Paris, First Class, International and View from the Top. Do you remember that movie about a dream of becoming a flight attendant and then having to choose between love and career?
So, let’s have a glimpse into real-life flight attendant’s life (sorry for the tautology 🙂 ). A friend of mine agreed to answer loads of questions relating to – I hope – all aspects of his job. Well, I tried to avoid asking overly personal questions 🙂 Let’s start with the things every passenger is worried about.
Interview with a flight attendant
Clean water and clean plane
There is a rumor going around that the water for coffee/tea served on board is far from being clean. Is it true? Where do you get the water from? Is it tap water or bottled?
Well, obviously it’s not bottled water…where would you keep all those bottles for 500 passengers on board? 🙂 Yes, we do have bottles of water which we serve as a cold drink, but hot drinks are prepared using tap water which is safe to drink. I cannot talk about its purity/cleanliness as I am not an expert in this field, but I do drink the same tea/coffee on board as our customers.
A very important question for germophobes: how well is the plane cleaned and disinfected?
Trays are wiped and floors are vacuum cleaned after each sector. Air conditioning is working all the time so that there is no humidity and molds. Pillow cases and headrest covers get changed after every flight as well as the clean blankets in sealed plastic bags are loaded for all flights.
P. S. If you talk about germophobes than I would say there is nothing perfectly clean in this world, but we still do our best to keep our working environment as clean as possible.
Passengers on board
I am pretty sure not every person you greet on board is lovable and mannerly. Who is your ‘worst passenger’ and what did he/she do to deserve this honour?
Since fire is the worst scenario you can encounter on a flight, I would say that a lady traveling in Business Class and smoking a cigarette in her seat was my winner of this “honour”. Apparently after having a few double Jack Daniel’s whiskeys she became so drunk that couldn’t differentiate the reality from her dreams.
P.S. Smoking onboard is against UAE law.
Mommies with kids. Do you usually pay more attention them? Is that ok to ask for your help or extra things if they need anything?
Well, to my opinion as a mother I would make sure that I have all the required staff with me for the flight for my baby… But as a cabin crew we still have some baby food and baby toys available on all flights.
Animals on board: how do you feel about it? And what about care dogs? Do you have to clean after them?
On my flights so far I’ve never seen any of those… And about the care dogs it’s the responsibility of the owner to clean after the dog.
What about the mile high club? Any members during your flights?
Haven’t caught myself, but have heard a few stories from my colleagues… and one of the most famous ones was D.A. Maradona having sex with his young girlfriend in a First Class suite.
Plane lands safely, and happy passengers start applauding. Is it acceptable? I have heard that pilots find claps distracting.
Pilots cannot really hear what is going on inside the cabin. There is a bullet proof door which I’m sure is noise cancellation too. By the way, passengers only applaud on certain destinations, like Russia.
What does a passenger have to do to get invited to the cockpit? Is it possible on any flight? What is the pilots’ reaction?
Nowadays it is prohibited for any passenger to visit the flight deck at any phase of the flight as well as on the ground. It is a security measure.
Do you offer any free upgrades on board, like moving a passenger from economy to business? And if you do, how to get these upgrades?
No, we don’t offer/promote any kind of free upgrades from one cabin to another. You can pay for upgrade by cash or using Skywards miles.
How to become a flight attendant
Let me get curious about the recruitment process. When it is comes to the appearance, does the height and good looks matter?
Good appearance always matters. And when it comes to height we need to be able to reach 212 cm in height.
Any age or education requirements? Does one have to have Master’s or PhD degree?
As long as you are minimum 21 years old, have graduated from a university and fluently speak English then it is more than enough to be qualified for a cabin crew job. Of course, if you are calm under pressure, have a similar job experience, speak other languages and willing to face the challenge then it is a big plus.
Does it matter what country the applicant comes from?
We have cabin crew from over 150 countries with the average of 12 different nationalities on board who speak 9 to 18 languages among them.
Perks of being a flight attendant
Let’s get to the best part 🙂 It is a widely held belief that flight attendants have enough free time to see the cities their job takes them to. Is that your case? How much time do you usually get to spend in a city before heading back?
We have some flights as turnarounds on which we stay on board the aircraft and some as layovers where we stay in hotels 24-48 hours. During your stay at a layover station it’s up to you how you wish to spend that time, which of course enables you to go for sightseeing.
Which airport is your favorite and which one is the worst? Why?
Hard to make a choice. I would say I like the ones where we just need to show our ID and don’t like the ones where after a long and tiring flight we still need to stay in a long queue in order to get our passports stamped before we proceed to the crew bus.
What is the favorite place you have been so far and why?
I really liked Rio de Janeiro. The city feels full of life. So many people are fit, playing different games by the beach, jogging and dancing. I’ve been there only once, but felt like I need a week to explore the city and favelas.
Have you ever received any goodies from passengers? How do you feel about it? Are small gifts like chocolate and candies welcome or it is totally creepy?
