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Babysitter on board: Etihad Airways has 'Flying Nannies'

10:18 PM, Sep 3, 2013   |    comments
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(USA TODAY) - Etihad Airways has come up with a new and unusual amenity: a Flying Nanny.

The national airline of the United Arab Emirates has launched a dedicated in-flight child assistance program for all travelers on long-haul flights regardless of which class they are flying in.

Dressed in a bright orange apron, the Flying Nanny will not be hard to find on the flight.

No word on whether the Flying Nanny can also be a Flying Manny. The airline did not say whether men can apply.

It's yet another sign of how airlines based in the Persian Gulf are luring travelers with over-the-top amenities and service. Emirates Airline, for instance, has two in-flight showers in the first class cabin of its Airbus A380.

In the past two months, Etihad has trained 300 crewmembers to take on the role. Another 60 will be trained this month. By the end of this year, there will be 500 Flying Nannies.

"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," said Aubrey Tiedt, Etihad Airways' vice president of guest services, in a written statement.

Adam Weissenberg, vice chairman and U.S. leader of Deloitte's travel, hospitality and leisure sector, says offering free child care on board is "very unusual, and very creative."

U.S. airlines could offer such an amenity, but they are at a disadvantage because they are not state-owned as Etihad and Emirates are. "It of course adds additional cost," Weissenberg says.

Flying Nannies will get training in child psychology and sociology from Norland College in England.

The nanny will help families with children as well as unaccompanied minors. She will also help regular crewmembers interact with families, serve kids' meals and come up with activities to entertain them, Tiedt said.

The nanny will come up with various arts and craft projects and activities to entertain the kids.

Straws, stickers and cardboard will be used to create greeting cards for friends and family. Paper cups will be turned into hats. The nanny will teach children origami with any disposable paper. During quiet times, the older kids will get tours of the gallery.

The nanny also will help the children make sock puppets using "stickers from the Flying Nanny kit as eyes and the socks from the guest's travel pack," the company said.

And she will teach them magic tricks.

But it won't all be fun and games. The nanny will come up with quizzes and challenges for the older kids.

When the flight is almost over, the nanny will help parents replenish milk bottles. And she will send them off with water, fruit and snacks.

Weissenberg says the perk won't necessarily sway travelers to choose Etihad over other airlines.

"At the end of the day travelers still look at price first," he says. "However, if prices are close or equal, perks like these could well sway a traveler's decision."

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