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Welcome Aboard, Flying Nannies

Etihad Airway, the national airline of the United Arab Emirates, is bringing a "Flying Nanny" aboard long flights. Three hundred crew members have already completed training for the new role, while 60 more will be trained this month and by the end of the year 500 nannies will be in the air. Nannies are being educated by Norland College, concentrating their studies on child psychology and sociology.

Now what, exactly, does a Flying Nanny do? Just picture Mary Poppins, but give her an airplane instead of an umbrella. Well, for the most part. According to Etihad Airways vice president of guest services Audrey Tiedt, "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."

In practice, that means a lot of crafts, toys, projects and magic tricks. Flying Nannies pair with Etihad mascots like Zoe the bee, Jamool the camel, Kundai the lion and Boo the panda for long trips. Each nanny has a kit of supplies like stickers, straws and cardboard that kids can use for arts and crafts. The nannies also use random airplane items to make fun things, like hats from paper cups and origami from pieces of paper. Especially exciting: the promise of sock puppets. Quizzes, challenges and galley tours keep older kids occupied.

Our take on the Flying Nannies: It's a pretty sweet deal. While most airlines seem to be cutting costs at every corner, it's nice to see at least one not only expanding their offerings, but also making rides more kid-friendly. No parent wants to feel like her kids are bothering other passengers, and anything to help alleviate that feeling is more than welcome. We do hope, though, that the price of all these activities isn't going to be increasing our travel costs ... because to be honest, we're pretty good at entertaining our own kids with socks, stickers and paper cups. And we didn't need to take courses in child psychology to learn!

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