Mile-high pretend parents – Nanny In The Clouds wants to ease child stress on flights
Even with decent in-flight entertainment and gadgets, flying with kids is sometimes seen as one of the more stressful elements of a trip.
Many parents look like and often say they need an extra hand to help them manage luggage, kids, tickets and seats.
Step forward Nanny in the clouds, a new service which has built a business to cater for such woes. In simple terms it matches parents (flying with kids) with fellow passengers in the plane who are willing to offer a helping hand for a fee.
Travellers who are willing to babysit can register on the site by entering their flight details. Parents then search in the website for babysitters by flight origin-destination, flight number and time. The list of available babysitters are displayed and the website connects the two and handles the fee.
The company aims at offering value for parents by providing them with essentially a caretaker, and also helps fellow plane passengers earn some money when they spend their time in the flight.
Nannyintheclouds.com is founded and funded by Julie Melnick. Other key members in the company are CFO, Matt Melnick. The web development is handled by a team in India.
Melnick explains why she started the company:
“About two years ago, I took a cross country flight with my two year old son. It was really stressful, I wished I had someone to help me get through security and entertain my son on the plane. At one point on my flight, I looked around the plane and thought, “there should be someone on this flight who might want to help me! I could pay them!”.
“Nanny in the Clouds is a service created out of necessity. After talking to many moms in my local area who fly to visit family, the support was unanimous. Nanny in the Clouds must be established to help families everywhere to have a more enjoyable travel experience.”
The company estimates that this service industry has a potential of $875 million by quoting that there are over 21 million children under the age of five who take one or two trips a year.
It claims the forecast is possible even if half of those 21 million children were matched with a nanny in the clouds each year on a cross country flight.
Q&A with Melnick below:
Describe what your start-up does, what problem it solves and for whom?
‘Nanny in the clouds‘ makes flying easier by matching passengers on the plane who have childcare experience with families on the plane who need an extra hand with their children. We are the first company of its kind to offer this service.
We solve a problem for people on the plane who may want to travel, but can’t afford the full price of their plane ticket. They must have childcare experience and be willing to help a family with their children on the flight.
Why should people or companies use your startup?
For Parents: People with young children should use our service if they want to enjoy their flight time. If you have young kids, you know that trying to entertain them in a small, confined space for over two hours is practically impossible. And doing it without anyone else to help you can be torturous. We offer the unique opportunity to match up with someone on your flight who has childcare experience and can make the trip a whole lot easier by helping to entertain your kids, help you get through security, and just give you a sense of comfort that you are not completely alone in your journey.
For caregivers: There are many reasons why caregivers should use our service. If you have childcare experience and you want to subsidize the price of your ticket, Nanny in the Clouds is the only way to do that. The ability to monetize your spare time while flying from point a to point b is genius. Why not take advantage of the time you are spending stuck on a plane and help a family with their kids on board. Your help is priceless to them, and you can earn money while doing it!
Companies (Airlines, Travel booking sites): They can increase their ancillary revenue by partnering with our company to offer our service to their customers as a link or partner on their website. We are working hard to partner with airlines who are focused on increasing customer service and providing innovative new tools and support to their customers.
Other than going viral and receiving mountains of positive PR, what is the strategy for raising awareness and getting customers/users?
We have received a great deal of PR. Our plan to achieve a larger customer base is through partnerships. We want to partner with airlines, nanny agencies, and travel booking sites.
We are ready to partner with any and all organizations that can help us revolutionize the travel industry. It takes a village to raise children, why should it be any different on an airplane?
How did your initial idea evolve?
At first, our site was set up to match people on the exact same flight, going at the exact same time. That was a bit of a needle in a haystack, to put it mildly. We have evolved and now allow people to search for sitters or families on the flight by allowing them to put in their city pairing, with a more flexible time. If two people are flying from LAX to JFK, they will have an easier time connecting.
We are also in the process of changing our business plan (explained later in the post).
There is currently no competition which offers the same service. There are many other national nanny matching services, but they do not offer to help families match up with someone traveling.
