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Nearly 200 “Learn to Fly” during YVR Autism Aviation Days

Continued partnership between Canucks Autism Network, Vancouver International Airport, and the Air Canada Foundation increases accessibility for autism community

May 4, 2024

Richmond, B.C. – Today, individuals on the autism spectrum and their families took part in this year’s first YVR Autism Aviation Days event. The collaborative initiative between Canucks Autism Network (CAN), Vancouver International Airport (YVR), and the Air Canada Foundation includes three single-day events during the month of May. 

YVR Autism Aviation Days provides an opportunity for attendees to rehearse the entire pre-flight process in a highly-supported environment. The practice run includes checking-in, going through security screening, boarding an Air Canada Express aircraft for a simulated pre-flight experience, and, for the first time this year, a short taxi in the airplane.

The three events will welcome a total of 180 attendees – ranging from families with children and youth on the autism spectrum to Autistic adults looking for experience to travel independently.

“With an estimated 1 in 30 children and youth on the autism spectrum in B.C., events such as these are vital to increasing accessibility and inclusion,” said Sarah Armstrong, Director of Strategic Partnerships with Canucks Autism Network (CAN). “Airport ‘rehearsals’ can greatly benefit Autistic individuals and their families by increasing predictability and decreasing stress.”

The initiative began between CAN and YVR in 2014. After 10 years, the events have made a positive difference for more than 500 individuals.

“Travel is essential to maintaining human connections, expanding our experiences, and accessing essential services. By offering neurodiverse individuals and their families the chance to rehearse the pre-flight process, we open doors to important travel possibilities,” stated Tamara Vrooman, President and CEO of Vancouver International Airport. “We are proud to partner with CAN and Air Canada to create these experiences and thank the many government agencies and businesses at the airport for their support with this initiative.”

“Travelling should be accessible to everyone, and we are proud to help make that possible through initiatives like this with the help of our employees at Air Canada and of our partner, Jazz Aviation LP,” said Valerie Durand, Spokesperson for the Air Canada Foundation. “In bringing these simulated pre-flight experiences to fruition again, this time in Vancouver, for children with autism and their families, we hope they can develop the confidence and comfort to take that much anticipated trip together soon.”

“We believe in providing accessible and inclusive travel experiences for everyone,” said Kirk Newhook, Vice President of Employee Relations and Operations Support at Jazz Aviation LP. “Jazz is proud to take an important role in providing these experiences to families through our participating flight and cabin crew members, and those contributing behind the scenes of this initiative, which also serves as a learning opportunity for Jazz on supporting diverse travellers.”

In addition to the rehearsal, each family receives a YVR Sensory Resource Kit, which includes noise-cancelling headphones, an airport map, and check-list to support Autistic travellers or anyone with sensory sensitivities. The kit is available year-round from any pre-security YVR Customer Care counter.

More information and select digital resources can also be accessed at Accessibility Travel Resources | YVR.


About Canucks Autism Network (CAN)
Canucks Autism Network (CAN) provides programs to individuals on the autism spectrum and their families, while promoting acceptance and inclusion through community engagement and training initiatives across BC and beyond. For more information, visit canucksautism.ca.

Canucks Autism Network (CAN) Media Contact
Lindsay Petrie
Director, Marketing and Communications
[email protected]

About Vancouver International Airport (YVR)
Vancouver International Airport (YVR) is a diverse global hub that connects people, cargo, data, and ideas and serves as a platform for our community to come together and thrive. We are motivated by supporting regional economic development and making a positive difference in the lives of British Columbians. We do this with a focus on serving our passengers, partners, workers, and community through digital modernization, climate leadership, reconciliation, and financial sustainability.

Vancouver International Airport (YVR) Media Contact
YVR Media Relations
[email protected]

About Air Canada Foundation
The Air Canada Foundation, a not-for-profit organization focused on the health and well-being of children and youth, was launched in 2012. It offers both financial and in-kind support to Canadian-registered charities. Core programs include the Hospital Transportation Program, which redistributes Aeroplan points to 15 pediatric hospitals across Canada, enabling sick children to access the medical care they need away from home. The Air Canada Foundation, in collaboration with the airline, also engages directly in fundraising activities such as the Every Bit Counts program, which encourages customers to donate loose change of all denominations on board flights or through collection containers available in Air Canada Maple Leaf Lounges. The Foundation also offers continued support to major health-related causes that benefit Canadians and is an active participant in international humanitarian relief activity as the need arises. For more information about the Air Canada Foundation, please read the 2022 impact report or the Air Canada’s 2022 Corporate Sustainability report available at www.aircanada.com/citizensoftheworld.

Air Canada Foundation Media Contact
[email protected]