Air travel can be daunting for even the most hardened road warriors. But for the elderly and people with disabilities, the experience can be down right frightening. That’s where Flying Companions comes in. The brainchild of Doug Iannelli, Flying Companions does what its name suggests – it accompanies people on their travels, guiding them through the security process, coordinating wheelchairs, assisting with the rebooking process in the event of a delay or cancellation, carrying luggage and even staying with them on vacation.
“We started Flying Companions to give seniors and persons with special needs the freedom to fly without fear. Our goal is to bring families and friends together no matter how far apart they might live and to do it by providing exceptional service,” says the company.
Once a prospective client contacts Flying Companions, Iannelli researches airfares and other particulars for the trip. The fee will depend on the nature of the trip because each itinerary is different. “The client is provided one all-inclusive quote from me. This includes all airfares (client and companion’s one-way or roundtrip flights), any other airfares needed by the companion in order to meet up with the client, ground transportation (if the client requests this), food, lodging, fees and taxes,” says Iannelli, who possesses a degree in Aviation Management from Florida Tech.
Flying Companions can coordinate and communicate with a customer’s loved ones throughout the trip, and can also accompany children who are meeting a parent or family member at the arrival. Although Iannelli takes many of the trips himself, he also employs contractors who have passed extensive background checks including criminal and credit, he says.
Over the past six years, Flying Companions has assisted a few hundred clients; and many are repeat customers. In all this time, Iannelli had only had one client who was not fully appreciative of the company’s services, he says. “This client had some physical and mental challenges, but did not want to take the guidance or assistance I was providing him during his weeklong trip to Rome, Italy. He wanted to be independent. So, I realized that if I gave him choices and planned options that the client was able to come to many of the conclusions on his own. This made him feel as if he was able to make key decisions.”
The main goal of Flying Companions, he adds, is to give individuals who may have special needs as well as their family and friends the ability to “fly without fear”.
The company will accompany a client to anywhere in the world except destinations that the United States government has declared unsafe for United States citizens.