News & Politics

A New Program at Dulles Aims to Make Air Travel Easier for Parents

SkySquad will launch mid-December to help parents, seniors, and people with language barriers navigate the airport

A new travel-assistance program is coming to Dulles Airport just in time for holiday travel—when many families with children in tow may especially need a helping hand.

Expected to launch in mid-December, SkySquad will offer a personal helper to assist travelers through check-in, security, and flight delays. For $30 an hour, a SkySquad employee can do anything to help alleviate the stresses of travel, whether hauling suitcases or making a terminal snack run for tired parents.

Founder Julie Melnick came up with the concept in 2012 when she was wrangling two children under the age of three through security lines.

“I was living in California and flying back and forth to the East Coast to see my family,” she says. “One time was really tough. I was pregnant and I had a huge car seat for my son, and I was carrying my suitcases, and holding my toddler’s hand, and had my diaper bag. I asked the gate agent for help, and he said, ‘Sorry ma’am. These are your belongings. You’ve got to do it yourself.’ I couldn’t believe that there was nobody to help me get through the airport when I was really struggling.”

Though the program was originally created with parents in mind, Melnick says she realized that seniors and people with language barriers could benefit as well. Current SkySquad workers are fluent in Spanish, Russian, and Romanian. 

SkySquad is staffed by current but off-duty Dulles airport employees who are badged to get through security and experts at navigating the airport, as well as Melnick herself. While skycaps can assist passengers with getting their luggage to check-in and airport workers can get elderly travelers to the gate, Melnick says her service offers someone to attend to any issue that could crop up.

“When you’re at the airport and not a frequent traveler, it can be so overwhelming,” she says. “We just want to provide an extra set of hands so people can feel like they’re starting their vacation right when they get to the airport, and can arrive to their final destination feeling refreshed.”

Jane Recker
Assistant Editor

Jane is a Chicago transplant who now calls Cleveland Park her home. Before joining Washingtonian, she wrote for Smithsonian Magazine and the Chicago Sun-Times. She is a graduate of Northwestern University, where she studied journalism and opera.