Anyone who has travelled with young children will know the feeling. That moment where you step on board the aircraft to see the heads of fellow passengers turn and their eyes narrow. Please don’t sit next to me, is the collective prayer.
You shush the smallest noise from your offspring as you take your seats fast and send silent prayers to the gods of air travel that they won’t be poorly during the flight. Or worse, bored.
It’s a sad fact that many with young families are anxious about air travel because of potential hostility they may experience on board. That’s why parents and grandparents planning to fly with children should consider Etihad, which has a little-known service dubbed the ‘Flying Nanny’.
On every long-haul flight (more than six-and-a-half hours) there will be a stewardess who has been trained at the prestigious Norland College.
The Etihad nannies are marked out by their slightly different uniforms – an orange pinafore that’s hard to miss – and their job is to help you and your children enjoy the flight.
And the service is free. Once you are settled in your seats, the nanny will introduce herself to you and your children and offer to help at various points during the flight.
You’ll soon find that these nannies have myriad ways to help keep your youngsters entertained. Our two little ones were invited to draw their dream plane and, as a reward, were allowed to visit the pilot in the cockpit. Nanny will also bring toys and activity packs – my children staggered off the flight laden with so much swag they looked as if they had been on an Etihad edition of Crackerjack.
And, of course, staff will arrange their meals. Children are offered a choice from their own menu (after checking about allergies) and then brought their food whenever they want.
The nanny will organise meal times too, so that one parent can eat while the other watches the children, or feed everyone together (and early too – a nice bonus for adults).
Perhaps you prefer the children to be fed first and then – with your permission – the nanny will take them to meet the captain, so you can take your time over a meal and a restorative G&T.
They are also trained in paediatric first aid. On our flight, I saw the nanny help a mother travelling solo with a poorly two-year-old, dispensing Calpol and monitoring the child’s temperature.
With Etihad now flying from the UK all over the world, it will be our top choice for future trips. It’s not often parents can start their holiday as relaxed as they will be on their return.