Something a bit different for you today, one of the best things about my travelling lifestyle is the people I meet along the way. People doing all kinds of jobs and living completely differently to keep their life as nomadic as possible. Travelling up in the Northern Territory of Australia, I met a new friend who alternates her travelling lifestyle with working for Thomas Cook Airlines as a flight attendant - a job that seems so glamorous and full of travel that I just had to find out more about what was involved - read on for my interview with a flight attendant:
Which company do you work for and for how long have you worked for them?
I work for Thomas Cook Airlines and I have been with the company for a year now. The contract is only seasonal so I work the summer season and have the winters off.
What attracted you to the job?
Following my passion for travel. When I got back from a 12 month trip I started back with two companies I was with previously before I went away. I was working full time at a dental practice and part time on the weekends in the local night club. As much as I love working I wasn't settled being back in the same routine. My Canadian friend said one day ''if you love travelling so much why don't you work in the travel industry'' and that was when the light bulb went off in my head. I started applying for airlines and I got the job! I truely love everything about it and it is perfect for me in this stage of my life.
How long did it take to train for the job? What was involved in the training?
The training period lasted for 5 weeks and the typical working hours of 9am-5pm. It involved both practical and theory. They were 7 exams in total and it was a very intense 5 weeks of my life but I learnt so much in that time. Not only did I learn all about the aircraft type I was trained on but all the equipment the aircraft has onboard to ensure the safety of the passengers. We learnt the company's procedures for first aid, fire, emergency landings in and out of water, decompression, hijacking, disruptive passengers and many more.
In the training we also had to have a practical swimming test with our clothes on followed by a life rafts practical and the use of life vests to make it as realistic as it could be. In the training centre we had fake fire drills and we had to follow the procedure of finding the fire, using the right equipment to fight the fire and the what the role is of each cabin crew to ensure the safety of our passengers. In an emergency landing we had to prove that we had the knowledge of how to handle the situation which was tested upon us by our amazing trainers that work with the company.
What are the best/worst things about being a flight attendant?
Being a flight attendant is unlike any other job. A lot of people assume we just waitress on a plane but it is so much more than that and the knowledge we hold involving the safety of the passengers is vital to offering the best service. Working with new people everyday, greeting passengers and going that extra mile to make there holiday experience that bit better and being rushed off your feet then looking out of the window at the Alps mountain range just puts a huge smile on my face. I would say one of the best things about being cabin crew would be the long haul but I have yet to experience that in the new year. I will be trained on the A330 which flies regulary to the USA and the Carribean. With that you get to stay in the company's hotel and explore new destinations.
I dont really have any negative points about working on a airline other than it is exhausting! The days go really quick, you are constantly busy from start to finish but driving on the motorway back home after a 16 hour shift to have a couple of hour sleep then back to work for the next shift is an experience! My body quickly got used to it though which was good. It is not a ordinary 9/5 career, you could be on standby from 1am in the morning and be called out for work at anytime. You really need to be organised and punctual for this career. My life out of work is very different too, because of my random working hours and working weekends, bank holidays ect it is harder too have a ordinary social life but I do make it work.
What are the perks of the job?
I feel that when I experience long haul shifts I will get more perks as you travel to new destinations with work and get paid for it. Within the company we get a discount for holidays and flights if we choose to book with Thomas Cook. We also get other discounts with entertainment companies such as Go Ape or Alton Towers, gym memberships and other little perks that I need to find out more about.
What is the highlight of being a flight attendant?
Other than travel, my personal highlight is having the opportunity to sit in the flight deck on my break time and admiring the view at 38,000 feet in the air. One of my best memories would have to be a night shift I was doing. I was on my way back from Tenerife and I sat in the flight deck on my break and the view was breathtaking. The moon was behind the aircraft, with the blanket of clouds below and thousand of stars in the dark blue sky twinkling away is a image I will never forget. It made me really appreciate life.
What is the average day like for you? How do you adjust to long-haul flights/time zones?
This is related to short/mid haul flights where I fly there and back in a day. An average day consists of getting ready for work, driving a hour to work then after I have parked up and got the staff bus into the airport grounds I make my way to the crew room. In the crew room we have a briefing with involves checking out money floats, briefing of the aircraft type/ flight time/ destination/location of each crew member/passenger profile ect. Then we have safety and procedure questions that need to be answered correctly. After we have done our briefing we make our way to the aircraft.
