VIP Flight Attendant
Industry: Aviation Home Base: Between Cape Town and Lagos, Nigeria
"I never planned on being a flight attendant (especially not for nearly as long as I have!). Okay, maybe I dreamt about it a little growing up, but I'm sure a lot of girls did. I think most people are under the impression that it's a very glamorous job, but that's mostly due to the 60's, when flying was an EVENT, and wasn't as accessible as it is today -people used to get dressed up for their flight as if they were going to the opera. It has always been a profession I admired, purely because I love traveling... But my plan was actually to be an actress.
I obtained my degree in performing arts, and spent a few months after that attending auditions and sharing a car with my siblings while two of my best friends travelled to Barcelona. This was a pretty pivotal moment for me, because I really wanted to travel, I hated sharing a car with my brothers, and I didn't have the money to change either of these things. I was waitressing at the time when a colleague told me about her stint working for one of the middle eastern airlines and everything clicked into place from there.
I was sure this was for me. I thrive off of meeting new people, I'm friendly, language proficient, have loads of hospitality experience and love traveling so I couldn't see myself failing.
I did though. At my first airline assessment day, I didn't make it past the second round. I was in complete shock when my number wasn't called, I was sure they had made a mistake. I walked to the car crying, called my mom, drank a lot of tea, pulled myself together and applied again for a different airline. This time I made it through all three days.
I worked for Qatar Airways from 2009-2011 ending as a first and business class attendant (the best!).
It was incredible, difficult, exhausting and life affirming.
Airline life is something else entirely. You see so much and sleep so little. In an airline, you can't really afford to have a bad day because everyday you're working with a new set of crew, and your work ethic and attitude on that flight is how they assume you are every day. You learn to smile on your last tether, listen to people complain (man do traveling people love to complain!), answer the same small talk questions from your colleagues on 5 long haul flights in a row, run on caffeine, and navigate a city like a boss. You also really really learn how to maximise your time.
You can bid for your favourite destinations so you can get to know a city in spoonfuls at a time.
It's an incredibly independent lifestyle which can and does get lonely but really teaches you to rely on yourself and I guess just learn to be happy with being alone, which is something that a lot of people never get the chance to do - but is so rewarding.
After that I resigned with the idea of opening up a bakery, and studied a year in Patisserie part time at Silwood School of Cookery. I had seen many of my flight attendant friends return home to waste away their savings and I refused to do this so I got two jobs waitressing at El Burro and bartending at The Power and The Glory and baked part time for Yours Truly which was then just the tiny coffee shop on Long street and not the empire that it is today.
About six months in I got the itchiest feet. I loved baking but I had that can't-sleep-can't-stop-thinking-about-traveling itch and started planning to apply for flying jobs again.
Thankfully I held out a little while because a few months later, a friend recommended me for an interview with his boss on a private jet based in Nigeria. His pitch to his boss was actually "if you don't like this girl, I will wear a chicken suit for a week". Thankfully (for him) the interview went well and I got hired soon after, which brings me to where I am now. Five years later and still working for the same (lovely) human on a private jet based in West Africa. We fly internationally, rarely know our flights in advance, live out of a suitcase, and often my passenger count is: 1.
I am the only flight attendant on board while I work, but I have a back-to-back colleague, a lovely French woman, and we swap out (a bit like a tag team) after a few weeks so that we can each go home and try and maintain a small sense of normality. The actual job responsibilities are more than working for an airline because everything is up to you:
You plan the menu, you source and order the catering, you plate, you serve, you stock the aircraft and you're responsible for the comfort and wellbeing of the passengers and pilots -no one else can take the blame if something goes wrong because there is no one else, it's just you.
I really enjoy the responsibility of it and the freedom of making all my own choices, of being the #Girlboss of the cabin. I can't choose where we travel to, but I try to travel as much as possible in my off time (with the people I love) and explore places that I doubt my boss would travel to. The most challenging part is obviously the time away from loved ones. It's a huge sacrifice: you miss important events, friends weddings, births, birthdays and just the small moments in between, like being able to wake up next to your partner or have coffee together in the morning. At times you would do anything to do something as mundane as sit in traffic or run errands with them, but the lifestyle and travel this job allows you are so incredibly rewarding. It's just a matter of perspective.
I really am grateful every day for the job that I have, the people I work with and for, and the things I have been able to see. I had no idea how much my life would change from what I thought was a temporary career choice.
I get a lot of emails from people asking about my job and how to go about it, and the only thing I can say is, if it's something you're interested in, take a chance and try it. You won't know unless you give it a shot, I flew with a few people who had attended countless interviews to become flight attendants and were rejected over and over again but they never gave up. If I had given up the first time somebody told me I wasn't right for the job, I wouldn't be here, 58 countries later."