They live the high-life. Literally. Flying at 35,000 feet, approximately 22 days a month.
From hobnobbing with celebrities on air to getting free access to the most glamourous parties around the globe, the airline cabin crew lives a life envied by most.
But there is much more to it behind the glam veil. Khaleej Times spoke to air hostess in the UAE region to know what really goes on beneath the surface. To respect their privacy, we can’t mention their names and airlines they work for.
What’s best about the job?
When asked to single out the top perk of joining the high mile club, pat comes the unanimous reply: ‘Salary’.
“You feel rich working for airlines! There was a time I used to wonder when I could buy international brands like Prada, Armani, and Channel. Now after becoming a crew, I can easily buy Louis Vuitton and other luxury brands,” says the one flying for two years.
And how can we forget the incentive of travelling the world free of cost. As a cabin crew, they get approximately 90 per cent discount on tickets, 8 to 10 days off a month to either go home or travel to destinations.
Apart from the salary, the crew gets Daily Meal allowance for the layover days, inflight sales commission, and discounted tickets.
During their lay-overs, the cabin crew is usually put up at luxury hotels and get crew discount almost everywhere, including the best nightclubs in the town. “Like we pamper passengers on the flight, we get pampered by the hotel,” he says.
The weird on-air demands
Serving hundreds of passengers during a month, the crew is more often than not, subjected to weird demands by the passengers.
“I was doing my shift on an Indian subcontinental flight and after the meal service was done, one passenger gave me the Indian snack Dhokla and asked if I can warm it up for her. Of course, we can’t entertain such demands,” says the stewardess who started flying international after two years of domestic run.
Serving food is the most tiring work on the flight and they are met with unexpected questions usually. “When the menu reads chicken with rice, beef with rice, the passenger will still go ahead and ask for fish and rice, which isn’t on the menu,” shares another crew member exasperatedly.
Another strange incident was when a lady passenger asked the crew member to fetch her reading glasses from her bag that she had checked in. She had assumed that the cabin crew has access to the area where the bags are stored.
“Can I have some breast milk?” asked another female passenger mid-air. Few also ask them to throw a used baby diaper.
Do you eat airline food?
Extremely health conscious, most of the crew we spoke to weren’t fond of the airline food. “Eating the same food every day is boring. So, I prefer carrying home-cooked food for my flights.”
We heard it from more than one crew member about how they pack protein drinks, self-cooked food and healthy munchies before flying. One air hostess warns us that having the airline food regularly can take a toll on the health as it has preservatives. “The food is cooked and frozen immediately at very high temperature to preserve its freshness. This packed food is then heated and served to the passengers. we have to be careful as overheating could possibly spoil it.”
Are you among the ones who take the airline food home to be consumed once you land? Think again, as we are told that the food should not be heated again and be consumed as early as possible.
What do they do with their money?
Many of them admitted that saving can be difficult as they keep travelling to exotic locations and end up spending most of their salaries.
They know all the shopping hideaways to get the best bargain deals in the cities they land on. They mark their calendars to match the shopping festivals in each country.
However, we did come across one cabin crew who was saving up for her MBA she plans to pursue in 3 years. And another who bears her family expenses
Economy over business
Although serving the business class and first class passengers adds more money to their bank balance, many crew members still prefer serving the economy passengers.
Business class passengers demand more attention as they are paying for it. “The nature of the passenger demand is different in both the classes. In first and business class, we give a personalised service and the passengers know exactly what they want. They know their food, their drink and we need to keep checking on them. On the other hand, the economy passengers are easy-going.”
Unruly passengers onboard
Often called the ‘in-flight waiters’, the cabin crew are subjected to abusive behaviour by the arrogant passengers. “If their demands are not met immediately, they get furious without trying to understand our side. They consider it their right to be angry but we are helpless and need to be at our politest best.”
One cabin crew gets emotional as she shares that even they have families waiting for them who freak out if the flight doesn’t land on time.
Before flying off, they have a simple message for the passengers – Just a little ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ can go a long way.