Nurse's Fine Idea Takes Flight

As any small business founders knows, you can have the world’s most unique service but if no one knows about it, you may as well not bother.

The founder of Air Travel Companion was convinced she had an idea whose time had come. As a nurse with more than 15 years experience, including training in aviation health as part of the Qantas medical team, she identified a niche in the travel market for often time-poor individuals who need someone to accompany their loved ones.

The practice was not a new one. Health insurance companies use registered nurses to assist in repatriating sick or injured patients, usually after a medical emergency.

“The gap I fill is where there are people who cannot fly alone but it’s not a travel insurance situation” she says. It might be to do with expats living in one country with children in boarding school somewhere else. It could be periods where the children are shuffled backwards and forwards or it could be elderly people who want to travel and have medical needs and require assistance”.

She found that people wanting to move a sick or infirm family member frequently had no option other than to buy a return ticket and take time off work to collect the relative themselves.

Australia is home to a large number of expatriates. For occasions like Christmas or birthdays, getting the elderly family members here can be difficult.

Also with high divorce rates, separated parents who do not live in the same city as their previous partner often struggle to see their children. As Australians work longer hours, finding the time to collect and accompany children on flights has also become harder.

Expatriates and divorcees have been the main users of Air Travel Companion.

Under the service, registered nurses will accompany a traveller door-to-door, from departure to arrival and handover to their family, organising wheelchair assistance and special seating, administering medication and providing any other necessary assistance during the flight.

- 1 March 2008, Mark Fenton-Jones, Financial Review