We are reviewing 30 of the world’s leading international airlines for their family-friendliness. Our reviews cover the airline’s policies and service offerings that the average family will deal with when flying standard economy class. For more details on the Globetrotters reviews and ratings referenced, please see the lead article.
Etihad is one of the world’s youngest but most rapidly expanding international airlines, now the third largest in the Middle East with an enormous new hub due to open in Abu Dhabi in 2017 (right on the Globetrotters doorstep!). It excels particularly with its business and first class passengers, winning numerous awards in these categories, but what do they have to offer for the average family flier in economy?
Base: Abu Dhabi – UAE
Alliances: Etihad Airways Partner
Skytrax Rating 2015: 6
JACDEC Safety Rating 2015: 10
Trip Advisor Rating: 49%
Etihad Pregnancy Policy
Travel is unrestricted up to 28 weeks. From the beginning of the 29th week to the end of the 36th week expectant mothers must submit at check-in a doctor/midwife’s letter stating they are fit to fly (issued not more than 7 days before); From the 37th week you will not be accepted for travel.
In the case of a multiples pregnancy, a doctor/midwife’s letter is required between the 29th to 32nd week, from the 33rd week you will not be accepted for travel.
The airline recommends avoiding air travel for 7 days after delivery.
Infants (under 2 years)
Each adult can only be responsible for one infant for which they will pay an infant fare. Any additional infants or if you require the child to use their own seat, you must pay a child’s fare. Your own child’s seat is permitted to be brought on board if it meets safety standards for children 6 months to 36 months.
A limited supply of infant meals are kept on board but they suggest to bring your own and staff can warm meals and bottles for you.
Strollers are permitted to be brought to the gate before being stowed, or you can use the free stroller service at Abu Dhabi International Airport.
Etihad Baby Bassinets
Infant bassinets are designed to hold babies below 10 months or 10kg. You must pre-book these as they are given out on a first-come basis so book early (note you cannot book these seats online, if you try to call and book they will tell you they can only note it on their systems and the bulkhead seats will be allocated once you arrive at the airport).
Children (2-11 years)
For children aged 3 to 12 (don’t worry, they’ll give them to the younger ones too!) there are kids packs available themed around the airline’s mascots Zoe, Jamool, Kundai and Boo. In addition, they have an extensive in-flight entertainment menu “The Kids Club” with around 30-60 games (depending on the aircraft), TV shows, movies and music suited to the junior audience. Parents can block any content they find inappropriate.
Kids meals must be ordered 24 hours in advance and will be served in priority in brightly coloured packs, in keeping with the airlines Kids Club theme and mascots.
Children under five must be travelling with a person over 18 years old and pay a child’s fare, approximately 75% of the adult fare.
Pre-flight when leaving from Abu Dhabi there are a few children’s entertainment options available. For those able to access Etihad lounges, Family Rooms are available with qualified nannies supervising so children may be left to play. In the main Abu Dhabi Airport Terminal 3 (near gate 32) there is also a free children’s play area suitable to those under 6 years old and breastfeeding and baby change facilities.
Etihad Flying Nanny
Etihad’s unique selling point for families is their “Flying Nanny” service. They are the first to come out with such a bold statement of their family-friendliness but don’t get too over-excited, it is not a stop-and-drop service at the back of the plane!
According to their marketing materials, the job of the flying nanny is to “help children get settled, keep them entertained or offer support and advice to parents”. The Nanny’s training is approved by renowned UK nanny college Norland.
Now this all looks good on paper, but I guess it really depends on your flight route and staff member on any given day, as well as how many other families are on board for what sort of service you will get – see our personal experience from more than a dozen flights in the Globetrotters Review below.
Note this is not a service that you book, it is part of the standard service now on all long-haul flights. The Flying Nanny should introduce herself at the start of the flight to any families on board, you will identify her from the orange apron. The Flying Nanny’s activities with the children (supposedly) include arts and crafts, hand puppets, drawing competitions, face painting and magic tricks.
Children between 5 years old but younger than 12 years old may travel as UM’s. Children’s between 12 years old but under 16 years old may travel alone but parents can request the UM service.
Where the UM service is used the child must pay for a full adult fare. Fares can be booked online but you must then print and complete a UM form and submit back to your local booking office or head office UM email, the airline will contact you within 24 hours to confirm information is correct.
If flights are operated by a code share partner you will need to check age limits and conditions directly with that carrier.
On most routes the standard baggage allowance for adults and children is bags with a total weight of 30kg in economy. Infants are allowed 1 bag up to 10kg. (Additional limits for stowed infant equipment is not specified but we have never had a problem with addition strollers, car seats, carry-cots).
Exceptions are routes to the Americas, adults and children may take up to 2 bags of 23kg each (Brazil 32kgs) and infants one bag of 23kg.
When an infant is carried in a cot or car seat, bedding, napkins, feeding bottles and food for the journey may be carried on board up to an additional 5kg. Etihad Guest passengers and those flying up the pointy end get additional checked baggage allowances too.
Frequent Flyer Programs
Children from age 2 can be registered in the Etihad Guest program. Etihad offer family membership where each family member registers individually but all points can be pooled into a single account. A Family Head is nominated and up to eight family guests can join (NB they do not have to be direct relations of the family head, nor live in the same household).”
Our Globetrotters View
We fly with Etihad most often as they are less than a 10-minute drive from our home – but not always the cheapest, and despite their claims of winning best airport, not always the most user-friendly – it is incredibly busy and growing by the day. A lot of flights do not land at the terminal building and you need to take the bus back to the terminal; the move to the new Midfields Terminal is desperately needed!
As an airline though we have received better than average service, good kids packs (though they are getting old and boring now and haven’t been replaced for many, many years). Staff have always tried to be attentive to our family needs, rearranging seating where possible. I am yet to be convinced on the
I am yet to be convinced on the Flying Nannies, however. Conceptually heading the right way and a great initiative, but I have found them of limited help on most flights. We had one wonderful experience flying to Perth, right at the end of the flight they did face painting and gave the kids crowns and cards, but generally speaking when I travel with my husband I seem to get less than a cursory glance.
(Update: I recently travelled with all 3 on my own from Perth to Abu Dhabi, along with a family travelling with 4 small children behind me and we received absolutely no extra service).
I am nit-picking a little as we do travel with them so frequently, they do bring kids meals out in advance, but like so many airlines can they not clear the trays away a little earlier too? So many times I have been trapped along with bouncing infants and have taken tidying up into my own hands.
I also love the concept of the free airport strollers, but too often we have arrived at the far end of Terminal 3 and had to walk the entire way back to baggage claim carrying infants, looking forlornly at the empty racks where the strollers should be (Update: yes this just happened again in August when I tried to get to passport control with three very sleepy tots in the middle of the night, on my own).
All in all though, they are an airline I would recommend for families – particularly if you’re lucky enough to be sitting up the pointy end and access the lounges – but economy passengers are not entirely forgotten. The Etihad Guest frequent flyer family pooling system is arguably one of the best in the world.
Disclaimer: The information provided on this page should be used as a guide only. It has been gathered from public sources and correct at the time of going to print (updated May 2017). Please consult the airline’s own website before booking any family travel with this airline. This review is not an endorsement of Etihad Airways services and I am in no way affiliated with the airline.
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Have you flown pregnant or with infants/children on Etihad? Do you have a review or advice to share with travelling families?
If you’re looking into travel via the UAE, don’t forget to check out our page Discover the UAE, full of ideas for day trips and activities in the capital Abu Dhabi, Dubai & beyond – especially with kids!!
© Our Globetrotters
Some pictures courtesy Etihad Airways