This is one of many True Story interviews in which we talk to people who have experienced interesting/challenging/amazing things. This is the story of Louise and her work as a flight attendant.
Tell us a bit about yourself!
Hi Y & Y’ers! I’m Louise from Auckland New Zealand – I currently live in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. I work for a major Middle Eastern airline based out of Dubai as a flight attendant, and when I’m not flying I like taking photos, sleeping (a lot!) reading on my ebook reader (currently working on Lolita
– I feel like I’m one of the last people to have read this!), and when I’m in the mood cooking yummy food for my roomie/flatmate and I. I also spend a lot of time on the internet, and skyping my beautiful husband Chris and my big fluffball cat Rufus, who are still in New Zealand. I’m the ripe old age of 24. I also have a small baby of a blog
that I’m mostly updating with photos of my trips.
How did you become interested in being a flight attendant?
It’s something I’ve always been interested in, as I love to travel and see different parts of the world, but had not really researched a lot into working for local airlines in New Zealand, like Air New Zealand, Jetstar, Pacific Blue, or the major Australian airline Qantas. A customer of mine at my old retail job told me about this particular airline doing a big recruitment day in Auckland, and I went along for it because it was on my day off and I was kind of interested – and here I am!
What’s the application/interview/training process like?
It was quite intense. The open day I attended was a long day; it started at 9am on the nose. Around 120 of us turned up, and there were two people from the human resources/recruitment department to go through us and select us all. We had to demonstrate working in teams together through two or three different exercises, discussions, debates. We were slowly whittled down to 24 by around 10pm that night.
The final interview itself was about your experience in the customer service sector, how you interact with colleagues, how you ensure safety, how you deal with difficult/disruptive customers or clients. I went home that day thinking I’d blown it!
Four weeks later, I got the call from Dubai saying I had the job! I had around three-ish months to get all the documents I needed for my residency visa in the UAE, do medical exams and get jabbed for every imaginable disease on earth, to finish my old job and move out of the house we were in into my sister-in-law’s house for my last few weeks in Auckland, not to mention packing my life into 50kilos worth of baggage to bring to Dubai. The last few months went by very quickly.
The training was around 2 months, and covered everything – safety and emergency procedures, first response medical training, security, and then service training. We did things like do evacuations out of simulators, fight fires in a fire fighting simulator, slide into a pool to simulate a ditching, service routines in another simulator with the real galleys (kitchens) and ovens, and a self-defense class where we learned how to restrain a disruptive passenger. We are safety officers, bar staff, waiters/waitresses, nurses, all in one cute package!
What are the biggest misconceptions surrounding flight attendants?
That it is an easy job. Yes, some aspects are easy, like doing the meal and drink services, but it is not an easy ride job. You are working all hours, 40,000 feet in the air, and sometimes very long hours. Not only do you have to know how to serve the meals and the drinks, you have to know where every single bit of medication is on board, and what it’s for. You have to know what to do if a fire breaks out on board, and where all of the fire fighting equipment is. You have to know what to do if there is an emergency and you’re landing on water or on land, and how to survive in all those conditions.
That air hostesses are just trolley dollies/air heads. There are lots of colleagues I have flown with who are studying outside of their job for degrees in business or marketing and bring their study with them on layovers, others who have small businesses on the side, or some who have their Masters or PhD’s! We also have to work and train hard for our flying licenses, and resit exams for them every six months to a year to keep our licenses – if you don’t pass the training or exams, you don’t fly!
Why did you choose to work for your airline over other airlines?
One of the reasons I work for the airline is because of its great network of destinations. We have an amazing network, and I’ve been to some wonderful destinations because of this job. I get some pretty damn cool perks, like paid for company accommodation, lovely hotels at my layovers (I’m working on how to get the beds from some of those hotels home…), discounts at various retail outlets, restaurants, coffee places and some hotels around the world, as well as car rental, other airlines, and our own awesome discounts on my airline. We also have some of the highest safety standards in aviation, it is something taken very seriously by the company.
Can you tell us about your most memorable flight?
Every flight is memorable for different reasons, whether it is the destination, your colleagues, the passengers, the events on board. However, the crew that all got together on a trip to Amsterdam, bought me cake and wine and brought it to me in my hotel room were amazing… and flying with them all was like working with colleagues you’ve worked with since you started.
Do you see yourself doing this for the long term?
It’s hard to say. This job is very demanding on body and mind – spending the majority of our time at 40,000 feet is hard enough, and the job itself is quite physical. You also deal with jet lag every single day, and sleeping when you get home (at 11am?!). So at the moment, I’m taking it one day at a time. But I have only been flying three months, and I’m excited at what will come next!
What advice would you give to other who are interested in becoming flight attendants?
Research the possible airlines you would like to work for, and why you want to work for them – is it just a job to pay the bills or is it for you to be paid to see the world? Look at their route maps, at where they are based, and their training system. Some airlines will employ you and pay you while you train, others will select their potentials and then put them through training with no pay until a certain time when you pass or fail, and then you’ll be employed.With loads of new aircraft coming out – Boeing’s new “Dreamliner” 787 and revamped 747-8, the Airbus A380 – many airlines are ordering new planes and will need lots of crew to be on them! Try to find out if possible what the pay is like, what kind of perks you will get. Ask friends who work for an airline, and there are many cabin crew forums online. Being paid well in this kind of job is essential!
Sign up to your shortlisted airline’s careers websites and get updates from them as to when they’ll be in your locality next, or when they need more crew. Go along to open days with your short but sweet CV (recruitment and HR read hundreds of CVs in an open day, so make sure it’s not a novel and more of a poem!), in a nice suit with makeup and hair impeccable. For the gents, shave, wear a nice suit and tie, and polish your shoes. Airlines want to see that potential cabin crew can look polished, poised and elegant, but the thing they want to see the most is your gorgeous personality!
Do you guys have any questions for Louise? Would any of you want to be flight attendants?