As the only AirlineReporter.com staffer with small children, I’m fascinated by the the newly-announced Flying Nanny program from Etihad Airways.
While I love traveling, particularly internationally, having two kids under the age of four dictates that I either fly solo (as with my 77-hour trip to Singapore) or with my wife, while grandma takes the kids.
Etihad Airways, the flag carrier of the United Arab Emirates, currently serves four destinations in the U.S. and Canada as part of their worldwide network. As a fast-growing airline, Etihad is looking to differentiate themselves in the competitive overseas market.
While most long-haul carriers offer bassinets or other physical accommodations for small children, and some offer kiddy amenity kits (like Ethiopian), Etihad’s program goes way beyond that.
The new Flying Nanny program from Etihad is an industry first. Nearly 300 flight crew (soon on the way to 500) have been certified in the program, trained in conjunction with their early childhood partner, Norland College. As part of the training, crews concentrate on “child psychology and sociology,” looking at developmental stages for kids. In a way, it sounds sort of like “Temper Tantrums 101” to me, but I know there is a science to it.
These specially-trained cabin crew members represent just under twenty percent of Etihad’s total, but they plan to offer the service on board all long-haul flights. These crew are well-prepared to engage and entertain flying children. Among the tricks in their toolkit, the Flying Nanny will interact with kids using arts and crafts projects, magic kits, quizzes, and games.
They’ll also offer special assistance, like serving meals and snacks on demand for fussy children. It’s important to note, however, that the program is not a babysitting service. Think of it more like an extra pair of hands that might allow you as a parent to eat your meal or nod off for a few minutes, but don’t expect diaper changes to be part of the offering.
All kidding aside, flying with kids is tough work on parents. For the younger kids (my daughter is still under 2), they just don’t understand what it means to be on a 14-hour flight. It’s a little better with my 3 1/2-year old because he understands the concept, but he is still trapped in an aluminum tube (well, except in a 787 Dreamliner).
The fact that Eithad is proactively offering a helping hand will go a long way. As Aubrey Tiedt, Etihad Airways’ Vice President Guest Services says, “Flying with a young family can be a daunting task, even for the most experienced travelers, and the Flying Nanny role demonstrates our understanding of our guests’ needs and our commitment to making the journey as relaxing and comfortable as possible.”