Category Archives: Corporate flight attendant
As much as I LOVE this industry and career, Its not ALL roses.. Throughout the life of EVERYONES’ career as a corporate cabin attendant, there is bound to be less than great experiences. Scary passengers, difficult aircraft owners, unprofessional co-workers, and poorly managed flight departments – just a few scenarios off the top of my head.
The question is, how do we deal with these situations without feeling discouraged, loosing our passion for the job, or letting anger allow us to make the wrong decisions.
Personally, I have had my share of bad experiences like everyone . But what prompted this blog was an email I received from another flight attendant about a recent BAD part.91 experience. She is a semi-new cabin attendant who has had about one year of heavy flying under her belt. Until recently, all of her flying and employment experience had been pretty good. I will tell you, that although she is fairly young, she is VERY mature, responsible, hardworking, passionate, and kind-hearted. So, when I received her email, I felt horrible for her and could read between the lines that she felt discouraged and disheartened. I set up a time for a phone call with her because I really wanted to hear her whole story and see what I could say (or do) to raise her spirits and morale again.
For the sake of her privacy, I will refer to her as “Anne”.
*Anne had landed a full time, part.91 position on a new aircraft. On paper, it was a fantastic opportunity especially for a semi- new cabin attendant!
This is her story
“ The owner wanted someone both young and experienced, which is difficult to find in this business. $90k salary, 10 days per month on average. Although it wasn’t a lot of flying, there were lots of personal assistant duties that weren’t well-outlined from the get go. The client’s wife did not want a FA, although the owner did, and the wife had a lot of influence on her husband. When I flew with them she always was nice to me but was very short tempered and was frustrated when I didn’t fulfill her needs. There was not a clear outline of their food preferences and I was initially going to meet with their chef in their home but the wife didn’t want me intruding in their personal space at first. When I sat down on one flight with both of them to ask them general questions so that all was clear from the beginning, she and her husband had different preferences but she was domineering and told me to just speak to her directly. In one month my email chain with the wife was over 60 emails long. I also made an Excel document of all items in the galley, cabin, and lav and she said items were missing in the lav (which was not true – she just couldn’t find them). “
Anne finally left this position out of frustration, and moved on, returning to contract work.
Her negative experience with all of this impacted her view on part. 91 positions.. (This being her only part 91 position so far), she told me that she prefers charter at this point because it’s “less demanding”.
I felt bad hearing this because I know that when it’s a good match, part 91 positions can be wonderful.
We had a good talk about things and I did my best to “lift her back up” to the positive and optimistic person she is, and encourage her to let the experience go and take a look at all she had learned from it. I also reminded her how small this industry is in terms of everyone knowing everyone( or at least knowing of everyone)! I explained to her that even coast to coast, people will know when you screwed up. They will also know when you are a rock star!
The follow up
Anne followed up with me stating the following:
“On a positive note I made good money in the time that I was there and learned a lot about plane organization. I also realized that a full-time FA’s job always exceeds that of a contractor’s – it is your primary responsibility and the days you are flying are not “off” days; there is always something else to do or learn. In addition, I am much more confident in dealing with people. I also am weary of FT positions so I never take the recruiters/pilots for their word in regards to duties or flight hours. You have to learn about it yourself. And be professional when leaving a position to not burn bridges in a small industry.”
I know Anne is a very intelligent girl and no doubt will land another great opportunity, applying her past experience to help her present one.
Find a good match
Like any job, it has to be a good match for both the employer and employee. In our industry, I believe the right thing to do when you are interviewing for a full time gig is to use those “test flights” as a two-sided interview. Decide if the client is someone YOU want to work with. DON’T just accept any position because of financial factors.. in the long run, it will be better to hold out for a situation that fits both parities needs.
Exiting a job the right way
When exiting a job position, do it very carefully. Don’t burn any bridges and be as respectful as possible. Since the industry is so small, and you really do need every possible reference to prove all of your experience, hold your tongue, temper, and with class- move on with a smile.
Now I will be the first to tell you how difficult this can be if you have really been wronged and treated unfairly… But I all I can say is try really hard!
What about a crewmember that is just NOT professional?
1.Bad pilot experience
This story was sent to me a year ago but it is a great example to share.
