Heathrow press releases

23 July, 2015

Heathrow set to become first ‘imaginary friend friendly’ airport

Imaginary Friend Friendly


Children’s imaginations can truly take flight with the announcement that Heathrow plans to become the world’s first ‘imaginary friend friendly’ airport. The move to welcome youngsters’ invisible friends is part of Heathrow’s commitment to giving passengers the world’s best service and going the extra mile to delight families travelling through the airport.


Heathrow was recently appointed Best Airport in Western Europe[1], and the ambition to extend its award-winning passenger service even as far as imaginary friends follows new research[2] showing invisible playmates to be more popular than ever. Indeed, according to the research an estimated 2.1 million children (35%) in Britain today have imaginary friends[3], while 68% of these youngsters will take their make-believe friends with them on family holidays. What’s more, over half of children (56%) wish other people would acknowledge and speak to their invisible friends.


With over 500,000 passengers expected to travel through Heathrow over the next four days as the summer holidays get into full swing[4], and Friday 24th July set to be the busiest day ever - with 129,647 departing passengers flying out of the airport - there will no doubt be a great many parents at the airport with their children and imaginary friends in tow.


At the heart of Heathrow’s plans to delight youngsters with imaginary friends is a unique staff video guided by Hollywood actor, and imaginary friend expert, Chris O’Dowd. Throughout the heartwarming tutorial 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: “We’re dedicated to continuously training our staff and investing in skills so that they can always provide the best passenger service. This is a commitment that has seen passengers recognise Heathrow as Western Europe’s best airport. However, we don’t want to rest on our laurels. We always want to encourage our staff to go further, to be creative and think of the unexpected things that could surprise and delight passengers.


“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.”


The six-minute video, starring real Heathrow staff, focuses on a number of family services run each summer by Heathrow, with the addition of imaginary friends. This includes a scene of a restaurant waiter serving a hearty invisible meal to an imaginary friend and an invisible playmate being helped through security.


- ENDS -

Notes to editors:

1. In the Skytrax World Airport Awards, Heathrow passengers recognised the airport as the best in Western Europe. Skytrax is widely regarded as the benchmark for airport excellence and quality. The World Airport Awards are independent of any airport control or input and are therefore an impartial benchmark. For more information, see: http://mediacentre.heathrow.com/pressrelease/details/81/Retail-News-22/4447

Additionally, last month Heathrow was named “Best Airport” at the prestigious Airports Council International Europe (ACI Europe) awards. The “Best Airport, over 25 million passengers” accolade acknowledges the dedication of Heathrow’s frontline staff in giving passengers excellent service and the transformation of the airport following the completion of an £11bn investment programme. For further details, visit: http://mediacentre.heathrow.com/pressrelease/details/81/Corporate-operational-24/4710

2. According to research by Heathrow with 500 children aged 5 - 12, 35% has an imaginary friend.

3. National population estimates from the Office of National Statistics show there are approximately 5.97 million children aged 5 – 12 in the UK. 35% of 5.97 million is 2.07 million.

4. The 23rd – 26th July mark the peak departure dates at Heathrow airport, with the below passengers expected to travel:

23rd July – 123,128

24th July – 129,647

25th July – 123,473

26th July – 124,294


About Heathrow

  • Heathrow is the UK’s hub airport, home to more than 80 airlines connecting to more than 180 destinations.
  • Every year Heathrow welcomes over 70 million passengers with a commitment to ‘making every journey better’.
  • Following an investment of more than £11 billion over the past 10 years, passengers have voted Heathrow the ‘Best Airport in Western Europe’, ‘Best Airport Terminal’ for Terminal 5 and ‘Best Airport for Shopping’ 7 years in a row.