Once we are on the aircraft we have to do all of our safety and equipment checks, when completed we pass them on to the cabin manager. The passengers will then start to board. Once everyone is happy and seated and we are in the air we can start our outbound services. Depending on the time of day we usually do the bar service first, after follows inflight meal then duty free. If we have enough time we do another bar service before landing. After landing when the passengers have disembarked the cleaners will come on then we need to do seat pockets and the appropriate checks before passengers start to board again. Inbound flight is the same routine of services before landing back in the UK.
Once everyone has disembarked after landing we then need to make our way back to the crew room for a debriefing which involves cashing up, talking about any events that went on during the shift and how we could improve on anything. Then I make my way back to the carpark and drive 1/2 hours home depending of the time of day and traffic.
Can you see yourself doing it long-term?
I have a very busy lifestyle but I like it that way. Long term maybe. Depends on what opportunities the future has to hold for me.
What's your favourite place you've been to/fave cities?
With work the only city I have stayed over is Glasgow which isn't that exciting comparied to long haul flight destinations.
How much time do you get to explore the places you visit?
This all depends on which destination you go too. Some can be a night and clear day in New York or 4 nights in Las Vegas. It completely varies depending on how many flights go out to that destination each week.
What advice would you give to anyone who wants to start a career as a flight attendant?
If you have a strong desire or passion for travel and have experience with customer service I would recommend this career path for you. It is a great way to see the world, meet new people and it is a career like no other. I also like the glamour side of it too as I feel very feminine at work comparied to when I used to wear scrubs at the dentist haha. Be happy in what you do as work takes up most of your life in the bigger picture. Life is too short to regret the choices you make.
Infographic created by Opodo.
Flying has always been my favourite way to travel. I love the excitement of stealing away in the middle of the night to catch a flight to somewhere exotic. I love the hustle and bustle of airports and people watching in departures as I try to guess where everyone might be going. You might think I'm crazy, but I even love long-haul flights when you can spend hours eating, drinking wine from the free bar and watching all the movies you missed in the cinemas. I've long since lost count of how many times I've soared through the air in my 26 years, but I've clocked up a hell of a lot of air miles in that time and had some interesting experiences along the way. From the time the pilot was forced to do an emergency landing in the Seychelles because there was something wrong with the plane, to the time my dad mixed up the flight times and we ended up at the airport before it had even opened on Christmas Day.
I've been lucky and never had any really bad flights considering how much I have travelled, but we've all been subject to those really awful passengers - the ones who make everyone's life hell for those hours in the air. As I said, I've always been a bit of a people-watcher and sitting in the airport is one of the best places to do it. I love grabbing a drink in a bar and watching as everyone hurries past to catch their flight - you can tell instantly the problem passengers who will drive those sitting in their vicinity crazy over the following hours.
So who really are the worst offenders?
Lads on tour
Usually late, usually drunk, always loud. Whether its lads or ladies on tour, it's bloody annoying to be stuck sitting in a crowd of people headed for a festival or party holiday when they behave like school kids. It shouldn't have to be spelled out for adults but throwing things around the plane, shouting and screaming at each other, and being drunk and mouthy to other passengers is not okay. I remember being on a flight to Hideout Festival in Croatia and seeing other groups acting like this - I was embarrassed to be among them. It's possible to have fun and have a laugh while being respectful of everyone else and it starts by not getting drunk in the airport and holding up the plane.
I can't deal with people who are terminally late, it drives me crazy. I'm always on time and I never understand people who can justify holding other people up. I don't mind when people are late the odd few times, but when it is every single time and you are impacting on other people's lives it is just rude. When it comes to flights, I understand there are extenuating circumstances sometimes, but often you see the people who stumble on to the flight last and can just tell they weren't paying attention to the announcements, to their flight time or to anything other than the bar. When you fly, it isn't much to ask that you get yourself to the departure gate on time. It's important to realise that every second you hold up the plane, is impacting on every passenger's connecting flights, transfers and delays. Every second you waste at the bar is time that could mean missing your flight altogether, or could even mean the flight missing it's departure window on the tarmac.
Just like screaming children, there is always a deafening snorer on board the plane. The one who snores so loud they wake themselves up and glare around the plane to see who was making the noise. People can't help being a snorer, but if you do snore really loudly, it might help to try a mouthguard when you're on board to allow the other passengers to get a little shut-eye during the flight.
Something that often can't be helped but always grosses me out. One thing I hate about flying is breathing the recycled air as it is pumped out of the air conditioning over and over again during a long-haul flight. It's made even worse when you can hear someone snuffling and sneezing a few seats over, all those germs flying around the plane and being pushed through the vents into your lungs. Maybe I've watched too many movies where some horrible epidemic is spread in the course of a flight, or maybe I've just boarded too many planes completely healthy and then felt horrendous a day later. It's never nice being that person who is ill on a plane - been there and it's horrible - but it's also not great to be the person who is being sneezed over in a confined space.
