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An Overwhelmed Autism Momma's Thank-You to JetBlue

05/26/2015 01:41 pm ET | Updated May 26, 2016
Shawna Wingert

Dear JetBlue Airways,

I am writing this post to thank you.

My son has high functioning autism and, because of the custody arrangement between his father and me, we fly seven to nine times a year out of sheer necessity. Flying, with all of its loud announcements and crowded waiting areas and unusual smells, is, quite frankly, torture for him. He has acute sensory processing issues that affect us even in simple everyday situations, so you can imagine how complicated airports and airplanes are for us.

In the past, we have flown other airlines. It has not gone well. As my son was literally banging his head on the wall in the boarding area, I once had the gate agent question why I was asking for early boarding for a child clearly over 5. When I explained that the constant boarding announcements and large crowd were extremely difficult for us, she allowed me to board early, but finished our interaction saying, "Just this once," as if I were getting away with something.

(Incidentally, this occurred after I had already called the airline a week before to request this special service. After being put on hold and then transferred, I was told to just speak to the gate agent and it wouldn't be a problem.)

Unfortunately, this has been the case with every airline we have flown... except with JetBlue.

I needed to fly my son home yesterday. I went online and determined that if we used an airport a bit further from our home, we would be able to try JetBlue.

I was immediately impressed that the JetBlue online booking system allowed me to include information about his special needs when I booked his ticket.

So simple. No expectation of calling and being put on hold. No extra requirements. No having to educate a phone representative about high functioning autism and sensory issues. Nope, I just checked a box and included a few comments.

That alone was worth the extra drive time to the airport with JetBlue.

I called ahead of time anyway (maybe because I just couldn't believe it would be so easy). I spoke with a sweet, friendly phone rep who not only moved our seats to the middle of the plane when she heard the smells of the bathrooms are tough for my son, but also informed me that she placed a note for "silent boarding" in our reservation. She told me that before a single announcement was made, the gate agent would come and personally escort us to the gate for essentially pre-preboarding.

No announcements. No huge line of harried travelers. No head banging before we even get on the plane.

When I hung up the phone, I was in relieved, grateful tears.

When we got to the airport yesterday and checked in, the agent asked if we would like a meet and assist to get through security more easily. I was floored.

I declined, because I know how busy your employees are, and my son really only requires assistance when it comes to the boarding area. We may not have used the service, but I was totally impressed by the offer.

Just before boarding, the gate agent sweetly escorted us to the gate, as promised. We boarded the plane before anyone else, and had my son's headphones on before the noise and craziness of boarding the plane began.

Throughout the flight, your attendants also went out of their way to be understanding and kind. It was obvious they had been made aware of the information in our reservation, and they were so gracious in ensuring my son was comfortable.

When he started to melt down because he wanted a different drink than what was on the menu, the attendant told him he would wait as long as necessary for him to make another decision -- no rush. My son calmed down, smiled and ordered a ginger ale.

It was exactly what he needed.

So, thank you.

Thank you from an already overwhelmed, tired, fighting-for-her-son-every-day-of-her-life momma.

Thank you on behalf of an 11-year-old boy who struggles to cope in a world that just doesn't understand or easily accommodate him.

Thank you from a now-lifetime JetBlue customer.

With much respect and gratitude,

Shawna

Dear Readers, please know, I wrote this out of sheer gratitude. This is in no way an advertisement for JetBlue, nor was I compensated in any way for this post. I do think you should fly them -- every single time you fly. But that's just my opinion based on my own experience described above.

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