We catch up with Etihad Airway’s Olivia Walsh to find out what it takes to be a nanny of the skies.
Why did you decide to become a flying nanny?
I always wondered what the life of an air hostess was like growing up. I imagined lots of glamour and a significant opportunity to travel. Looking back now, I didn’t think I’d be able to have such an exciting job. I’ve had a great opportunity and really lived every moment.
What does the training involve?
All of Etihad’s flying nannies are actually trained cabin crew, but some of us receive extra training, which is approved by Norland College, a world-renowned childcare and training institution.
Our training is centered on making the flying experience as comfortable as possible for the whole family. We learn how to support the needs of children of all ages while flying, and how to identify the different development stages that children go through.
What does your average day involve?
The job has a slight element of surprise, which I like. My job is to be mum and dad’s second pair of eyes and ears throughout the flight. I have the same responsibilities of service and safety to our guests as my cabin crew colleagues. The main difference is that I’m the first point of contact with the children and can have a bit more fun with them.
What are the quirkiest activities you lay on?
I’d say the hand puppets in our goody bags; we often have children who like to put on a mini performance for their parents with them!
The magic tricks never fail to wow the children, and I love the face painting kit.
How do you keep the older children occupied?
It’s easier as they know exactly what they want to do and they become immersed in our activity packs and the movie selection we have onboard. They’re also really helpful when travelling with younger siblings; they try to keep them occupied, too.
How do you reassure a child who is scared of flying?
Methods of distraction always work – I give them something to keep them busy, whether it’s a drawing task or a movie. I’ve never had an encounter that I haven’t been able to resolve and I’m confident to say I’m good with children. You just need to build an understanding with them.
What’s the most enjoyable part of the job?
It’s not a Monday to Friday nine-to-five job. We have flight days and days off, so I’m actually getting more days off than in many other jobs.
I meet new people on a daily basis, which also means I make a lot of new friends very quickly. I get paid to travel the world. Not only am I meeting people from all corners of the globe, discovering new cultures and cities, but I’m also earning a living doing what I love. When you do what you love it doesn’t feel like work.
What’s the downside?
Letting go of the set routine was the hardest part for me at first.
What’s been your best moment as a flying nanny?
The best memories are often when there’s a special occasion in the air: a child’s birthday, for example. I love being able to go the extra mile to help them celebrate, surprising them with a cake and designing our time around their favourite activities to make sure that they never forget their day.
Abu Dhabi; I love the glitz and glamour of its hotels and dazzling sights, but you can also soak up the rich history and culture through its museums, galleries and local markets.