A brand new cabin attendant was on her third trip over seas. I received an email from her while she was in *Paris. When I received this email, I knew it was the middle of the night over there so I could tell it was something really important.
In Becky’s words:
“ Kathryn! Omg I need some advice. I am flying with a pilot that is pretty much stalking me. At first I thought he was just being polite asking me to dinner, but dinner was followed by the question;” do you want to watch a movie in my room?” When I said “no thanks, it’s getting late”, he kept pushing the issue. I again said “no I am tired”, and left to head to my room. A few minutes later he called me and said he had to give me some paperwork for the trip and would bring it by my room! I politely said, “why don’t you leave it at the front desk and I can grab it in the morning, I am really tired”.. He insisted on bringing it to my room so I said” just slide it under the door then”. Soon I heard knocking on my door. I ignored it so he would just leave. He continued to knock several times! I finally texted his phone and said, “ I am in bed! Please stop knocking, I will get what ever it is- tomorrow from you.” He finally left thank God!
All of this was an hour ago! I am now afraid to see him tomorrow and also fear that he will say bad things to the captain about me and I will get “in trouble”.
Is any of this normal? What should I do?”..”
Reading this I was fuming! What a jackass I was thinking! I quickly wrote back to her and said that she could skype me or I could just email her my response.
My phone rang a few seconds later..
I explained to her that NO, this is not normal or professional behavior. I also suggested she write an email to the captain explaining what had happened. I told her she needs to document this behavior. My other advice was to have a talk with this pilot, with maybe the Captain present and explain how uncomfortable you felt. This advice scared her a bit but I explained that she HAD TO stand up for herself and not allow someone to treat her disrespectfully. “He should not get away with this behavior with you or anyone else” I explained. She thanked me for the call and we hung up.
The follow up
A few days later, when Becky returned to the states, she emailed me to thank me for the help. Apparently this pilot had a reputation for this sort of bad behavior and the captain reported it for her. He told Becky that he did not approve of what the SIC did and apologized to her.
She expressed to me how thankful she was for the advice and proud of herself for having the strength to follow it.
Unfortunately, unprofessional behavior does happen. How we deal with it is what matters the most. We all need to learn how important it is to stick up for yourself. New Fas fall victim to this the most because they are fearful of jeopardizing a job or future jobs- shady pilots/ people, know this and take full advantage of it. Personally, I have experienced this sort of thing once myself, however, I have always been a very assertive person and had no fear of anyone disrespecting me. Not everyone is like this, which I understand. All we can do is remain professional ourselves, document everything, and remember than any crewmember or management that would allow someone to be treated with disrespect is not worth working for..
2.The competitive flight attendant
Lastly, what about those cabin attendants that are competitive and just NOT NICE to fellow FAs? They wont help newbies in fear of loosing jobs and downright catty to others. Unfortunately, this sort of personality exists everywhere (honestly they were probably the bullies in high school). Not only have I seen this first hand, I have received many emails from new FAS about this. It angers me to hear it, and will ever truly understand this mentality. I recently found a quote that perfectly states:
“ I am in competition with no one.
I have no desire to play the game better than anyone.
I am simply trying to be better than the person I was yesterday”.
The only person you should be in competition with is yourself.
In our industry, if someone else gets hired over you for a position, it may not be because they do a BETTER job than you, it is just simply a better fit. This is especially true in part 91 positions where the owner is specifically looking for the “right “ person for their aircraft. Someone who fits with their personality, their family, as well as has the specific skill set or experience they are looking for.
Unfortunately many people do not get this and continue to try and “protect their domain” so to speak. Even when handing off an aircraft and passengers to another FA, they may actually try to sabotage you giving you incorrect information about the pax. I have also heard from these new FAs that when they have reached out for advice or assistance from veteran FAs, they have been discouraged, blown off, or given shady advice.
My advice on handling this is;
1. do not take these bad attitudes personally, remember that jealousy and immaturity resides with these people.
2. Be careful who you reach out to and decide to trust..
3. Be confident in yourself, your own attributes, and skill. Rise above negative attitudes and competitive behavior.
4. Always remain professional and classy
5. Document everything you do and all conversations. Take pictures when relevant ae well!
This is a wonderful career. you are truly blessed to have found the world of corporate aviation and exciting life as crewmember aboard these exquisite aircrafts.. It is like no other job you will ever have.
