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What are the best innovations in family travel you can think of? Using a car seat (with Travelmate or similar as shown below), the CARES Harness, Kid’s Clubs at hotels, iPads loaded with games and movies, toys to “borrow” at hotels, early boarding so families can get settled, and several others come to my mind.
However, one of the “pie in the sky” ideas that often comes up when parents brainstorm things they wish could exist to make family travel even easier is some official help on the airplane. If you are a novice flyer, have multiple young children, or are flying solo with your kid(s), this desire for a little on-board help becomes even more pronounced. However, any type of formal on-board assistance at 36,000 feet with your children has remained firmly in the “When you Wish Upon a Star” category…until now.
Etihad Airways, the airline based in Abu Dhabi that also brings you things like fully enclosed first class suites and an on-board chef, now brings us “Flying Nannies”. These “nannies” are cabin crew members who have received additional training from Norland College, the “world leader in training childcare professionals”.
What can a Flying Nanny help with?
- Begin assisting you right from the boarding gate, all the way until you and your family are comfortably seated on the plane
- Help onboard with the preparation of bassinets for babies
- Look after unaccompanied minors
- Keep children entertained while you’re enjoying a nap, in-flight meal or entertainment
This article goes on to include a few more activity specifics than the official email:
- Teaching arts and crafts such as creating special greeting cards
- Making use of service items such as paper cups which can be made into hats
- Japanese art of origami to fold paper into sculptures.
- Creation of sock puppets which will use stickers from the flying nanny kit as eyes and the socks from the guest’s travel pack.
- Teach children simple magic tricks.
Can you leave your child(ren) unaccompanied with the Flying Nanny?
The ‘Flying Nanny’ is here to assist you, but cannot assume full responsibility for your child during the flight, especially as they need to be available to help other families as well. Likewise, our Flying Nannies cannot due to legalities and safety, carry out personal care routines for your infant or child, such as nappy changing or taking them to the bathroom.
Any special perks if you are flying in First or Business Class?
Yes, if you’re traveling in Diamond First or Pearl Business Class, you can use our Family Rooms at Abu Dhabi Airport, Dublin, Frankfurt, London, Paris, Manchester and Washington which offer fun ways to keep your children entertained, including books, toys, TV and a great children’s menu. According to their website, there are even nannies in those family rooms who can “watch over your little ones, allowing you a little time to relax and enjoy the other lounge facilities.”
What flights have Flying Nannies?
The official emails said that they will be on “all long haul flights”. To me that certainly means any Etihad flights from the US should qualify. I have read there will be 500 Flying Nannies by the end of the year.
How do I use my miles to fly Etihad?
There are a few options, with the easiest for most of us likely being via American AAdvantage miles. I will write more about this in the near future in case some families want to try out this Flying Nannies service, but for now here is a good overview from Lucky on how to search for award space on Etihad.
So how useful is this?
I think that families who read “Flying Nanny” and assume this means that they can leave the childcare entirely to someone else during the flight will be disappointed. However, for those of us who know hard it can be to do something simple like eat with two hands or use the lav while flying with small children, having someone who’s job is to help families on-board should be a fantastic improvement.
Small things like a few minutes of help during the flight can make a big difference when it comes to family travel, and I would love to try this service out with my own daughter on a future flight…you know, purely for research purposes. Flying Nannies is not the only family friendly offering that Etihad has, you can see a full list of family services and travel tips here. Tip: They even offer complimentary strollers to use in the Abu Dhabi airport!
So what do you think – huge improvement that will make you more likely to fly Etihad with your family, or marketing gimmick that won’t make much difference in the air?