Of course we receive a lot of goodies from passengers. Most of the time our own staff traveling as a passenger or staff from other airlines give crew some candies or boxes of chocolates during boarding… because only they know how we really feel about our job and how much difference can a simple candy make to put that smile back on your face. Once in a while you also meet some rich people traveling in premium cabins who buy crew perfumes from our onboard duty free. I mean all these gifts, be that a chocolate or perfume are mostly welcome by crew, as we really work hard all the time to make someone’s day, and when someone makes the same gesture to you, we really appreciate it and get extra motivation to “shine” onboard.
What it means to be a flight attendant
When it comes to meals, do you bring your own food or get to choose from the menu of economy class passengers?
We have crew meals loaded for us, but once the meal service is over we can choose from any meals from any cabin. If the flight is short, meaning less than 4-5 hours, I don’t really eat on board, just have 1-2 cups of tea and that’s more than enough for me.
I have heard some flight attendants to complain that they are treated like waiters while safety is their main priority. What do you think about it? Have you ever encountered inappropriate behavior towards yourself?
This is a common situation on every flight. You rarely meet someone who really appreciates our job. Most of the time people just want to eat and drink (a lot) on board… even when there is turbulence or any other concern of safety… people still press the call bell and ask for more and more drinks and complain if they don’t get our attention straight away… forgetting that we are human beings as well and rules are the same for everybody and we need to comply with them as well.
Regarding myself, I prefer to keep things simple and straightforward… and always put the safety of myself, crew, passengers and aircraft before the service. I am not there to teach anybody manners, but when it comes to safety the service can wait or even be canceled.
Delays. Everybody hates them. What are the common reasons for delays? Has it ever happened that a delay was a flight attendant’s fault?
The most common reason for a delay is the weather. If it is too foggy, very heavy rain/snow or strong wind….all these weather conditions make it not safe for an aircraft to take off or land on time. The other reasons can be offloading bags of those customers’ who didn’t show up for the flight or for any other reason have to leave the aircraft. When we talk about flight attendant’s fault; well, theoretically everything is possible, but in reality as long as there is no safety or security concern as well as medical incident, then the aircraft will most likely depart. For instance, if a crew has left his/her laptop/phone in the hotel it obviously cannot be a reason for a delay. In this case you inform the ground staff, they contact the hotel and if they find the item they will send it to the owner with the next crew.
We need to understand that nobody is happy about delays. When there is a delay for any possible reason the airlines pay huge fines. It depends on how long the delays are, but in general when we talk about huge fines we mean millions of dollars. Air space is extremely busy and it takes a lot of effort, time and calculations to make sure the routes are clear. And once there is a short change on one route it might affect several other routes as well.
Is that true that flight attendants are paid only when the plane departs? Or do you get anything for the work you do before the take-off?
Speaking about our company, yes we do get paid only once the aircraft starts moving for take-off till the final stop after landing. Some airlines start paying from the moment you sign in for the duty, which is two hours before departure. I hope one day this rule applies to our airline as well 🙂
A big secret for everyone who flies: what do flight attendants do when no one sees them? 🙂
They have party in the galley 🙂 Well, once the service is over we grab the chance to have some food, gossip and rest a bit.
With safety being your main priority, I guess you should know how to deal with fire, abusive passengers, terrorists (God forbid!). Do you receive special training?
Exactly, safety of ourselves, aircraft and passengers is our priority that’s why we are being trained accordingly and have to refresh our knowledge minimum once per year for two days.
Obviously I cannot disclose all the secrets, but we are well trained on how to act/react in various situations, be that a medical case, disruptive passenger or a bomb threat.
Let’s get practical. Do you have any jet lag tips?
Just stay fit, rest properly before and after the flight, be positive and enjoy what you are doing J
Flight attendants are notorious for packing light. Do you usually have a carry-on only? What do you pack?
I don’t know who says so, but I cannot agree with that. For turnaround flights we have our cabin bags, and for layover flights we carry our suitcases as well, which have more than enough space for all your needs. Obviously if you shop a lot on your layover one suitcase is never enough, but to satisfy your basic needs. Also, on exceptional cases you can ask for Captain’s permission to carry an extra cabin bag.
Ideally we need to carry a spare set of uniform in our suitcases, but I doubt anybody does so. Myself, I only carry clean shirts for each sector, and some shorts/trousers, T-shirts and a pair of snickers or slippers depending on the weather at outstation.
What do you like and what do you hate about your job?
I like that I have a chance to travel and see the world with my own eyes, not from TV or other media sources which are full of fake information. I hate ultra-long flights during which it’s hard to get a proper rest that your body requires and the passengers demand is very high.
A personal question. Why did you become a flight attendant? Anything special that made you consider this job? And what would make you quit?
I became a flight attendant because at that time it was the best option available. I was looking for a job abroad related to tourism and hospitality management as I just graduated from that field. It was a desperate period of time for me and I am glad I was lucky enough to be able to attend and pass the interview.
If I find a job that offers me better salary and medical insurance as well as children education support then I will consider quitting my current job. Or if I win a million dollars lottery then I will open my own business and enjoy my life by playing football as this is the only thing I’m really passionate about.