Tag Archives: flying

Flying Solo, Part 2

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Micki: Thank you for contacting Economy Air. My name is Micki. How may I assist you today?

Tanya: I have downloaded the unaccompanied minor form for my two children, ages 13 and 15. My question is if the meeting party needs to sign where it says “signature of Party Accepting Custody” when they actually pick up the children, or does it need to be signed by the meeting party beforehand? Thanks.

Micki: 13 and 15 year olds traveling together are not considered unaccompanied minors. The 15 year old is considered an adult.

Tanya: My 15-year-old has autism, and their father still needs to go directly to the gate to pick them up.

Micki: [no response]

Tanya: He’ll be fine on the plane, but we don’t want him going through the airport unaccompanied.

Micki: That is fine. We will document the itinerary so that it’s understood by the agents. All the father needs to do is show his identification at the ticket counter and they will issue him a gate pass to meet the flight.

Those who happened to catch my post a few days ago know what transpired with the December 25th travel plans, and why the flight had to be scheduled that day. But since we had no way of knowing that it would be canceled, the boys were prepped for their first solo flight (!). We practiced lifting up their luggage to put it in the overhead bins. We talked about being patient while waiting to de-plane and not making comments about how people should “just move.” We talked about what to do if for some reason their father wasn’t at the gate when they landed. We went over what topics are not okay to talk about with airport security. Special needs were noted with the airline agent in an online chat that could be printed out for verification. Not surprisingly, there were many preparations for this huge milestone.

And although they ended up not flying that day, we still planned to have them return to Oregon by plane.  I got up that morning and prayed for a fogless arrival time, so that the boys’ plane could land safely. Their father called to let me know as soon as they boarded in LA. He sounded so proud, describing how he watched the boys get on the plane, and how they waited patiently for an elderly woman in front of them.

When the time came, I drove to our little airport to pick them up. The sky looked good, but as I neared the terminal, my body started gasping involuntarily. It wasn’t a panic attack, which I’ve had in the past. No, it was just a mom, overcome with emotion. I couldn’t help it. Nigel was doing something I never thought he’d be able to do! He has come so far, and he never ceases to amaze me.

I parked the car and pulled myself together. I went to the counter to request a gate pass. They hemmed and hawed a bit at first (I wanted to say, So what if they’re teenagers? They are my children, autistic or not, and I have every right to meet them at the gate!), but all I had to do was drop the A-word, and then they were accommodating. The flight was only a few minutes late, and I waited anxiously at the gate.

I was afraid that I would start crying again with their arrival, but as soon as I saw them, my face broke into a huge grin! Aidan ran past me, looking unwell. “Mom, I’m sick. I’m going to the bathroom,” he said as he handed me his luggage and took off. “What’s wrong?” I called after him, but he hurried away. I hugged Nigel and asked him what was wrong with Aidan. He said he didn’t know, and we walked over to the side to wait for him. Nigel said that the flight was fine, and then he proceeded to tell me about how, at the movie theater the night before, he threw up twice during the 3-D showing of Avatar. “That 3-D was too good, I guess!” he said with a chuckle. “I’m sorry that happened, honey,” I said. He told me that all the 3-D aerial scenes made him dizzy and sick. I hadn’t even thought of that as a movie-related sensory issue. If it’s not one thing, it’s another!

Aidan returned then, explaining that he’d felt a little airsick when they started descending, and then the stuffiness of the cabin and having so many people around him while waiting to de-plane just got to him. “At least I didn’t throw up in the plane,” he said. Yes, at least. Oh, my poor SPD boys! I felt so bad that they had both been sick, especially when I’d hoped that they would enjoy the movie, and later, take pride in their autonomy on the flight. But my concern took a back seat to my overall relief and exhilaration. They did it! Their first solo flight! After many years of effort in dealing with their challenges, it’s so validating to just let them fly.