Calling Mary Poppins

It’s great to see that some airlines are still prepared to push the envelope when it comes to inflight customer service – and not just in the premium cabins.

Etihad Airways is introducing a clever onboard service that will be applauded by all parents that travel with toddlers. The carrier has trained a cadre of “Flying Nannies” to help families with children during those long airborne hours. The intention is to have one such nanny on every long-haul flight. Apparently this is something that CEO James Hogan introduced at Gulf Air when he was with that carrier, and now he’s rolling it out on a larger scale at Etihad.

The nannies are not just flight attendants with a different badge. They actually complete special training courses from the Norland College, a London school which has been famous for its childcare courses since 1892. The Etihad nannies learn about child psychology and sociology so they can recognize the different types of child behavior and development stages, and the needs of traveling families.

Etihad says that 300 of its cabin crew members have been through the training course over the past two months. A further 60 will be trained this month, and 500 Flying Nannies will be working on long haul flights by the end of 2013. They will be easily identified by the bright orange aprons they wear, and will be working in all sections of the aircraft.

You can read more about what they do here and here. But these are a few highlights:

·         They will help serve children’s meals early in the flight, then help parents get kids settled in for sleep, or offer activities to help entertain them during the trip.

·         Many of these activities derive from a special kit which contains straws, stickers, cardboard and other items which the nanny uses to teach simple arts and crafts

·         The Flying Nannies will also use inflight service items such as paper cups which can be made into hats, and will do origami demonstrations and teach kids basic magic tricks.

·         Puppets can be made with special eye stickers and the socks from the passenger travel packs

·         For older children there are quizzes and challenges, and the nannies will take them on tours of the galley.

·         Towards the end of the flight they will replenish milk bottles, and offer water, fruit and other snacks for use during transit. And they will tell parents about the various child facilities available at Abu Dhabi airport if they have a layover.

You may be thinking “what’s the big deal?” In which case, you have probably never traveled with toddlers on a long-haul flight.

Pictured below is one of the Flying Nannies in action. And below that, samples of the cartoon characters that Etihad has created for the kids activity kits.

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(Images: Etihad Airways)

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