x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 20 January 2018

First-class nanny in the sky

Day in the Life: After spotting a Gulf Air advertisement in a Polish newspaper a few years ago, Anna Jacobs landed a job as a flight attendant. She has also received training to become a Sky Nanny. This is what her day looks like.

Anna Jacobs helps to tend to high-flying young ones as a "sky nanny" flight attendant for Gulf Air. Phil Weymouth // The National
Anna Jacobs helps to tend to high-flying young ones as a "sky nanny" flight attendant for Gulf Air. Phil Weymouth // The National

After spotting a Gulf Air recruitment advertisement in a local Polish newspaper more than seven years ago, Anna Jacobs, 38, landed a job as a junior flight attendant. Two years later, she was promoted to Falcon Gold cabin crew - Gulf Air's premium class - flying on both short- and long-haul flights. She has also received training to become a Sky Nanny, a childcare service Gulf Air introduced in 2002. When she is on the 8.30am flight from Bahrain to London, this is what her day looks like.


I get up. I try to have breakfast at home: coffee and croissant, or coffee and toast with jam - something light. We have a trolley bag, a briefcase and a suitcase, so what I take with me depends on the flight. If I am going for a short flight in the Middle East, I just take my briefcase or trolley. If it's London or somewhere with a night stop, we have to take pyjamas and toiletries so I pack a suitcase. I pack the evening of the day before. I like to be organised so I do not forget anything.


I arrive at the Gulf Air headquarters for our briefing. They ask us safety, security and first aid questions to make sure we are prepared. We need to be on the aircraft at least one hour before departure to prepare everything. Every crew [member] has a different duty. When we [the Sky Nannies] board the aircraft, we check the babycots to ensure they are clean and work. We then meet the passengers at the gate and help them as much as we can, carrying bags and equipment for the parents rather than holding the small babies - so they don't panic. They can cry and be scared. After boarding is complete, we ask the parents about the child's meal - when they would like it served, what kind of juice or drinks they'd like. The meal service comes about two hours into the flight and that can be a bit long for children to wait.


After take-off, the parents can put the infant in the babycot. We brief the parents. In case of turbulence, they have to take the baby out. If the children want to eat, we cook the meals straight away. It's chicken or spaghetti or burgers - but small and bite-sized. That takes about 20 minutes. We prepare the Gulfy special boxes, which are special containers with bite-sized pieces of food that are healthy as well as appealing to kids. Gulfy was the mascot, but he has been killed off. Now it's just his name that remains. We also carry extra boxes so that if parents don't know about the children's meals we can at least put a regular meal in a Gulfy box. Children get upset when they see other kids getting one. We have nice toys for the kids. We recently launched the Kids Packs, which are backpacks and satchels for different age groups containing games, activities, sticker books, teddy bears and hats. We play with the kids who are not sleeping. I like playing with kids. I don't have kids of my own but I have friends who have babies and my niece in Poland, who is now nine years old. She is coming to visit me in Bahrain soon, inshallah.


As a crew member, I also have normal duties for the rest of the passengers. We monitor the cabin, the toilets and the safety and security procedures. There is no [schedule] during the flight. If somebody needs us we are available. If a parent wants to go to the bathroom with an older child and the infant is in the carrycot then I am there to keep an eye on it.


An hour before landing, everyone starts waking up so we are serving them again. The duty as the Sky Nanny lasts all through the flight.


We arrive in London. The hotel, The Park Inn, is next to the airport. Usually I try to sleep as much as I can. Sometimes I go shopping. It's really a pleasure to work with the kids though it can be difficult in the space we have so we have to improvise. Even after seven-and-a- half years, it's something different. More often than not, it's a pleasant experience. They are so happy when they get the toys and you have the appreciation of the parents.