When you see a flight attendant this is you what you assume:
a picture-perfect, a red lipstick-covered smile with perfect white teeth. Neatly tied up hair, well-manicured nails, beautiful, smooth skin, sparkling eyes, a slim body.
You think: another beauty without brain. A terrible stereotype.
Before you take her for a cute, dumb little thing, let me tell you that most of the crew I have ever flown with hold a master’s degree.
Some of them are dentists, lawyers, engineers.
I myself have two master’s degrees yet still choose to become a flight attendant.
Why? Because I, like many of my colleagues, was seeking for adventure and new experience.
I believe that spending a few years in this position we all acquired some useful, transferable skills, which can become of benefit in our future work life.
Transferable skills or portable skills are qualities which you can bring from one job to another. You can strengthen these skills and develop new ones to make them valuable in a new position.
What I Learned As A Flight Attendant
1. Interpersonal skills
Good communication is essential in aviation. This is the skill we acquire the fastest.
We learn from the beginning of the importance of passing information to each other. It doesn’t even have to be an emergency-related issue.
If there is an intoxicated passenger, we need to inform all the crew about him. If I tell only our galley crew about that certain passenger, he can easily trick me and walk to another galley to ask for more alcohol.
Building relationships with colleagues and customers is a part of our job. On every single flight we meet new people. We are surrounded by people from everywhere, from all kinds of backgrounds.
We have to work with a new set of crew on every single flight which makes it necessary to get to know each other faster than usual in order to perform efficient teamwork.
By getting to know our customers we can make their journey more personal.
We don’t need to be a senior cabin crew member to experience management. When we do galley management we are responsible for the meals being ready and delivered on time, we are responsible for the champagne and white wine to be chilled, the soup to be heated up.
We organize the whole process from the time of boarding the aircraft until landing. We guide our team members in the galley and delegate tasks to make sure the service goes smoothly.
In our job if a supervisor calls in sick outstation then it is nearly impossible to substitute her/him. In that case one of us has to do the job of the said supervisor, which is a good way to gain experience on how to supervise a team.
3. Crisis management
While risk management deals with potential threats and trying to find the best ways to avoid them, crisis management involves dealing with threats before, during and after they have occurred.
Three elements of the crisis are the threat, the surprise and the short decision time.
For example, let’s just think about spotting a collapsed passenger without breathing while we walk along the aisle. We have the threat (passenger might die), we have the element of surprise (we were not expecting him to collapse) and a short decision time (we have to take efficient action immediately).
At 40 000 feet we can only count on ourselves. We are the receiving and finishing end of every unforeseen elevated situation. There are no other authorities to take over.
We are able to identify, assess and cope with these issues.
4. Time management
There is a saying in aviation which says, “you are on time when you are 5 minutes early.”
You cannot be late for your flight, otherwise it will leave without you, you won’t get paid and you’ll definitely get a call from the office.
Every single minute counts. To have an on-time departure we have to be proactive at boarding, perform great team work to finish service-related duties on time.
Every delay in service can affect our rest time.
Every delay in cabin and galley preparation for take off and landing can cause delays.
5. Team work
Being able to work efficiently with completely different people on each flight requires the ability to be an excellent team player regardless of the team you are part of.
It is easy to be a great team player and an outstanding communicator to accomplish your goals when you know your colleagues you are working with.
Here, we work with strangers we have just met in the briefing room right before the flight.
We are locked up in a confined place where we can only rely on each other, thus we respect each other’s values and opinions and help out each other whenever we can to successfully reach our goals together.
We are the champions of flexibility.
Our life is on a constant run, we find ourselves in different cities and cultures day after day. We adapt to the new environment quickly.
We often face unexpected and unforeseen situations such as flight delays, aircraft changes, technical problems and medical cases.
It can happen that we are prepared for a turnaround flight but due to weather conditions or technical problems we end up staying in Mumbai with nothing but our uniform on us. (That’s why you need that Night Stop Kit)
Safety regulations and service methods change regularly. We simply have to accept them and get updated.
7. Sales skills
Duty free sales are a part of the service. On every single destination there are targets to achieve. Our salary can be influenced by how many sales we make.
8. Social media marketing
Many crew members are broadcasting their glamorous travel lifestyle on social media.
Some of them are popular bloggers and vloggers and achieved strong influential presence. They are capable of being brand representatives and advertise products.
What I mentioned above are all facts. Now I would like to mention the subjective part of it. What did I learn over the years as a flight attendant?
A warm smile is a universal language of kindness.
Not everyone speaks English but a genuine smile can assure people just the same. It can give comfort.
Be kind and help others.
Treat people the way they want to be treated. Do not be nice to others just for good karma. If your are being nice and helpful to expect the world to treat you well in return, then you are selfish.
Everyone has a story.
Get to know the people around you, listen to their stories to understand them better. You might think someone is a terrible person until you hear their story and learn the reasons behind it. They might have something going on in their life which affects their mood.
Being spontaneous can add glitter to your life.
You have 4 days off? Get on the next plane and go discover a new city alone. We are so used to plan every little detail of our life just to feel we have control over it. Sometimes it’s nice to let it go and experience some new adventures.
Nothing lasts forever.
You can have annoying passengers, bad leaders but once that flight is over they are going to walk out of your life.
Be cosmopolitan and open minded.
Meeting people with different cultures, religions and backgrounds every other day makes us very accepting and curious. We want to inhale more and more of the unknown. At the end we become experts of the world. We see, we try, we experience, we literally walk among all various cultures.
Our goals are the same.
As a result of the diversity of people I met during my job, I learned to listen to and respect others’ opinion and values. We are all different, coming form different backgrounds but our goals are the same.
Taking care of myself.
As a flight attendant I walk at the airport in my uniform, representing my airline while all eyes are looking at me. I learned how important it is to be well groomed, looking delicate and flawless at all times.
Possessing mental and physical strength.
Our job is physically exhausting. Oftentimes we work overnights, deal with jet lag and we do a lot of actual physical work. Thus having a strong body is important. No wonder that so many crew are gym enthusiasts. Moreover, after a tough flight full of angry passengers and sometimes unpleasant colleagues, we arrive exhausted at an empty hotel room, and on top of that it is Christmas Eve. It is a very lonely lifestyle which requires mental strength.
I learned how to anticipate people’s needs. Observing them, studying their characters and figuring out what they want.
Sleep whenever you have the chance
… and as much as you can. You cannot always command your body to sleep when you need some rest before a flight. I never felt guilty to sleep until noon. We need to take all the opportunities we can get for a good sleep. There is nothing worse than to do a 9 hours long night flight with being awake for 32 hours straight.
Finally, I learned that friends and family are the most important.
No matter where you are, how bad your day is, it is comforting to know that there is someone waiting for you after a terrible flight to listen to all your complaints and help make your problems go away. We are often lonely in this job but it is comforting to know that friends and family are always there for us.
If you you wish to share an inspiriting message with the worldwide community of flight attendants, contact us here.
Photo credit: Tami