Heathrow Trains Staff To Interact With Children's Imaginary Friends

28 July 2015

Heathrow imaginary friend friendly airport

Every parent knows that travelling with children can be tricky at the best of times, but now Heathrow airport has taken the unusual step of trying to address that for parents of children who have imaginary friends. Yes, really.

Billing itself as the world's first ‘imaginary friend friendly’ airport, Heathrow has announced plans to train staff on how to interact with children’s imaginary friends.

The move follows research by Heathrow which revealed that an estimated 2.1 million children (35%) in Britain have imaginary friends and that 68% of these youngsters will take their make-believe friends with them on family holidays.  (Well, what else are you supposed to do with an imaginary friend? You can hardly leave them home alone...) What’s more, over half of children (56%) wish other people would acknowledge and speak to their invisible friends.

At the heart of Heathrow’s plans to cater for youngsters with imaginary friends is a unique tutorial video guided by Hollywood actor Chris O’Dowd. The star of Bridesmaids, IT Crowd and imaginary friend comedy Moone Boy instructs Heathrow staff on the best ways to interact with youngsters that have brought their invisible friends to the airport.

Normand Boivin, Chief Operating Officer at Heathrow commented:

“During the summer holidays, when millions of families fly away on their holidays, it’s the little things that can help make an airport journey more fun and relaxing for both parents and children. Whether that’s free restaurant meals for kids in Heathrow’s restaurants or simply acknowledging that a child has an imaginary friend who they believe is as real as you or me - at Heathrow we have an ambition to become the friendliest family airport and to give all our passengers the best airport service in the world.”

As someone who had an imaginary friend as a kid, I'm really not sure what to make of this. The video made me laugh out loud, and the airport's efforts to cater for kids with imaginary friends is sure to grab them some extra headlines this summer, but isn't it all, um, just a bit weird?

What happens if a Heathrow member of staff inadvertently assumes a kid has an imaginary friend when they don't? And what about the 44% of kids who didn't say they wishes more adults would interact with their imaginary friends? I was definitely in that camp as a kid, and hated other adults pretending they could see my friend when I knew they couldn't. This could get seriously awkward...

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