Don’t let a few difficult people, unprofessional co-workers, or unfair management spoil it for you. Bad experiences can be lessons learned and make you grow as a person and a professional.
Its all about the attitude at the altitude! ☺
Cobblestones and Heels
I dedicated a whole chapter in my book to the hazards of dating at work. If you haven’t already read it, The basic premise is that dating fellow crewmembers’ or passengers is highly discouraged for MANY reasons. While there are a few situations in which that has worked out for some people, statistically it has been more troublesome and not worth the trial.
So if you don’t date at work, and you are “on the go” all of the time, you may ask; Where the hell can you meet someone and how does that even work long term??”
First, meeting people is a little easier these days with Internet dating. You can Perouse the dating pool and schedule dates from the other side of the world or country. Technology also makes things easier to communicate and stay in touch. Apps like Skype, whatsapp, google talk, etc, allow for easy and low cost communication from all parts of the world. So I feel, and based on experience, meeting people is not the hard part.
Once you meet an eligible and compatible bachelor (or bachelorette), you really need to be up front and honest about your crazy lifestyle. The unpredictable schedule and schedule changes are difficult enough on us! Not to mention being AWAY for days, weeks, even maybe months at a time. A person who has no clue about our careers and industry are really in for a rude awakening! Be fair to that person and really help them understand what it is all about. Either they will know right away that it is NOT something they can handle, or, they will be willing to give it a shot. The hardest part for most people seems to be the reality of plans consistently being broken, changing, or the inability to plan at all. Holidays, vacations, etc., may never happen together, and that is the sad reality. If you fly “contract”, you may have a better schedule and more control over your life- making it easier to have a “love life”.
If you reach the point of a committed relationship, congratulations! Now, you have to work hard to keep things GREAT at home to make up for the time you spend away. Maybe pampering your partner, bringing home special little gifts from foreign lands, and just being very attentive while you are home- is a very good idea!
Also, even non- jealous partners may become jealous or insecure with the knowledge of you spending so much time away and all over the world in hotels with fellow crew members. As one once said to me; “ you are in all of these romantic cities and places without me”… Yes, he was right. I was…but little did he know I spent all of my time completely alone! The job can be very lonely for us too. We would much rather have our loved ones and friends with us on these trips than our co-workers and strangers. Am I right?! This is the point you need to stress to your significant other. Lots of communication on the road is essential.
I do not mean to sound pessimistic with any of this. Of course you can have great marriages, relationships, and friendships with this job!. You just have to work really hard at keeping them. I have seen both ends of the spectrum in my years of flying which include the best relationships and unfortunately many divorces. Like anything in life, if you want something to work bad enough, you will put in the effort for success. And if you are with the right person, someone who truly loves you for who and what you are, the success will be that much easier to achieve..
As always, I welcome comments and stories!
Cobblestones and Heels
Turbulence during flight is something we ALL have experienced at one time or another; as a passenger or a working crewmember. And as most people know, there are many causes of turbulence due to the fact that our “friendly skies” consist of ever changing air pressures, temperature changes, precipitation, wind speeds/ directions, and other aircrafts!
The dangers mostly lie in the types of turbulence that can’t be predicted and really come out of nowhere…
Clear air turbulence
This type of turbulence occurs when the winds change direction and the air masses moving at different speeds meet. Usually there are no visual clues, i.e. clouds. Its also most common in areas of jet streams and over mountain ranges. Corporate jets, flying over 40,000 feet are less likely to experience this but climbing through altitude, we can still hit it. When clear air turbulence occurs, it literally feels like the plane just “drops”. So imagine a poor flight attendant walking around doing their service and “out of the clear blue sky” this happens…
Simply put, this type of turbulence is caused by one plane flying too close to another. ATC will generally specify the distance two planes need to take off, land, or fly near each other, but sometimes, they just get too close.. Picture the wake of a boat, and the effect it has on another one as it passes… In the take off and landing phases of flight, the vortex ( air flow generated by the wingtips during lift), are usually stronger, and can make wake turbulence more dangerous to another aircraft that may be be following too close behind.
