Etihad Wants Your Family to Fly Them Long Haul in Economy

Three years ago Etihad launched onboard nannies.

This isn’t a premium cabin benefit, it’s available even in coach, and the idea is to offer help with preparation of bassinets, to look after unaccompanied minors, and even keep children entertained while parents – economy passengers, no less – nap, eat, or watch a movie. Of course, the nanny spreads their time across all the families onboard so it’s not free unlimited babysitting to offload your kids for the duration of the flight.

Here’s how a nanny describes her job,

My role is to help every family have a smooth flight. I meet and greet all the lovely little VIPs with a special package that has coloring pencils, a book, cards for a fun game of memory, stickers and more. I help show the children how to navigate the movie menu for our kids’ club section.

I show mom how to block any other movies on our screens in case she falls asleep while her little angel is breaking bedtime rules. I am there to help any family to have an easier flight — whether that means to cater their meal times differently to our serving times, to distract the child with coloring competitions and other fun games while mom and/or dad take a break or even help mind the children while the single traveling parent takes restroom breaks and a quick stretch.

…I do not think that a cabin “class” of travel differentiates parenting skills or parenting nature. We are here to make the flight as enjoyable as possible for children and parents across all classes of service.

Credit: Etihad

Etihad has just announced new child activity packs and a Flying Nanny Kit.

  • On flights to Abu Dhabi: “a new collectable character bag for 3 to 8-year-olds contains an activity booklet, crayons, card games and a color-in mask.”

  • On flights departing Abu Dhabi: T”a unique suitcase board game which allows parents and children to play together, a foam lion character, color-in postcards, crayons, and a handy waterproof travel wallet.”

They have different packs, then, in each direction so kids don’t see the same thing both ways.

etihad flying nannies
Credit: Etihad

Nine to 13-year-olds get “Sudoku, mazes, lined notes and join-the-dot games” as well as “an Abu Dhabi-themed pencil case, pencil, a dual-function bookmark and ruler, and a notepad.” In December they’re launching a child’s menu as well.

Remember when airlines offered playing cards and captain’s wings? Etihad is signaling they want families onboard and want to be the preferred airline so that families choose them over other carriers, presumably especially over their cross-UAE rival Emirates. Their Abu Dhabi hub is just an hour’s drive from Dubai, the airport with more international passengers than any other in the world.

These are ‘little things’ in some sense, but competition is great. Flyers in the US ought to wish that competition here was legal and push for the elimination of US airline foreign ownership rules.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. @Josh: any reason? Realitically speaking, I am sure if you WERE paid a tidy sum AND given a FC ticket, you WOULD fly Etihad.

  2. The Flying Nanny is a complete fraud and pure marketing spin. Every time Etihad post anything on social media about the Nanny they are inundated with people commenting about how non-existant this service is. Everyone says exactly the same thing – the Nanny makes a brief introduction during boarding, then is not seen again for the rest of the flight. Its simply an FA in a nanny apron.
    Say there’s only 20 kids on a flight of 350 people. Its very naive to think that one person, with all the other things they have to do, is going to juggle the logistics of moving around the parents meal times and babysitting their kids while they eat/nap. Where is she supposed to take them? Create some giant creche in the galley? Have 10 kids running around while the FAs are trying to prepare a meal service, eat themselves or rest/gossip? There’s not some giant ball crawl down the back she can put them in.
    I imagine the Nannies have been trained that they cant do everything so probably spend an hour slowly painting a kids face while sipping coffee and snacking to show theyre ‘doing something’, then go on break.
    Flying Reimagined doesnt extend to economy on Etihad.

  3. @Ben — Well, of course most sophisticated travellers would assume that a flying nanny service is a bit like a flight attendant putting a chef’s hat and claiming there’s a chef on board (I’ve seen this on Turkish). It’s a gimmick, and is unlikely to live up to its promise in the real world. But, from a marketing standpoint, it’s a good gimmick. Look, you’ve got Etihad boosters like Gary writing about it. Mission accomplished!

    Of course, Gary is wrong to suggest that this is a good argument for allowing further access by the massively subsidized Middle East airlines into the USA aviation market. Even if the nanny service was real (which, as you say, it’s not), it wouldn’t make any business sense to offer this product to coach passengers. It’s neither needed nor cost effective. I mean, we’d all love there to be a little enclosed daycare center in the back of every flight where crying and kicking little ones could be sequestered and entertained. But there’s no money in this, and nobody will pay for it. It’s no different than the Dom Perignon being served and other extravagant frills being offered by the Mideast airlines. It’s not a signal that these airlines have built a better mousetrap, but rather a signal that their heavy subsidies make it impossible for for-profit carriers to compete against them. It’s great to redeem frequent flyer miles to get this service, but it’s not so great for American to lose their jobs because their companies can’t compete against such nonsense.

  4. Completely agree with Ben. Etihad nannies are non existent and do nothing after the intro. Pure marketing stunt.

    And having flown in F a few times, the onboard chef is also a gimmick. They make it sound Iike the chef can whip up anything. Rubbish.

    Etihad is a marketing and lifestyle company- not an airline. And they don’t live up to the lifestyle marketing – except paying millions to Nicole Kidman (another Australian like the CEO and Danii Minogue who is also an ambassador for the airline) and for Fashion shoots.

  5. Recently flew Etihad with our family of 4 from CDG-AUH, and then AUH-IAD. (2 in first and 2 in bus) On both flights the nanny introduced herself during boarding and handed out lil bags of goodies. That kept them busy for a little bit. on the AUH-IAD flight, we never saw the nanny again. on the CDG-AUH flight, the Nanny spent a lot of time with the kids and even did face painting. My son and I were in business, but it was very nice to have my son up in my daughters suite for almost an hour with the nanny while i relaxed and even my wife who was in the suite next to my daughter could relax. It was similar involvement from their personal chef. On the CDG flight, the chef was great making several cakes for them and other fun foods to just try. but on the IAH flight, the chef was more about getting food served and not quite as creative.

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