We all like to humour children with their imaginary friends – until they turn into ‘partners-in-crime’ – and it seems Heathrow has decided to join in. The busy airport has trained its staff to look for signs of invisible children and other beings (see the pic above) and acknowledge that children think they’re real and so they need to be treated properly like other passengers – yes you heard us right…
This surprise move comes after research by Heathrow that claims 1 in 3 British children have an imaginary friend – that’s about 4 million invisibles. Our children apparently like to take 68% of those fictional playmates away on holiday, but we’re not quite sure what happens to the other 32%. May be living it up at home, while the parents are away.
Whether you love or hate your child’s sidekick, this ‘new service’ might actually help lower holiday stress levels, or that’s the idea. For example not having to explain discreetly why you’re asking for a table for 5 when there’s only 4 of you having lunch, could make things a hell of a lot easier. And if you ask nicely, they will even bring over an imaginary menu and meal so Fuzzy Fred, Mr Herman or Maggie the robot doesn’t feel left out!
And with comic actor Chris O’Dowd fronting the training video, for a second we were fooled into thinking this was a spoof video, but it’s not. It’s highly likely he got the gig because he’s a bit of an ‘expert’ in this area – he plays the imaginary friend of a 12-year-old Martin in Moone Boy on Sky 1.
He tells staff to “spot the signs of an imaginary friend” and use a “winning smile”, because “imaginary friends are as important as anyone else”. There is also hand shaking and staff are told to “make sure you do everything in your power to make them have fun”. They really aren’t doing things by halves.
And the reason behind this isn’t just a promotional gimmick, according to Heathrow’s Chief Operating Officer, Normand Boivin. “it’s the little things that can help make an airport journey more fun and relaxing for both parents and children,” he says.
Having watched the training video, we’re not sure staff are fully prepared for every situation. What happens if someone sits down on top of the imaginary friend on the Heathrow Express? Will a member of staff ask the passenger to move? Sounds ridiculous? Which bit?
What do you think? Do you like the idea or do you think it’s a bit unnecessary?