An American startup is breaking new ground to help those who worry about flying – emotional support humans
There’s been a lot written in the news lately about passengers flying with what have become known as Emotional Support Animals. Dogs, cats, rabbits, even unruly peacocks and troublesome pigs have all been used by travellers wanting something familiar to take their mind off the process of flying.
Now, Utah-based startup EmoteAware is taking the idea one step further, with the introduction of a service supplying Emotional Support Humans to passengers.
“After seeing both the publicity and the problems raised by airlines allowing Emotional Support Animals on board,” spokesperson Kaylee Mensogo said. “We realised that we could supply a similar service, but one that makes things easier not only for the person using that service, but for the airline and the crew as well.”
Services fall under a number of price bands, depending on the specific needs of the passenger, and the human supplied.
“We really are trying to make this service available to everyone; not just to all passengers, but also to the people we use as Emotional Support Humans,” Mensogo continued. “For some, particularly students and the elderly, this is a chance to travel in return for helping someone else through what can be a worrying experience.”
Indeed, students are the cheapest people on EmoteAware’s books. It costs no more than the price of a ticket to hire one as an Emotional Support Human; all food and drink costs are picked up by the students themselves.
Elderly people are in a slightly higher price range – you’re paying for a lifetime’s-worth of empathy and experience, after all – and, in this case, the client is also expected to pay for food and drink, as well as toffees, mints and gumballs, as they see fit.
At the ITB Berlin Travel Fair, where this service first came to our attention, we spoke to a couple of people who have already tried the service, and a couple who were among the first to volunteer themselves as Emotional Support Humans.
“I’ve always been a nervous flyer, and have never flown by myself” said Catherine, 38, a specialist from New Jersey. “I was planning to attend an event down in Phoenix, but the thought of flying by myself filled me with… I guess dread is the only word for it. Then I heard about this programme and, well, travelling with Esther made everything a lot easier,” she smiles. “And you know what? We’re still in touch online!”
The ease of use is an experience shared by Martin, an upholsterer from Atlanta. “I contacted EmoteAware and was immediately put in touch with a number of Emotional Support Humans in my local area. The selection was great, and myself and Ryan hit it off immediately. Turns out he’s a Braves fan too, so we’re going to take in a game at some point.”
Ryan was, in fact, at the EmoteAware booth as well, so we chatted to him about the experience from his side. “Well, as a philosophy student I don’t have a lot of disposable income, but what I do have is free time. Plus, you know, I like to have discussions with people, so this seemed like a natural fit.”
And what of the baseball game plan? “Sure! I mean, we both love baseball, so as long as Martin’s paying again, I’m there!” he laughs.
The company’s plan doesn’t end here. “We’re certainly ambitious,” Kaylee told Kiwi.com Stories. “In 2019 we’re launching what we’re calling our CelebrEmoteAware product line. As I mentioned before, we want to cater to every sector of the market, from the Average Joe to the CEO. How to emotionally support the person who has everything?” Kaylee pauses, then drops the bombshell: “Celebrities.”
“Having trouble falling asleep? Ed Sheeran. Hate the airline food but don’t want to cause a scene yourself? Gordon Ramsay. Taylor Swift and you can bitch about all the people who aren’t there. And even those who are. Stephen Fry, purely to read the inflight magazine to you.
“It’s in development, but we’re already in talks with Lindsay Lohan, William Shatner and the cast of Jersey Shore.”