We all know that feeling of doom when we've paid out half a month's wages for that flight across the world and two minutes in a kid behind us starts screaming. I do understand it can be difficult to travel with children sometimes, when they're bored or tired or their ears hurt and their natural response is to cry or scream. But I didn't pay a small fortune to sit in a confined space for 14 hours with a screaming child in my ear. My parents travelled with me from when I was barely a few months old and never had instances when I screamed or cried for the whole flight, I just happily played or slept through the journey. Likewise, the baby behind me on my flight back to London was peaceful and quiet the whole journey - I didn't even know he was there until we left the plane. It is possible, and it makes everyone's life a bit better.
The ones who just can't wait for anyone and jeopardise everyone's safety in the process. This is a real pet peeve of mine – I can be pretty impatient but when it comes to travel I'm pretty chilled. It really frustrates me when you see people walking around the cabin when seatbelt signs are on, when you see people on their mobile phones when they've been told to turn them off and when you get people grabbing their bags and queuing to get off the plane before it has even reached the terminal. The safety measures are in place for a reason and by ignoring them you put everyone at risk because you simply can't chill out, wait and read a book.
Those flustered flyers who freak out at the first sign of turbulence, over-think everything and hog the attention of the air stewardess when you're trying to call them over. I totally understand that some people are nervous flyers, but there's a difference between the ones who are genuinely fearful and the ones who are just attention-seeking and need someone to tell them to get a grip. My mum is a bit of a nervous flyer but only if you draw attention to it, if I distract her with wine and movies she is absolutely fine and actually enjoys the flight.
What was your worst plane experience? Are you guilty of any of these? Can you think of any other offenders on flights?
Alcohol is acceptable at any time of the day - particularly because of the different time zones, totally okay to have a whiskey for breakfast.
Always snag a window or aisle seat - nobody wants to be stuck in the middle of a row unable to get out and stretch their legs or get to the loo. These also usually have the most leg room - even with short legs like mine leg room can make or break a flight! Also, try and ensure you are sat a good distance from the toilets, close enough if you need it but far enough that the flush doesn't disturb you.
Diets and healthy eating go completely out the window when you're flying for 14 hours - two airplane meals loaded with salt, additives and all the rest, booze, and somehow fitting in 12 meals in one day.. Whoops! Praying every opportunity because you're never sure where your next meal is coming from is allowed - plus with all the sleep deprivation you need all the sugar you can get!
Stay hydrated! Nothing worse than eating all this salty food and then being left gasping for a drink - and all that air conditioning just dehydrates you further. It's amazing the way being dehydrated can seriously affect every aspect of your life - your mood, ability to make decisions and attitude are all influenced by this and yet it is so easy to control. Just try and make sure you have a bottle of water on you all the time and drink a glass of water for every alcoholic beverage as these also dehydrate you.
It's okay to get a bit emosh watching a soppy movie - yes people will think you're weird, but who cares? When it comes to films like Marley & Me, and The Fault in our Stars, I reckon the people who don't cry are the weird ones!
Always think ahead and have a place to stay at the other end and your transfers sorted out, after a long haul flight you are exhausted and more likely to end up in the wrong place or in a vulnerable position - don't let yourself be a target for those who are looking to take advantage of this. Also - if you are staying in an apartment or self-catering, make sure you will have access to the place, that there will be someone to let you in and that it is secure. In some places there are whole gangs just waiting for people to be directed to the wrong apartment so they can break in and rob you while you sleep - don't believe me? It happened to me on the first night of a holiday - pretty bloody scary and I was lucky they just took my valuables and didn't attack me. I consider myself a pretty savvy traveller, and yet I was still a victim of this - don't let yourself be one too.
Always stick to the time zone you are in when it comes to meals and sleeping - when you arrive at your hotel, if it is dinner time, try and eat dinner. Fight off sleep until it is time for bed there, it will help you adjust quicker and will fend off jet lag - give in and you will find yourself wide awake at 2am and wanting your lunch.
Keep your toothbrush in your hand luggage, after two six hour flights and and a three hour drive, you'll be feeling a bit grubby and it's amazing the difference brushing your teeth can make - it will make you feel so much better.
Take plenty of things to keep you entertained - iPad, phone, music, book, magazine - if you end up being delayed these will keep you sane. As will a packet of sweets and a drink. You might also find it helpful to keep your phone charger on you - there are loads of charging points in bars/restaurants these days and you never know when your battery will die on you!
How about you guys - any rules you fancy adding to the list? Leave me a comment with your suggestions!