Over 100 “Learn to Fly” at YYJ During Autism Acceptance Month

Continued partnership between Canucks Autism Network, Victoria International Airport and the Air Canada Foundation increases airport accessibility for the second straight year.

VICTORIA, B.C. – This past April 21 and 28, families with children and youth on the autism spectrum took part in Autism Aviation Day at Victoria International Airport (YYJ). Coinciding with Autism Acceptance Month, the initiative is a collaborative effort between the Canucks Autism Network (CAN), YYJ, and Air Canada Foundation.

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

“Airport ‘rehearsals’ can greatly benefit Autistic individuals and their families by increasing predictability and decreasing stress,” said Sarah Armstrong, Director of Strategic Partnerships with Canucks Autism Network (CAN). “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 in the Greater Victoria region and beyond.”

Last year, the inaugural YYJ Autism Aviation Day accommodated 50 individuals with many more waitlisted. This past month, CAN, YYJ, and Air Canada Foundation were able to welcome over twice as many families.

“Victoria International Airport (YYJ) was once again very pleased to be part of YYJ Autism Aviation Day along with the Air Canada Foundation and the Canucks Autism Network (CAN),” said Rod Hunchak, Director, Business Development and Community Relations. “Hosting this tour for individuals on the autism spectrum and their families to practice the airport experience while working with CAN has been a very gratifying experience for us. The event serves as a learning experience for the families and the airport and its service partners. We are committed to continuing our efforts to identify and remove barriers for people with disabilities and assist travellers to feel more comfortable and at ease when visiting our airport.”

“The wonder of travel should be accessible to everyone, and we are proud to help make that possible through initiatives like this”, said Valerie Durand, Spokesperson for the Air Canada Foundation. “By engaging our employees at Air Canada and those of our partner, Jazz Aviation LP, in bringing these simulated pre-flight experiences to fruition again for children on the autism spectrum 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 employees at Victoria airport, the 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 also received a YYJ Sensory Resource Kit, which includes noise-cancelling headphones and fidget toys to support Autistic travelers or anyone with sensory sensitivities. The resource is available year-round from the Customer Service desk, located in departures.


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
lindsay.petrie@canucksautism.ca • 604-788-8565

About Victoria Airport Authority (YYJ)
Victoria International Airport (YYJ) is the 11th busiest airport in Canada and has been rated one of the top ten most-loved airports in the world by CNN Travel.  Winner of the Best Regional Airport in North America award by Airports Council International in 2012, 2014, and 2020, YYJ provides a safe, secure, sustainable, and efficient airport that creates prosperity for our region by connecting Greater Victoria with the world. Victoria Airport Authority (VAA) has managed the operations at YYJ on behalf of the surrounding communities since April 1, 1997.

Victoria Airport Authority (YYJ) Media Contact
Rod Hunchak
Director, Business Development and Community Relations

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 2020-21 impact report or the Air Canada’s 2021 Corporate Sustainability report available at www.aircanada.com/citizensoftheworld.