If you have ever taken your young children along on a long-haul flight or have simply been on one with kids on board (okay, so that covers most of us), you know the hardships of trying to get some rest, force down your airplane meal and watch a movie when a fussy youngster objects to being there, leading to fits of crying, screaming and repeated kicks to the seat in front of them, and that’s sometimes just the parents of the unruly child.
Flying, especially for six hours at a time or longer, can be an unpleasant experience for anyone but babies and young children are understandably more prone to getting bored, uncomfortable and all around antsy in the sky. Such feelings of angst quickly spread through the cabin, often leaving their parents at wit’s end as to how to console their child and just make the screaming stop.
Enter United Arab Emirates’ national carrier, Etihad Airways and their latest ‘Flying Re-imagined’ brainchild, the Flying Nanny.
Available on all Etihad operated long-haul flights, the absolutely free service in all classes, begins at your flight’s boarding gate, where designated crew members sporting an orange apron and a smile introduce themselves to you and your family and begin to make your (and everyone else’s) flight a lot more relaxing. Upon entering the airplane’s cabin, nannies will assist with a family’s boarding and seating. In the air, young children are cared for and kept entertained by supervised arts & crafts, hand puppet shows, drawing competitions, face painting and the showing and teaching of magic tricks.
Activities are age specific, with older kids taking part in quizzes, completing puzzles and enjoying fun and educational tours of the plane’s galley. For the youngest travellers, nannies will assist in everything from preparing bassinettes and getting babies ready for bed to re-filling bottles and cleaning-up ‘accidents’ and even bottle-nursing your child, if parents would like some ‘me’ time. Nannies also make sure kids meals are served early in the flight and that they are the first to be served.
Now, these angels in the sky aren’t your run-of-the-mill flight attendants, simply dressed up in orange aprons and smiles, going through the motions of looking after children blindly. To date, Etihad has had 300 of their crew trained at UK’s prestigious Norland College (founded in 1892), graduating with Sky Nannies diplomas. The renowned school’s program, introduced in 2006, specializes specifically in the care of children during airplane trips and childcare training and education in general. Etihad’s in-flight program was developed through parents and children focus groups, deciding everything from the various games and activities to be offered on board to finding the most liked and nutritious meals and snacks.
The Flying Nanny service compliments Etihad’s overall focus on care for their youngest travellers, which starts with their brilliant Children’s Play Area in their premier lounge in their hub, Abu Dhabi’s International Airport. Their attention to detail and general in-flight innovations such as the Flying Nanny has won Etihad the ‘Best Up In The Air Experience’ award at the most recent Future Travel Experience Global Awards event and has the airline routinely voted one of the best overall carriers.