Behind the Scenes Nannies in the Sky

| December 20, 2013

Move over Mary Poppins, a new breed of high-flying nannies are taking to the skies – reports Compass editor Jennifer Cox.

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For many of us, the joy of travelling starts the minute we get on the plane. Kicking off our shoes, we flick through the inflight entertainment guide in delicious anticipation of the enforced indolence ahead. Unless, of course, we are travelling with children. In which case our journey probably starts with a frantic hunt through hand luggage in search of a sippy cup or that special teddy we fear may still be on the back seat of the car, all the while fervently praying our child isn’t the one to have a seat-kicking meltdown at 37,000ft.

So flying families – not to mention the adjacent passengers – may be interested to hear of a new scheme introduced on its long-haul service by United Arab Emirates-based Etihad Airways. Flying Nannies are sort of high-altitude Mary Poppins’: cabin crew who have been specially trained to help smooth the path of families and children travelling on their own.

It’s a scheme supported by Norland College: the prestigious Bath-based nanny school, which since being founded by Emily Ward in 1892, has trained more than 7,000 nannies. Beloved both of rock royalty and the real thing (both Mick Jagger and Princess Anne have hired Norland graduates), Norland College has contributed to a training programme for specially selected Etihad cabin crew, that includes studying child psychology, sociology and child development, as well as appreciating the perspective and needs of travelling families.

“Flying with a young family can be a daunting task, even for the most experienced travellers,” Etihad Airways’ vice president of guest services Aubrey Tiedt says of the new scheme. Going on to explain that the idea came from the cabin crew themselves, Tiedt says: “We’re a relatively young airline, only ten years old, and our 4,000 strong cabin crew are relatively young too. Many of them have a background in nannying or au pairing and are naturally attuned to the fact that airborne families appreciate extra help. They were keen to put their experience to good use.”

Etihad, with Norland, have already trained 300 flying nannies, with a further 200 expected to be trained by the end of 2013. Wearing special orange aprons to identify their child-friendly skills, the flying nannies will offer children a special boarding pack of materials for making simple arts and crafts, like a sock puppet or magic tricks. Flying nannies will also run quizzes, set challenges, and accompany older children to explore the plane during ‘quieter moments’ in the flight.

Etihad is keen to point out that the service is not an inflight crèche: nappies will not be changed or children minded. They will offer parents practical help though, like the option for their children’s meals to be served earlier in the flight. Ideally this will allow parents the luxury of curling up with the inflight entertainment. And the rest of the passengers more chance of enjoying it undisturbed.

About Etihad Airways
Etihad Airways, the national airline of the United Arab Emirates, began operations in 2003, and in 2012 carried 10.3 million passengers. From its hub at Abu Dhabi International Airport, Etihad Airways offers flights to destinations in the Middle East, Africa, Europe, Asia, Australia and the Americas. For more information,visit:

About Norland College
Norland College has been at the forefront of childcare training for over 120 years. Its trained early-years professionals are employed worldwide as Norland Nannies, Maternity Nurses, Nursery Nurses and in other positions in a variety of early-years settings. Find out more at:

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