Flying nannies. Why did it take so long?

Courtney Trenwith wonders why it took until 2013 for an airline to come up with the idea
By Courtney Trenwith
Tue 03 Sep 2013 03:54 PM

It was one of those ideas where as soon as you hear it you wonder how no one came up with it before. Nannies on board long haul flights to help keep rascals under control.

I can’t imagine how it has taken until 2013 for the first airline I’m aware of to launch flying nannies.  That was Abu Dhabi’s Etihad Airways earlier this week and the move could not have come soon enough.

I’m sure we’ve all walked on board a flight, found our seat and suddenly cringed at the sight – or more likely the sound – of a child - or worse, a baby – within earshot.

The problem with children on a plane is that unlike the fat bloke or the unhygienic teen, they don’t have to be seated next to you to be annoying. They could be several aisles away, even carefully placed in one of the hanging cots international flights often have these days.

Kids are damn good at ensuring their cries and screams, or general dislike of the world at that moment, are known by all on board.

It’s not always their fault. Not many of us enjoy being crammed into a stuffy plane for hours on end and the unfamiliar feeling of flying, not to mention take-off and landing, can be torturous for a youngster, particularly one still too young to comprehend what’s going on.

Often I feel sorry for the parents too. Dummies, bottles, video games, chocolate ... they don’t always work and I’m sure they want a break from the raucous as much as the rest of the plane does.

In a bid to help, Etihad said it had trained 300 flight attendants in child psychology and sociology to enable them to identify different types of child behaviour and developmental stages.

“The flying nanny will liaise with parents and use their experience and knowledge to make the travel experience easier. This includes helping serve children’s meals early in the flight and offering activities and challenges to help entertain and occupy younger guests,” Etihad vice president guest services Aubrey Tiedt said.

But I’m not yet convinced that flying nannies will be better able to silence unhappy, or pesky, kids that are not their own.

Which is why a better idea would be to segregate families from the rest of the plane, similar to business and first class. That way airlines could possibly even offer crèche services or have secure play areas.

Now that would surely make parents, kids and other passengers all much happier.

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