Last weekend I had the opportunity to cover the Wings for All event at the Greenville-Spartanburg International Airport (GSP).
Arc of South Carolina partners with GSP to host the airport dress rehearsal for children with autism and developmental challenges. To learn more about this important event, check out my post on the Greenville 360 blog.
My assignment was to attend, take tons of photos and experience the flight alongside the families. Like with any (let’s face it, almost all) flights, there were delays.
In the event of a delay, GSP has a beautiful area for guests to wait. It was very peaceful; an oasis of sorts.
Let’s start from the beginning. Those of you who know me well, know that I consider arriving “on time” as being late (not the case in the airline industry). I arrived well-ahead of the scheduled event (by ‘well-ahead,’ I mean an hour and a half early). I had plenty of time to find parking, get my boarding pass and figure out where the heck I was supposed to go.
This was a serious dress rehearsal. Families went through the process of getting a boarding pass and checking their luggage. It was good for the kids to stand in line and wait their turn. It was good for parents to practice managing behaviors. I saw lots of tablets and cell phones being used. Anything to keep the special passengers occupied!
Boarding pass in hand, it was time to go through security. I’m so thankful I wore sandals. This really sped up the process for me. I was pleasantly surprised at how this went. I didn’t witness every child, but the ones I saw did just fine. Some were even a little excited–until it was time to put their electronics in the bin. That part is too frightening for me to even write about.
Things ran pretty smoothly for the first hour. Chick-Fil-A provided food. There were coloring books and bottled water. Then, we experienced our first glitch when something on the plane broke. It wasn’t anything major, but there was a lot of paperwork to fill out before they could start the engine again. The paperwork lasted about as long as I imagine eternity to be. It was painful, even for me. Some of the families had to leave. It was a long day!
This is the point where I’d like to brag on GSP, Delta and the Wings for All staff and volunteers. Running in fifteen thousand directions at record speed, they made sure everyone was comfortable and happy during the delay. The pilots and stewardesses made their way through the crowd to introduce themselves and take pictures. We were given consistent updates and told exactly what to expect during the wait time. The moral of this paragraph is to tell you that I was SUPER impressed with how the delay was handled. It wasn’t an ideal situation for children with special needs, but these are the things families can expect when traveling.
The moment we had been waiting for finally arrived. It was time to board the plane! I went ahead of the crowd to film everyone coming down the ramp. The expression on each face was worth the extra moments of frustration.
I didn’t realize the plane was actually going to taxi around the airport. As the engine started and the plane began to move, I could see the wide range of emotions families and children experience with flying. Excitement. Anxiety. Fear. The Delta airline staff was more than up to the task of making sure everyone felt comfortable and safe.
This was the 2nd Annual Wings for All event held at the Greenville-Spartanburg International Airport. I think I speak for everyone when I say I hope it’s not the last!