Making the skies more friendly

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Former flight attendant from Conifer starts business to assist air travelers

By Stephanie DeCamp

The sometimes-bumpy terrain of air travel can pose a variety of challenges, especially for the young and the old.
But former flight attendant Patty Petersen of Conifer has addressed the need for some helpful aerial shepherding with her business, From Air to There.
The service sends a former or retired airline attendant to pick clients up at home, take them to the airport, provide an escort through security, and travel with the client to his destination. The business, Petersen said, works primarily with the elderly, children, families, single parents and the disabled, but is designed to help anyone who needs assistance.
As a flight attendant, Petersen learned how to respond to emergencies but also to have empathy, compassion and confidence as she reassured passengers.
"(I) have always had a soft spot for the elderly, children, people with disabilities, or anyone struggling in any way. While flying, it became very apparent that many people were doing so with fear and uncertainty, especially the elderly and children, (who may be) flying from the home of one parent to another.
"One instance involved an elderly woman who stayed seated on the aircraft after all others had de-planed," she recounted, "and as I gently questioned her about whether she was connecting to another city, or destined to stay in Denver, it became very clear, immediately, that she had no idea what was happening, and began to cry. That moment was when I truly realized many people find the whole experience very overwhelming, confusing and frightening."
The cost of the service varies, she said, and depends on how many days the attendant spends traveling with a client. Each instance is tailored to the needs of the individual as far as planning, support and preparation for a flight.
A thorough plan is developed for each client, Petersen said, boiling it down to daily checklists for things like medication and budgeting extra time for unanticipated delays.
From Air to There got off the ground about a year ago, and Petersen says she felt the service would be ideal for adults who are "sandwiched" between their responsibilities to their parents and their children.  
"It's a burden for them to take enough time from work to fly with their loved ones," she said.
Petersen said her business also will help transport a pet or service animal. And her service isn't just limited to this country — international flights are in play.
The business employs active or retired flight attendants only, she said, and all are certified in CPR, defibrillator use and first-aid.
A detailed travel plan is provided to the client and anyone in the client's family, and includes the times of departure and arrival and connecting cities and flights. The attendants keep in touch with family members or guardians over the phone and via text or e-mail.
Clients also can request a specific type of assistant — a man or a woman, as well as bilingual attendants. The service is licensed and insured, and an attendant remains with the client through any delays. Assistants will even help clients pack and organize for trips.
Oddly enough, Petersen said, deciding on a name for the business was one of the harder parts of getting the venture airborne.
"I agonized over the name for months," she said. "I have friends who are writers, editors, and just witty, so we brainstormed, and too often I would hear things like 'Air Angels' — things completely inappropriate or too cutesy. It actually came to me in the middle of the night. And  I had to be very careful not to ever use the words 'escort service,'  which is basically what I am doing, but in the way it should be done."