I never really divulged much about this short stint of mine but the recent tragedy-slash-miracle of Asiana Airlines OZ 214’s crash landing into San Francisco airport pushed me to write about it.
Imagine being 23, over-worked and underpaid. Working at the airport as an interpreter/airline check-in crew may be tiring but it was fun. What’s not fun was getting paid under AUD 200.00 a month to be on your feet 10 hours a day. And that’s what ultimately drove me to apply for that cabin crewjob ad in the newspaper. It was abit of a rash decision. For one, I don’t even have the prime requirement of having a ‘pleasing personality’. But boy, did that lure of getting to travel more call out to me!
After a bit of a hurdle (they first said I was too old) and 2 interviews later– I was on a plane to Incheon, South Korea with a bunch of other awesome girls. We all came from different work backgrounds but most came from travel too.
and soon the days of helmet hair buns and red lips began. It was a very intensive 9 week training. The first half was service training. This included all the different meal service in flights, how to mix drinks, prepare trolleys, how to say certain key phrases in Korean such as “would you like chicken or beef”, learning the proper way to walk, smile, and put on makeup just among many others.
Then came the second half — Safety Training. And Asiana was really rigorous in making sure we were on to this! We memorised where Every safety equipment was in every type of aircraft the airline flew. Learn CPR. Swim fully clothed while safely pulling another person to safety, lead an evacuation from an aircraft–and a lot more that I’m sure had slipped my memory. It’s been 8 years!
It required a lot of concentration and energy, especially as some of us used our spare time to try and explore the city. It was a fantastic day when we finally got our ‘wings’. All our hard work had paid off!
My very first working flight was to….
Saipan! (Northern Mariana Islands). Well I learned a valuable lesson in this first flight: don’t forget to bring walking shoes or slippers!
I really enjoyed the travelling the job brought. Apart from seeing new cities, it also allowed me to see family and relatives from all over the world. Of course, the occasional Sydney flight didn’t hurt either. Zombie and I rendezvous-ed whenever I had Sydney in my monthly roster.
And one memorable flight was OZ 214 Seoul to San Francisco, when our captain allowed a couple of cabin crews inside the cockpit to have a feel of ‘steering’ a Boeing 777. (Please no comments relating this with the current accident. Our captain at that time was very experienced, and only allowed us to do this when we were in cruising altitude, and we were heavily supervised)
It’s always a bonus when you fly with someone you know, then you can explore a city together. But it’s also not bad gallivanting on your own. You just have to contend with really crappy solo photos of yourself taken by reluctant passers by.
But nothing, and I mean NOTHING can ever come close to the creativity of our photographer here in
An artistic result of a friendly request if he can take a photograph of myself and Big Ben:
And the job itself – you have to be a people-person to be in this kind of profession.You don’t need to be Miss Congeniality but you must at at the very least, like being around people. And I wish I could tell you it’s such an easy job that I could do with my eyes closed. But that would be an outrageous lie because I should probably mention:
- the numerous amount of times I almost spilled boiling coffee or water on an unsuspecting passenger
- that time when I was enthusiastically shaking a huge can of juice for serving, not knowing that a colleague had already punctured open one end. The gentleman in seat 40K looked up at me drenched in pineapple juice, with natural tidbits too.
- or that time on a flight to London when I had to literally plead to an undercover police officer to “please let it go” when he said he was going to report the airline to CASA. The crew (including yours truly of course), had unknowingly served over 10 cans of beer to a minor sitting next to him. The drunk and pimply teenager sat giggling the whole time I was pleading the case. The officer did let it go eventually. Whew!
- one flight to Hanoi when the Cabin Manager and I had to break 2 men apart from bashing each other. The cause of the mile high UFC match? A baby. One of the men’s infant had to be in a bassinet seat and the one ignorant guy complained about it.
- on my very last flight, a sleazy red faced man ‘casually’ grazed his arm on my hip when he asked for beer. He laughed when I told him not to touch me. I laughed when he opened the can of beer I served him and foam exploded on his face and gadgets.
There’s so much more but I won’t bore you further. Every single flight was different and broadened my ‘people-skills’ more. I learned how best to approach a weary travelling mother with her infant, honeymooners, couples travelling where the female shot dagger looks on every flight attendant, bratty kids–pretty much every travelling profile.
While I enjoyed the travel, what I enjoyed the most was the company and friendships formed. They say that relationships are best built with experience and not time. I find this true. I may have only flown for barely a year but the experience I shared with these girls are beyond coffee or tea.
So if it was so much fun why did I stop? A death and tragedy in my personal life took over in December of 2005. And let’s face it – I wasn’t born with grace and adroitness on air. It was probably a matter of time when an angry mob of passengers complained about the injuries I’d inflicted on them.
It was a good working experience for me but not one to take up as a career for the lifestyle I have. It’s definitely not a cushy job and I hope the heroic acts of the Asiana flight attendants of OZ 214 last Sunday proves that it’s not just about being pretty.
So the next time you see a flight crew, don’t just check out her behind. For all you know, she could be later saving your sorry ass.
I’ve been receiving loads of emails, comments and Facebook messages asking how to apply for cabin crew / cabin crew for Asiana. While I would normally be happy to help, I WILL NOT BE ANSWERING ANY OF THESE QUESTIONS anymore. IT’S BEEN MORE THAN TEN YEARS since this experience. It’s been a DECADE and I’m now in an entirely different career path. Applications then are different from today. I don’t know how the airline hires cabin crew anymore. Please call or email your local Asiana office. Asking the company directly is the best way. Good luck.