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RELEASE – RNO Hosts Air Travel Rehearsal for those with Intellectual/Developmental Disabilities

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RENO, Nev. – Reno-Tahoe International Airport (RNO) is set to host the Flight Ability @ RNO program in concert with Southwest Airlines, the Transportation Security Administration and the Autism Coalition of Nevada (ACON). The event is set for May 18 at RNO.

What:       Air travel dress rehearsal for those with intellectual and developmental disabilities

Where:     Reno-Tahoe International, River Room near baggage claim

When:      7-8:30 p.m., Saturday, May 18

The compassionate program is an airport “rehearsal” experience – specially designed for individuals with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and other neurodevelopmental disorders, their families and aviation professionals. Flight Ability @ RNO is designed to alleviate some of the stress that families may feel when traveling with a child with autism or other disability. The program provides families with the opportunity to practice entering the airport, obtaining boarding passes, going through security, and boarding a plane.

Flight Ability @ RNO also gives airport, airline, TSA professionals and other personnel the opportunity to observe, interact and deliver their services in a structured, learning environment. This experience is equally useful for families that have a member with other intellectual or developmental disabilities that are concerned about the ability of their family member to travel.

The event is open to 60 individuals total. Families from northern Nevada are eligible to sign up for this experience by contacting The event will kick off with families arriving at the airport and participating in a short reception to introduce the program, then heading to Southwest Airlines ticketing to receive their boarding pass, go through security, and be greeted at the gate prior to boarding the plane. While the aircraft won’t taxi or take off, participants will board the plane and experience all the sights and sounds of an actual flight.

“For parents of children with autism spectrum disorders, everyday tasks can sometimes prove far more difficult for their child. Air travel can be particularly challenging between clearing security, the unfamiliar noises, and bright lights,” said Marily Mora, President and CEO of Reno-Tahoe Airport Authority.  “We’re thrilled to have airport partners Southwest Airlines and the TSA working together to ensure families can be introduced to air travel in a safe, non-stressful environment.”

This program will not only alleviate the stress children and their parents may feel, but help educate airport and airline professionals about how best to serve children with autism or other intellectual and developmental disabilities in the future.

“The Autism Coalition of Nevada, which serves more than 3,000 individuals in Northern Nevada, is honored to partner with the Reno-Tahoe Airport Authority in this autism awareness and acceptance event,” said Michelle Scott-Lewing, president of ACON. “Educating our neurodiverse population as to how to navigate air travel will not only give these individuals the opportunity to fly – but will also provide a pathway to a better quality of life as they seek to expand their horizons and explore the world!”

“We’re honored to take part in Flight Ability @ RNO at Reno-Tahoe,” said Melissa Farnsworth, station manager for Southwest Airlines. “The program literally opens a window to the world for families with children with autism and other disabilities by allowing understanding of air travel expectations.”  

Individuals interested in registering for the program can do so by clicking They may also contact Michelle Scott-Lewing at or text 850-291-6778.


The Reno-Tahoe Airport Authority receives no state or local funding. All operating revenues are derived from tenant and concession fees. The Reno-Tahoe International Airport (RNO) is the 63rd busiest commercial airport in the United States, with more than 4.2 million passengers per year. For more details, visit