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Airline launches 'flying nannies'

Rob Melnychuk | Photodisc | Getty Images

It's Mary Poppins on a plane! An airline has launched a new "flying nanny" service to provide in-flight child care to passengers.

The orange-smocked childcare helpers will be available on all of United Arab Emirates-based Etihad Airways long-haul flights for help with families with children or unaccompanied minors. The nannies will offer an extra pair of hands to help settle kids, age-appropriate games and activities, or advice and support for frazzled parents.

"Children's behavior is unpredictable," said an Etihad spokeswoman. "So of course having that helping hand onboard enhances that experience and enables them to enjoy that flight."

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"It's a dream come true for every parent," said Natalie Morales on the TODAY Show. "I can't wait until United Airlines gets it."

"I've got my own 'Flying Nanny,'" quipped Al Roker, "It's called the 'iPad mini.'"

Etihad has sent 300 crewmembers through the presitigious U.K. nanny training school, Norland College. The airline said it will have a stable of 500 Flying Nannies by the end of the year.

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Besides their training, the nannies will also come equipped with toys and arts and crafts projects to engage the children by, for instance, making animals and puppets out of cups and cardboard.

The program even has its own theme song:

There's a very special person you should know
She can take you anywhere you want to go
When you come up on the plane say hello
and she will take good care of you

Flying Nanny, Flying Nanny
She's your nanny in the air
Flying Nanny, Flying Nanny

She can take you anywhere
On the ground, up in the sky
You and flying nanny can fly
Far away, across the sea
To places where you love to be

Flying Nanny, Flying Nanny
She's your nanny in the air
Flying Nanny, Flying Nanny
She can take you anywhere!

(Children: yay!)

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The program was unveiled a week after the Singapore-based Scoot airlines announced it was creating special "Scoot in Silence" sections at the front of its cabins that ban anyone under 12. This year, AirAsia X introduced kid-free "Quiet Zones" on some of its aircraft. Last year and Malaysia Airlines booted all children from its upper decks and first class cabins.

By Ben Popken, TODAY.com/money.

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