There are other services which provide actual travel nannies, but then you must pay for the nanny’s airline ticket, room and board for the trip, and for her services while away.
Currently, Gulf Air offers Sky Nannies to their customers on long haul flights. No other airlines offer this service yet. We are working hard to partner with an airline so that we can share the service with as many people as possible, and so that many families can take advantage of our service.
Were there changes/any pivots along the way? What other options have you considered for the business if the original vision fails?
Our initial test model was to charge $10 per match for the parent to receive contact information for the sitter. This model was not realistic, and we are launching our new model shortly.
Our updated model is set up like this: we will charge families a membership fee to use our service. Once they are registered members, they can search for nannies or families on their flight. Once they see a nanny they like, they must pay a reservation fee to book the nanny and to contact her.
The fee is set up so that the nanny earns $12.50 per hour and Nanny in the Clouds earns $9.50 per hour. For example, on a flight from LAX to JFK, the family will pay $176. Nanny in the Clouds earns $76, the nanny earns $100. This will generally allow the nanny to cut the price of her airline ticket by one third.
We strongly believe that we will not fail. However, we have considered a lot of different options. There are many tools that we feel can make travel easier for parents who travel with young kids. We have considered focusing on those items and blogging about the items that make travel with kids easier, and the airlines who make flying with kids the easiest.
There are many directions our company can go in. This is only the beginning. We want to improve the quality of service for families flying everywhere.
Where do you see yourselves in 3 years time, what specific challenges do you hope to have overcome?
People helping people is really what we are all about.
In three years,
- We hope to be partnered with more than one airline, providing families with the peace of mind to know that they don’t have to fly unassisted with kids.
- We hope to have uncovered a huge market which allows both parents of small children as well as senior citizens to take advantage of our service.
- We want to be a household name, and anyone who needs to travel such as a mom flying with young kids, a senior who doesn’t want to fly alone, and an anxious flier who wants a “friend” to keep them company, should be able to log onto our site and connect with someone who wants to give them a hand.
- We hope and plan to be the company that everyone wonders how they lived without.
What is wrong with the travel, tourism and hospitality industry that requires another startup to help it out?
There is currently no other way for parents flying with young children to get any special help to get through the security checkpoint, to help keep their kids occupied during flight delays, to help keep them happy on a five hour flight, and more.
Why not take advantage of the unlimited resources out there, such as the college students, retired teachers, grandmas, people who love to smile at babies on a plane, and ask them for help!
They will make money while sitting on the plane. Why wouldn’t they help? They are sitting there anyway, and if they are really a “kid friendly” person they will probably end up helping the mom out a bit for free.
Nanny in the Clouds is addressing an interesting problem in the industry. It gets even more interesting to leverage the peer to peer consumption model to help parents in taking care of their kids and fellow travellers to earn money when they fly. It would be safe to say Nanny in the Clouds is an Airbnb-for-kid-care-on-clouds.
First, is there a real business or need in the market for this service? The answer is a sound YES after seeing various airlines introduce a kid-free-zone in the flight for a fee.
- Malaysia-based Air Asia X charges $10-$34 for a seat in the kid free zone.
- Singapore’s low cost carrier Scoot Airlines recently launched ‘ScootInSilence’ area in their flight, a 41-seater kid free zone. A seat upgrade to this area would cost $14.
The business model has got its own challenges. Etihad Airways recently announced Flying Nanny service where the airline is planning to deploy 500 nannies in its flights to take care of kids. This in effect is a direct competition to Nanny in the Clouds.
Another issue to bear in mind is around the question of safety. Many countries require carers to have been vetted by various authorities (CRB in the UK, for example) before they are allowed to work or supervise children.
Melnick says the company will be working closely with a background check company to cater for this, but there is a wrinkle in the model if those passengers that are just willing and innocently able to help out but are not authorised to do so.
Trust is everything when it comes to kids.
As the company says, the scope to generate revenue is high, considering the number of flight takeoffs in a day. But, for that to happen, the model has to be adopted by the industry (and passengers). Even Airbnb had its initial hiccups in market adoption.
Karthick was general manager for Tnooz in Asia until September 2014.