Child Care Takes Flight With 'Flying Nannies'

Etihad Airways/Facebook

Mary Poppins will always be the original flying nanny, but she now has company thanks to Etihad Airways' new in-flight service that brings nannies aboard flights to entertain screaming babies and children.

Etihad Airways, the national airline of the United Arab Emirates, announced earlier this week that it plans to have 500 "Flying Nannies" working across the airline by the end of 2013 to lend a helping hand to parents traveling with children on long-haul flights, according to a news release.

During the past two months, 300 flight attendants completed training for the role, which includes courses on child psychology and sociology at the U.K.'s Norland College.

"The Flying Nanny will liaise with parents and use their experience and knowledge to make the travel experience easier," Aubrey Tiedt, airline vice president for guest services, said in the release. "This includes helping serve children's meals early in the flight and offering activities and challenges to help entertain and occupy younger guests."

Eileen Ogintz, who writes a nationally syndicated column about traveling with kids, says the new, free service will alleviate a lot of stress for parents.

"It could possibly be a game-changer. It's just a really smart idea and especially if you're going to have a parent who has more than one child or one parent has to take one child to the bathroom, or take care of one child," Ogintz said.

The Flying Nannies will be identified by their orange aprons and will be able to entertain the children with tours of the plane, arts and crafts, origami and magic tricks.

The introduction of the Flying Nannies comes one week after Scoot Airlines, a subsidiary of Singapore Airlines, offered to put passengers in a quiet zone away from children for an additional price.

"I think anything we can all do that makes travel a more pleasant experience for all of us," Ogintz said. "No one wants to be on a plane next to a crying, screaming kid."