“Hi. I’d like to book flights for me, my husband, daughter and her imaginary friend to London, please.”
Yep, in a move Big Bird and Snuffleupagus would definite approve of, London Heathrow Airport has plans to be the world’s first imaginary friend-friendly airport and welcome kids’ invisible companions as part and parcel of its all-inclusive customer service and bid to be the friendliest family airport.
While we’re not sure what the secret sidekicks left at home get up to while the rest of the family goes away, in numbers, that’s 2.1 million or 35 percent of children in Britain with imaginary playmates – and approximately two million ‘Invisibles’, or more if your child has multiple make-believe mates.
In Australia, research points to up to 65 percent of children having imaginary friends, or two in every three Aussie kids will bring home an invisible sidekick, according to La Trobe University researcher Dr Evan Kidd, and these invisible playmates can hang around for six months or more.
While stopping short of charging for seating and baggage fees for imaginary friends, Heathrow has released an instructional six-minute video narrated by Hollywood actor Chris O’Dowd with actual airport staff showing ways to accommodate families – real and imaginary – as they pass through one of the world’s busiest airports.
Some of the situations Heathrow staff has been trained on include allowing space for make-believe buddies on train seats, restaurants and in terminal buildings, and security officers to be on the lookout for imaginary friends transiting through metal detectors and x-ray machines. From checking tickets on the Heathrow Express to assisting with invisible luggage at customs, the video shows airport staff interacting with families with imaginary plus-ones in tow in different situations across the terminals and facilities.
While it might make for a more relaxed airport experience for families, expect more imaginary friends to be blamed for kicking your seat!