By Nicole Gottesmann
This summer was one of many firsts for my 10-year-old son, Gabe. I decided to sign him up for two weeks at an amazing camp I had heard about from some autism parents in Maryland. The only problem I saw was that it is halfway across the country and Gabe had never flown on an airplane. He is nonverbal and has autism. He is unpredictable and doesn’t like confined spaces. I expected the worst. What would happen if he panicked and screamed the entire 4 hours to Colorado? What if he kicked the seat in front of him and disturbed other passengers? What if he wasn’t even willing to get on the plane? Not only was I afraid of how he would react to the actual flight, but more so I was scared about the entire process from checking in our luggage, going through security, and then waiting to board.
Well, guess what!? I didn’t have to worry about any of these things. United took care of everything. I spoke to Bea Wiggins, a customer service manager with United in advance. She assured me everything would be fine. She arranged for Debbi another manager to meet us at Dulles airport and they took care of our massive amount of luggage we needed for the two-week trip. After that, we were escorted by United to a private TSA checkpoint. It was so easy! Then we were driven across the airport to the United Club where we waited comfortably away from the crowd. When it was time to board, Victoria the inflight supervisor introduced us to the crew in advance. She stayed with us until takeoff!
We met the Pilot, saw the cockpit, but Gabe wasn’t interested. Gabe was so scared to enter the plane, but we were not alone and with the help of our wonderful flight attendant, Roger, we eventually got Gabe to his seat. I noticed Roger talking to the passengers in front of us, explaining the situation. The passengers understood, but Gabe actually did great once we were in the air! Next, we arrived in Denver and were greeted by another supervisor who is the nicest woman I have ever met in my life named Maureen. She took us to get our luggage and then she came with us in the shuttle to rent a car! She tipped the shuttle driver before I could and offered to wait with us in line at Avis. Before she left us she told me she would upgrade our seats for the returning flight! I have never felt so taken care of.
It was a huge relief to not have to worry about how I was going to manage Gabe, the luggage, and renting a car in these two gigantic airports. Now we were ready to enjoy our trip and send Gabe off to his first experience sleeping away. I can’t thank United Airlines enough for everything they did for us. They truly are the airline to fly if you are traveling with an individual with special needs. It was all worth it to get Gabe to Ascendigo where he had the best experience of his life. I cannot wait to send him next summer! We love United Airlines and we love Ascendigo!