Abu Dhabi: Flying with screaming infants and restless toddlers can be a daunting experience for both parents and fellow passengers.
Ask Jeniffer Timmins, a Flying Nanny with Etihad Airways, and she will tell you how difficult it is to keep the little travellers from causing havoc on long-haul flights.
“They (children) can be the most demanding customers on board. I have to be at my creative best to keep them smiling,” said Canadian Timmins who is one among Etihad’s 700 Flying Nannies.
Etihad was the first airline in the world to offer the free Flying Nanny service in 2010. Today, each long-haul flight (more than six hours) has one or two flying nannies onboard.
These Mary Poppins in the sky are armed with all the tricks in the book to keep children in good humour from the moment they board till they disembark.
“Every child we deal with is different. Some like drawing and painting while others will want us to play with them or tell them stories,” said Timmins.
Trained by the UK’s world renowned Norland College (that has produced the likes of Prince George’s nanny Mary Borrallo), flying nannies can do anything from warming up milk bottles to lending a helping hand while changing baby nappies.
They are your kids’ best friends on board as they know how to keep them entertained with finger puppets and origami airplanes, paper craft and even face paint.
Training apart, one has to love children to be a flying nanny, says Ukrainian Slava Pavets. “I love babies and I love flying. So I have all the reasons to love my job,” said Pavets.
Another flying nanny, Rebecca Durrant from England, said she finds her job rewarding because children are selfless and give back a lot. “They are so adorable because of their innocence.”
“What we do is important and challenging because sometimes we have as many as 50 children in a flight,” said Durrant.
Linda Celestino, vice president, Guest Services at Etihad says the staff is well-trained in safety aspects while handling children.
Focus on safety
“During the two-week training, there is a lot of focus on safety and child psychology. Flying nannies are taught things like how to hold a baby or how to warm milk bottles properly,” said Celestino.
For many parents, the Flying Nannies service is their best reason to fly with Etihad.
“I will only fly Etihad thanks to the nannies on board. With a three-month-old infant and a three-year-old vying for my attention, I definitely need an extra hand in the plane,” said Janet Mupfawi, a young mother from Zimbabwe.
Flying with Etihad will become all the more fun for children with the launch of a new range of Etihad Explorers’ children’s activity packs last week that can also come in handy for nannies.
The pack on flights from Abu Dhabi includes a suitcase board game which parents and children can play together, a foam lion character, colour-in postcards etc for children aged between three and eight years.
For children between nine and 13 years, there is a more mature activity pack including puzzles, sudoku, mazes and lined notes.
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