Airlines host holiday magic for deserving kids around the country
The pandemic continues to upend many traditional holiday celebrations, but airlines around the country won’t let that keep them from hosting seasonal events to support the communities they serve and the organizations they support. Here’s a round-up of what carriers have been hosting this year.
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The Spokane Fantasy Flight and airline partner Alaska Airlines marked a 25th anniversary this weekend by flying 58 kids from the region’s homeless and at-risk youth populations, along with their escort elves, to the North Pole, a magical wonderland created by local volunteers inside a hangar.
The day-long event started in the Spokane International Airport terminal lobby, where kids joined their assigned elves sent by 'Santa and Mrs. Claus' in going through a dedicated North Pole security checkpoint lane. Once swabbed for “magic,” passengers on special charter Santa One went on a 40-minute flight chasing Santa’s sleigh to the North Pole and traveling for a while at what the flight’s captain described as “ludicrous speed” to keep up with Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.
American Airlines began hosting the Snowball Express back in 2006 to bring together children and surviving spouses of fallen U.S. military heroes at an annual event held in Orlando at Walt Disney World. Since 2018, the Snowball Express has been an official Gary Sinise Foundation program with American Airlines as the airline partner.
Due to COVID, the event is being held virtually this year, as it was last year. But in 2019, the last time the event was held in person, American Airlines and its volunteers coordinated gate-side celebrations in scores of airports and flew more than 1,700 Gold Star family members to Orlando International Airport from 87 cities via chartered and commercial flights. In addition to being able to visit the theme park, while in Orlando families had access to counseling services; application support for educational scholarships; education about and access to medical and government benefits; financial counseling and assistance; mentoring; and aid for those with special needs or disabilities.
Delta Air Lines
Each year Delta Air Lines TechOps in Atlanta, the carrier’s hometown, raises funds and assembles bikes to donate to the local Marine Toys for Tots program. This year is the 17th year they’ve been doing this and this year the team raised the funds and assembled 1,250 bikes which will be donated along with more than 20 boxes of toys.
This year Frontier Airline’s Customer Care Team and its Operation Christmas Child is sending holiday cheer to more than 200 kids with decorated shoeboxes filled with donated items and other treats.
United Airlines has been hosting a wide variety of Fantasy Flights at various United stations around the world for more than 30 years, creating special events and short flights to the North Pole for pediatric patients, underprivileged kids, and their families. This year’s events were a bit different and included Fantasy Parades, drive-through winter wonderlands, and other programs across the country.
In Los Angeles, United team members dressed in holiday costumes to visit a local boy's foster home to deliver gifts, United spokesperson Maddie King told The Points Guy. In San Francisco, team members decorated the Terminal 3 arrivals curbside, dressed in holiday costumes, and hosted a drive-through parade for 55 families whose children are patients at four local Bay Area hospitals. In Denver, United sponsored gifts for nearly 25 families and will be spreading holiday cheer at a special event held at a local housing community. And in Washington, DC, employees from Dulles will deliver gifts on December 17 to Children’s Hospice International.