Stormy and severe weather
In the event of a thunderstorm, snow, hail, or strong winds, pilots have restrictions to follow as to if, when ,and where to fly. They do their best to avoid certain cloud formations, altitudes, and any flying pattern that can be hazardous. However, not all situations can be avoided. All of the above conditions would cause some level of turbulence.
Severity Of turbulence
Turbulence can also vary is severity between- “mild”, “moderate”, or “severe”. Light bumps or mild turbulence are usually harmless. But moderate and severe levels can really do serious damage to passengers, crew, and even the aircraft. I have served full meal services in mild turbulence, but anything heavier, you can bet your “you know what”, I will be sitting down.
All too often, Flight attendants are walking around an aircraft at 45,000 feet and prioritizing their passenger’s comfort and needs over their own safety. When turbulence occurs out of now where, most of us at least TRY to pick up loose items- anything that can potentially go airborne! This is the time so many are injured …
I have been lucky enough, thus far, to have never experienced an injury from turbulence. I have bumped around a bit, but that’s pretty much it. Others have not been so lucky.
A flight Attendant recently wrote me with her own horrific story of a turbulent flight which resulted in permanent neck injury! Her story actually inspired me to write this blog.
With her permission, I will share it with you:
“I was working a flight between BWI – SAN and the weather was horrible we were delayed hours before takeoff. When we finally were cleared to get up and serve our passengers we hit a pocket of turbulence. I bounced up and got slammed in to the floor. It felt like someone dumped ice water down my neck and back. I just laid there for a few moments frozen. I remember the screams from the scared passengers as things were getting tossed around. I got up and struggled to keep working. I did my company irregularity report and ended up having to work the rest of my trip because the lack of coverage due to the fact we only had a 7 hour layover and no base in SAN. I saw the company doctor as soon as I got back. My severely injured neck went in diagnosed for months because they never got me an xray or MRI. I progressively got worse and started losing my balance I was falling down and ended up losing most of the feeling in my right arm and hand. I went for an emergency MRI and was sent to surgery within days. I had my cervical neck fused with a titanium plate and screws. It’s been a rough recovery and my range of motion is bad. I will forever have neck problems now. I’m slowly getting back into flying, but it’s not the same. 4 ounce of soda and a bag if pretzels is NOT worth breaking your neck. You’re number one. Use your judgment and sit down if it’s not safe. Learn from my experience!”
AS you can see from the pictures, Michelle was lucky to be alive.
My message to all of you is this:
No glass of wine, plate of oeuvres, or “bag of pretzels”, is worth your safety and life. If it’s too bumpy to keep a glass steadily on a tray, sit down! Wait for it to pass, and resume your service.
If any one else would like to share their stories on this topic, please feel free to post a response!!
Cobblestones and Heels
So, my book is now officially out! You can find it right now on amazon.com, kindle, and BN.com. Soon to be its way to local stores and hopefully B&N store!! It has been a dream of mine to create a book/manual, that my fellow and aspiring Corporate flight attendants can learn from, and enjoy! I have had some wonderful editorial reviews so far from “non-aviation” people as well who have said they couldn’t put it down !!
I would love to hear feedback from all of you out there! And a sequel may just be in the works as well :)
Cobblestones and Heels
I finally joined the world of Instagram !! please join me there and feel free to share with me your pics as well!! :)
Cobblestones and Heels
Crafty, creative, and resourceful, are 3 words that can definitely describe some very important corporate cabin attendants attributes..
On the normal days, we present and serve pre-requested meals without a hitch. We have properly calculated exact portions needed and even have a bit left over for seconds and crew meals. The clients are happy because they received EXACTLY what they asked for and we are happy because THEY are happy!
On NOT so normal days, we run into some snags: extra pax may show up when its too late to order more catering, the request details were not communicated perfectly ( IE. An allergy or vegetarian was not accounted for), or simply- the clients have changed their minds once in flight! These are the flights that make us nuts.. However, if we ALWAYS plan for these possibilities, we may never have to break a sweat!!
So how do we plan for these kinds of things?
First, most of us have learned the hard way in the beginning so we almost never fall for the same problems again. We do things like: order a little extra in case of those surprise guests, We have staple food items such as veggies to make salads and deli meats and cheeses to make some sandwiches if needed. We also carry with us a variety of herbs, maybe a mini cookbook, and our own crafty minds that can create new meals, sauces, dressings, and condiments out of everything we have on board!
