Giving Hope Wings through Commercial Airline Partners
by Cheri Cimmarrusti, Associate Executive Director
Everyone is aware of the value of partnerships in a successful business. I mean, where would Pitney be without Bowes? How much fun would your toddler have if Fisher hadn’t met Price? And… would the Captain have been able to sing without Tenille? All good questions to toss around on your next family Zoom get-together.
I want to share with you the value of the partnerships Angel Flight West has with our commercial air partners. These airlines are often our lifeline in making sure a mission happens in the case of weather or mechanical cancellation or if we can’t secure a pilot for a mission.
I hope you are aware of our nearly two decades long relationship with Alaska Airlines. They provide us with airline tickets we use to book those who need to get to and from Alaska and the lower-48. We also are able to use some of these tickets to “back-up” our pilot-flown flights when weather or other issues may be a challenge. We’ve arranged transportation for over 1,400 flights for people like Sandra, traveling back home after being medevac’d from Wrangell to Seattle for treatment of cardiac disease. Additionally, Alaska Airlines continues to support us with their Mileage Program and by sponsoring our fundraisers. Extra tickets were given to medical personnel flying where help was needed, as the coronavirus raged on the east coast and other hard-hit areas. Justin I. who is a retired paramedic and flew to Chicago said, “Very sweet crew!! I am so appreciative to Angel Flight West and Alaskan Airlines for making my trip to Chicago happen!“
Healthcare worker Mona about to board Alaska Airlines so she could lend her services to hospitals most overwhelmed with COVID-19 patients.
Medical personnel were also transported by our continuing relationship with Southwest Airlines who provided tickets to ensure that hospitals and other medical facilities had doctors, nurses and others to help treat COVID-19 patients. Stephanie flew from Houston, TX to New York to work at NYU Langone Health in New York City at the height of the crisis in that beleaguered community. Healthcare workers like Stephanie provided much needed relief to those colleagues in hospitals that were under siege from COVID-19.
Southwest Airlines flight offered to AFW passenger Stephanie.
Our long-time passenger Juan E. flies from his home in the San Jose, CA area to Los Angeles for treatment of a rare disease called familial hypercholesteromeia. Due to the cost of an overnight stay and because he is trying to stay in college, Juan hopes to fly to and from treatment on the same day. However, the treatments take six hours, which make the schedule tough for our pilots. So, when we can’t find a pilot or weather is an issue, Juan flies in comfort with our partners at JSX (formerly JetSuiteX) – making it possible for him to continue his education and receive his treatment with as little disruption as possible. We received this sweet note from him when COVID started to ramp up, “Thank you. I hope you’re doing well and are staying safe and healthy. I appreciate everything you guys have done for me throughout the years.”
Passenger Juan with the crew of JSX. (Note: this and the following photos were taken pre-mask requirement.)
Passenger Chance J. is being treated for end-stage renal disease and needs to get from his home in Arcata, CA to Palo Alto where he goes to Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital. Chance and his family have had a difficult time, not only with his illness, but also having lost their home in the Paradise, CA fire in 2018. Because of weather issues in Arcata, those missions can be difficult to get covered, so our partners at Contour Airlines have stepped in to provide them with flights. Although they need to make the drive to Crescent City, this has been better for them than having to make the drive all the way to the Bay Area. Chance is just one of many who have been helped in Northern California by Contour.
AFW passenger Chance being welcomed on Contour Airlines.
Taking a hop over to the islands of Hawaii where our dedicated partners at Mokulele Airlines have made it possible for Hawaii passengers to continue treatment during the pandemic. Prior to the COVID-19 crisis, they were also there to pick up a flight when we couldn’t find a pilot. However, COVID-19 significantly impacted our limited pilot base in Hawaii and Mokulele has been there to keep us going. Despite cutbacks on their flights, and sometimes-limited choices, they have come through so many times. Timothy is a veteran with nasal cancer, and he has had the fortune of receiving ten flights on Mokulele Airlines. This has allowed him to make it to his appointments in Honolulu from his home in Wailuku. His patient navigator Shari at the Pacific Cancer Center says, “Words cannot express how grateful we are to you and your organization for being so kind and helpful to our cancer community. You are truly a lifesaver.”
Passenger Peggy B. beginning a flight on Mokulele Airlines.
Stil, on to the beautiful islands of Hawaii and many thanks to Hawaiian Airlines for their donations over the years. Passenger Daphine has been able to go from the lovely island of Kona to Honolulu for treatment of sickle cell disease on Hawaiian Airlines when we haven’t been able to find a volunteer pilot. Mom Lallie says, “We are so thankful to Hawaiian Air!” Prior to COVID-19 Daphine was flying almost once per week and this assistance was of great benefit to them.
Passenger Daphine about to board her donated flight on Hawaiian Airlines.
These partners, in addition to our dedicated volunteers, allow us to continue our mission of providing hope and health for so many individuals across our western states. If you get a chance, please make one of these airlines your travel partner to show them our appreciation for their continued community giving!