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In this month’s column, I would like to discuss a cause that is near and dear to our hearts at American Airlines: mobility. The ability to go wherever your mind and heart take you is what air travel is all about. Simply by doing our jobs, we give wings to the dreams and aspirations of millions of people around the world. That’s a blessing we’ll never take for granted. Unfortunately, many of us do take for granted how precious a gift it is to simply move from one place to another -- to be able to embrace a loved one, shake hands with a business partner, enjoy a much-needed vacation, or do any of a number of other things.
At American Airlines, our mission is to connect the world for everyone, including people with disabilities. We’re proud of the role we play in bringing enhanced mobility and a higher quality of life to people with challenges. Together with American Eagle, we serve more than a million travelers with disabilities each year, and the care we provide is inspired and informed by an employee resource group devoted to the needs of our customers and employees with disabilities.
Our efforts to bring greater mobility to people with physical challenges are not confined to AA customers. We have helped secure iBOTs (robotic wheelchairs) for more than a dozen disabled veterans. And we’re a proud sponsor of this year’s No Barriers Festival in Miami, an event focused on helping people with challenges live more active and adventurous lives.
Of course, we are not the only company doing good things. For example, you may have noticed that more and more businesses these days are featuring people with disabilities in their advertising. At AA, we want to support and help shine a light on these efforts. So we have partnered with the American Association of People with Disabilities (AAPD), an organization we have sponsored for many years, to create an award honoring the best U.S. television commercials that feature positive portrayals of people with disabilities. The contest will begin next month and run for several weeks. Companies and agencies will be able to submit their commercials, which will then be judged by a panel of experts to determine the best of the group. The final winner will receive a month of free advertising airtime on the AA in-flight entertainment system, which means the winning commercial will be seen by the tens of thousands of travelers we serve each day. We are excited about the contest and proud to be working with the AAPD ; we are, of course, very grateful for all the work they do on behalf of our loved ones, friends, and neighbors with disabilities.
The spirit of discovery and exploration that compels people to fl y resides in each of us. But it’s no secret that there was a time when most airlines viewed the transportation of people with disabilities as a burden. I am proud to say that at American Airlines, those days are long past. It is a big world out there, and we want to make sure that its wonders are accessible to all.
On behalf of everyone at American Airlines, thank you for letting us help you move about the world today. Wherever you are headed, I hope you have a great trip!
Gerard J. Arpey
Chairman & CEO