Despite multiple safety measures by airlines to appease passengers, travelling by plane is still stressful for many people. Last year, a Jamaican in Los Angeles launched a company to provide personal assistance to the reluctant flyer.
Shelly-Ann Cawley operates Travelers Care, a company she officially started after years of helping family and friends commuting from the United States to Jamaica.
“The primary focus of Travelers Care is to keep families safe when using air travel. Travelers Care accomplishes this by providing a professional travel companion to fly with you or your loved ones, alleviating the potential nightmares, and mitigates the risk of travelling alone — ultimately providing safety, comfort, and peace of mind for families,” Cawley told the Jamaica Observer.
Seniors with health challenges comprise Travelers Care's largest client bloc. Some have physical disabilities, while others suffer from neurodegenerative diseases such as dementia.
Then there are unaccompanied minors or people who have a chronic fear of flying. That fear is compounded by profuse media coverage of major air disasters.
“Certainly, aerophobia is a type of anxiety disorder involving the extreme sense of fear and panic. Many people experience this when they fly or anticipate flying,” Cawley explained. “Although there are no specific causes of aerophobia there are several contributing factors, including the fear of heights, which can be genetically inherited, and most people fear flying because they feel that they have no control over the situation and their safety.”
Travelers Care is based in Long Beach, a diverse city with a tight-knit Jamaican community. Most of the company's clients are from Los Angeles, but it also employs contractors in other major cities in the United States and Jamaica.
Originally from Kingston, Cawley attended Holy Childhood High School and worked for over 20 years in the leisure industry with Sandals and Air Jamaica before settling in Los Angeles.
That experience came in handy when Travelers Care took off in 2019.
“Though it wasn't a paid service or had a name, for over 10 years, I would help friends and family all the time. I travelled to Jamaica to get my aunt, as she was nervous about flying alone and taking kids to Jamaic... 'Shelly, when yuh going Jamaica mi a beg yuh carry down mi daughter or son',” Cawley related. “In my profession, as an aviator — flight attendant, inflight manager, and aviation safety specialist — I have seen, assisted with as well as been involved in situations where I've had to go in search of finding an unaccompanied minor who walked off the airplane without my flight attendant's knowledge,” she added.
Cawley is aware of only three companies similar to hers in the US. And although airlines provide comprehensive care for passengers, she points to the advantages of running an outfit like Travelers Care.
“Many people find purchasing two tickets burdensome, and they would rather pay the Unaccompanied Minor Fee, or hope that grandma or grandpa will get some help along the way, [in the form] of a professional and designated travel companion [rather than] compromising peace of mind,” she said.