Long-haul with tots? Etihad’s ‘flying nanny’ service could be the answer to your prayers
By Carolynne Dear, a frequent-flyer and expat mum-of-four (and still alive to tell the tale).
Flying with little ones can be challenging, especially over long distances. Having covered most of the globe with toddlers and babies myself, I can atest to long-haul with littlies being one of the toughest challenges of expat life.
Counting down the minutes between Hong Kong and London with a hyper-active three-year-old and a breast-feeding six-month-old did make me question my life-choices somewhat. Maybe I should move ‘home’? Maybe I should buy a little cottage by the sea and NEVER SET FOOT ON A PLANE AGAIN?
But of course a few days (ok, maybe weeks) after the trip, all is forgotten and so the cycle of life 10,000 miles away from family begins again.
But despite the distances covered, I have never been able to successfully solve the mystery of keeping a small child amused for several hours in a confined space.
And so I was intrigued to learn that Etihad runs a nanny service on its flights. Of course my first thought was, who on earth would be foolhardy enough to want to do that for a living?
Well, the lovely Amy Denise, for one. Having flown frequently as a child herself, she has now taken on the role of ‘flying nanny’ with the carrier. I caught up with her between flights to find out just what sort of Mary Poppins-style magic she casts at 33,000 feet.
So what does your job involve?
My role is to make sure families have the best flight experience as possible. Yes, it can be challenging travelling with children, but I am there to help. When I was younger, I was lucky enough to travel frequently with my family, so I came to this role very used to airports and flying.
What sort of age range do you look after?
The full spectrum. From newborns, right up to 12 year olds.
And is this a service just for premium class passengers?
Not at all. Anyone who is flying with Etihad can use the nanny service. We try our best to introduce ourselves to every family on-board.
So what tricks do you have for engaging children at 33,000 feet?
Sometimes it can be as simple as taking children on a little walk around the aircraft so they don’t feel too confined to their seat. We hand out children’s activity packs to keep them entertained, and we also have a flying nanny kit. For example, we can sit down with little ones and draw pictures or make a card to send to people they may be visiting. The kit also contains things like stickers and pom-poms which the children love.
What advice do you have for parents about to jump on a long-haul flight?
Make sure you bring snacks – the healthier the better so that they can still sleep – and also toys. These help to tire the child out so that they can hopefully sleep during the flight. And while they can be costly, kid’s travel accessories can be worth the money for long-haul. I see a lot of children carrying i-pads, which seem to be great for entertainment and gaming. However, I would not advice them on a night-flight as it’s harder for children to ‘switch off’.
And do you have any hacks for jet-lag?
The best way to deal with jet-lag is to try and get the child adjusted straight away to the time zone they’re travelling to. And don’t worry if it takes a couple of days or two for them to get back to their normal selves after landing, it’s perfectly normal.
What do you enjoy most about your job?
I really love engaging with guests and families in general, discussing where they’re travelling to and what they’re excited about. I also get asked a lot about my life in the UAE (Unite Arab Emirates). Service on a flight is a given, but guests enjoy that extra conversation. It’s nice to build a rapport and it’s very satisfying when they leave the flight smiling.
Etihad is the second-largest airline in the UAE. It operates more than 1,000 flights per week to destinations in the Middle East, Asia, Africa, Euope, Australia and the Americas from its hub at Abu Dhabi International Airport, including both Hong Kong and Singapore international airports.