Here’s an idea: what if harried parents traveling with their kids could hire a short-term nanny, to get through the flight? That’s the gist behind Flight Nanny, a concept brewing over at Altitude, the Boston-based product design firm.
The idea of Flight Nanny came to Altitude's founder Brian Matt while he was conducting exploratory research with airline companies and their employees. While talking to flight attendants on a trip from Boston to San Francisco, he observed something. “A mom holding a fussy baby pushed through the galley we were standing in, a giant diaper bag in tow, her face a furrowed brow,” he says. “One [of the attendants] slipped out of our conversation and grabbed the diaper bag out of the woman's hand while holding the bathroom door open for her.” The other attendant told Matt that it technically isn’t part of their job description to help traveling parents, but they often sympathize with the struggle and chip in when they can.
And who wouldn’t? Flying with small children is a headache--and not just for the parent. In fact, part of the stress of traveling with kids lies in the dread of knowing how much they can irritate other passengers.
Flight Nanny would provide parents with a short-term nanny service at the airport, on the flight, or both. Parents can reserve the service when they book the flight online (assuming airlines would cooperate), or they can hire an impromptu service once they’ve arrived at the airport. This second option is designed to mimic the user experience of Uber, the on-demand town car service: Parents request a nanny through a kiosk or a GPS-enabled app that includes their user profile and a credit card on file. The nannies even come equipped with warm bottles, wipes, fresh diapers, and snacks.
Outsourcing errands is nothing new--it’s the entire crux of companies like Task Rabbit. But kids are precious cargo. To create a service like Flight Nanny would require building a system that parents can trust, since they’ll likely never use the same sitter twice. According to Matt, Flight Nannies would have to be trained and insured, which could be tricky: “Finding enough qualified employees willing to travel, and top-notch enough to bond and certify could be difficult or at least time-consuming and expensive.”
Another challenge the concept faces is cost. With the escalating price of airfare, it might not be feasible for parents to book an additional ticket and pay for the Flight Nanny service.
Then again, who knows? If nannies in New York can command six-figure salaries, and companies like Task Rabbit can sway users into paying $100 just so they won’t have to assemble their Ikea furniture, anything is possible.