldwide generously supported Autism Speaks in the creation of Blue Horizons for Autism with JetBlue and the development of the Guide to the Airport Experience..

Original b-roll and interviews are available.

Contact JetBlue at (718) 709-3089 or corpcomm@jetblue.com for more information.

About Autism|
Autism is a general term used to describe a group of complex developmental brain disorders – autism spectrum disorders – caused by a combination of genes and environmental influences. These disorders are characterized, in varying degrees, by communication difficulties, social and behavioral challenges, as well as repetitive behaviors. An estimated one in 88 children in the U.S. is on the autism spectrum – a 78 percent increase in six years that is only partly explained by improved diagnosis.

About Autism Speaks
Autism Speaks is the world’s leading autism science and advocacy organization. It is dedicated to funding research into the causes, prevention, treatments and a cure for autism; increasing awareness of autism spectrum disorders; and advocating for the needs of individuals with autism and their families. Autism Speaks was founded in February 2005 by Suzanne and Bob Wright, the grandparents of a child with autism. Mr. Wright is the former vice chairman of General Electric and chief executive officer of NBC and NBC Universal. Since its inception, Autism Speaks has committed nearly $200 million to research and developing innovative resources for families. Each year Walk Now for Autism Speaks events are held in more than 100 cities across North America. On the global front, Autism Speaks has established partnerships in more than 40 countries on five continents to foster international research, services and awareness. To learn more about Autism Speaks, please visit AutismSpeaks.org.

About JetBlue Airways
As New York’s Hometown Airline™ and a leading carrier in Boston, Fort Lauderdale/Hollywood, Los Angeles (Long Beach), Orlando and San Juan, JetBlue carries 29 million customers a year to 79 cities in the US, Caribbean and Latin America with more than 700 daily flights. With JetBlue, all seats are assigned, all fares are one-way, and an overnight stay is never required. JetBlue’s fleet totals 188 aircraft, comprising 129 Airbus A320s and 59 EMBRAER E190s. Upcoming destinations include Savannah, Ga.; Worcester, Mass.; Port-au-Prince, Haiti; Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago; and Lima, Peru, subject to receipt of government approval. For more information please visit www.jetblue.com.

About Wyndham Worldwide
One of the world’s largest hospitality companies, Wyndham Worldwide (NYSE: WYN) provides a wide range of hospitality products and services through its global portfolio of world-renowned brands.  The world’s largest hotel company based on the number of properties, Wyndham Hotel Group is home to many of the world’s best-known hotel brands, with over 7,410 franchised hotels and over 635,100 hotel rooms worldwide. Wyndham Exchange & Rentals is the worldwide leader in vacation exchange and the world’s largest professionally managed vacation rentals business, providing more than 5 million leisure-bound families annually with access to over 106,000 vacation properties in 100 countries through its prominent exchange and vacation rental brands. The industry and timeshare ownership market leader, Wyndham Vacation Ownership develops, markets, and sells vacation ownership interests and provides consumer financing to owners through its network of 190 vacation ownership resorts serving approximately 915,000 owners throughout the United States, Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean, and the South Pacific. Based in Parsippany, NJ, Wyndham Worldwide employs approximately 32,500 associates globally.

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MEDIA CONTACTS

AUTISM SPEAKS
C.J. Volpe
646.385.8532
cj.volpe@autismspeaks.org

JetBlue Corporate Communications
Tel: +1 718 709 3089
corpcomm@jetblue.com