“The Best Flight Ever” took off from John F. Kennedy International Airport on April 12, 2023, making a special Make-a-Wish trip come true for 26 critically ill children and their families.
In advance of World Wish Day on April 29, 2023, Make-A-Wish, American Airlines, The Walt Disney Company, and The Points Guy came together to grant the wishes of children battling critical illnesses. This unique flight brought 26 families to Orlando for a Walt Disney World vacation through Make-A-Wish.
The Best Flight Ever
For these 26 kids and their families, The Best Flight Ever began with transportation to John F. Kennedy International Airport by car service. They were then greeted with balloons and an exclusive check-in counter upon arrival.
After passing through security and being escorted to a private gate area, the kids were welcomed with a red carpet and master of ceremonies announcing their arrival. A DJ kept the celebration going, while the kids got their faces painted.
A pre-fight celebration for the families included a breakfast bar (with Mickey waffles, of course) and a special send-off by supporters who make wishes possible.
Party on the Plane
Once on board the chartered flight, the families were treated to a rare “water salute” where the plane taxied underneath sprays of water from firefighting vehicles on both sides of the aircraft.
Then the party continued all the way to Orlando with memorable in-flight experiences provided by American Airlines that included interactive games and a special in-flight snack menu, plus hamburger meals provided by Red Robin (a Make-A-Wish partner) and star-shaped lollipops.
During the flight, Michael James Scott, the Genie in “Aladdin” on Broadway, hosted a sing-along with the kids and their families. Some kids stated that this was their favorite part of the trip.
The fun on this flight did not stop there. The kids also received a copy of “Could I Be a Pilot?: Evie’s Journey to Becoming a Pilot,” by pilot and author Lauren Settles. In fact, Lauren Settles led a read-along of her book with the kids on the flight.
“As a lover of travel, long-time supporter of Make-A-Wish, and firm believer in using travel as a force for good, I’m thrilled to be hosting The Best Flight Ever alongside Make-A-Wish, American Airlines, and Disney,” said Brian Kelly, founder at The Points Guy. “Travel has the power to enrich lives, and I’m honored to be working with these brands to share the joy of travel with so many deserving children and families.”
The chartered flight landed with happy families at Orlando International Airport where they were welcomed by volunteers cheering for their arrival.
“These children are really facing something challenging in their life to be able to qualify for a wish,” said Make-A-Wish CEO Leslie Motter. “The fact that they get to feel the hope, strength, and joy of a whole community coming together to grant their wish, it’s so important. It’s so meaningful.”
The families also enjoyed a welcome reception at Give Kids The World Village, a whimsical resort where they will stay for six days and five nights as part of their wish trip.
Give Kids the World Village offers an experience that allows these children to embrace a powerful word- YES! So much of their everyday life involves being told they cannot do something. At Give Kids the World Village, the entire facility overcomes the negatives of life for these critically ill children and their families.
Walt Disney World Wishes
All the children’s wishes were to visit Walt Disney World Resort. With Make-A-Wish, Disney has helped grant more than 145,000 life-changing wishes like these since 1980.
The experience during this vacation means a lot to these families. Words cannot describe how significant these days will be for families facing the stress of a critical illness.
As Wish parent Johanna said regarding her five-year-old, “We initially thought Make-A-Wish was only for terminally ill children. We later learned from Elias’ doctor that it is was about providing hope and joy. We feel so blessed to have this experience.”
Another Wish parent, Vanessa (parent of Joshy, age three), said about this experience, “We are overjoyed and excited to experience the Best Flight Ever with Make-A-Wish. Thank you so much for granting Joshy’s wish and going above and beyond to make this happen. This will be an adventure we will never forget.”
Leslie Motter of Make-a-Wish America
“A wish can be transformational not only for wish children, but it also changes hundreds of other lives, creating connection and inspiring generosity and kindness within communities,” said Leslie Motter, president and CEO of Make-A-Wish America. “Together, American Airlines, Disney, and The Points Guy are giving wish families a chance to make new memories away from hospital rooms and let wish kids be kids, which provides hope, strength and joy for children undergoing difficult medical treatments.”
Make-A-Wish needs almost three billion airline miles and points to fulfill travel wishes for children battling critical illnesses annually. These donated miles make up an essential resource to grant the wish of every eligible child waiting. As the organization’s longest-standing airline partner, American Airlines generously donated the chartered aircraft and continues to make millions of AAdvantage Miles available yearly for wish travel.
“Through this special flight experience, we hope these kids and their families can disconnect from their worries back home to feel the joy of travel and the full support of our team members,” said Caroline Clayton, Vice President of Communications and Marketing at American Airlines. “As the longest-standing airline partner of Make-A-Wish, we are humbled to be part of so many unforgettable memories and we look forward to providing our wish families with the best flight ever – no matter where their wishes take them for years to come.”
World Wish Day
Throughout April, Make-A-Wish chapters and affiliates invite communities to come together as part of the lead-up to World Wish Day on April 29. The Best Flight Ever exemplifies the possible impact when communities unite to make wishes happen. This serves as another example of Walt Disney World and others providing for critically ill children.
Make-A-Wish, American Airlines, Disney, and The Points Guy invite anyone who would like to make a difference in the lives of wish kids to visit the official World Wish Day hub at wish.org/worldwishday to learn more about ways to get involved.