I was once flying a group from Paris to New York. It was a well-known pop star and her “entourage”. They had ordered a great deal of food and I was successful in getting everything they requested. What I had not planned on was their late night needs for new munchies ( after lots of drinking!) They began asking for things that I had definitely not brought onboard due to the fact it was NOT requested..
Of course I must point out that many of our clients, specifically the ones that fall into the “ entourage” category and do not fly private often- honestly think that we have some sort of restaurant stock on board.
They began ordering things like chicken tenders with honey mustard sauce, nachos, and macaroni and cheese ( like I said, “ munchies food).. At first, I didn’t know if I should laugh or just flat out say- sorry!! But then the professional in me realized that neither of those responses would have been acceptable and both would have gotten me in some trouble. So, I said; “ OK.. Give me a few minutes”..
I went back to my galley and started pawing through my cabinets, plane stock, and left over catering.
“Kathryn, you can do this I said to myself, and began with the chicken tenders..
I did have some left over chicken and bread onboard so I created a breadcrumb mixture with some herbs I had. I sliced up the chicken I had left, and created the tenders. I baked/broiled them to crispy and it worked! Then I used honey, mustard, some lemon and sugar and created the honey mustard sauce. Wow.. I impressed my self at this point and knew I could keep going!
The macaroni and cheese was created using uncooked pasta I had in the cabinet and boiled it in the microwave. I have a few different types of cheeses (which I combined), and since milk is always a staple on board, I was able to properly complete the mixture. Then baked that mac and cheese to perfection!
The nachos? No sweat! I had chips on board and just through together all different toppings I knew would go over well.
I presented the new munchies to my clients and they were satisfied.
I was too… At the way my mind, resourcefulness and creatively took over!
When you are new at the job, you start off a little limited in thought to the basic catering protocol of seeing a meal request, ordering it to the best of your ability, and not planning for the above changes and challenges. After you have been in the game for a while you slowly realize “ nothing is constant but change”! You begin to plan meal services with all the necessary backup and contingency plans. And you also develop your own creatively skills.
Cabin attendants begin to travel with a ” culinary emergency bag” so to speak. If you are a contract flight attendant and constantly work on planes that are unfamiliar to you, then you NEED this bag more than anyone! The part 91 cabin attendants that are assigned to one aircraft know what is onboard because they have put it there.. but still need to plan on additional catering and staple items to create more food if needed.
What was in MY bag?
An herb variety kit, a wine opener, disposable cutting boards, gloves, a mini book containing recipes for fast meals, sauces, etc, a portable omelet maker, poached egg maker , natural cold remedies, nail clippers, a flashlight, and a CPR mask.
All I needed was a cape right?! ☺
Those of you newbies that may read this, I encourage you to create and carry with you- your own bag of goodies.
For all of you seasoned FAs, I would love to hear your stories and comments!!!
Cobblestones and Heels
A couple of years ago I wrote a blog about pilots called “ Men with Wings”. I guess it is safe to say that it was geared toward male pilots- their role in corporate aviation and my experiences working with them. So, I thought it is only fair that I share my thoughts and knowledge on
male flight attendants as well.. They definitely deserve their own blog too.. After all, they have struggled a bit getting into this industry and deserve credit for all their hard work ☺
The Rumors and the Facts
Until a few years ago, I did not personally know many male corporate flight attendants/cabin attendants. All I really knew was what I had heard through the grape vine, things like:
Many operators / aircraft owners – typically don’t like to hire them, but on the other hand, some female clients “ will ONLY work with male Flight attendants”. Now, after meeting a few and hearing their first hand experience, I learned that these rumors are actually true! Sadly, there are still employers out there that think ONLY female FAs belong on these corporate jets.. In specific parts of the country, and the WORLD for that matter- this is the general consensus. Sometimes it is a cultural issue, but many times it is just a “sexist” thing ( In my opinion).
The male cabin attendants tell me that in order for people to hire them, they REALLY have to sell their credentials and have outstanding references vouching for them.
It is also true that there are many high profile females that only want this gender onboard.. The typical thoughts on this is because maybe they don’t want their significant other “checking out “the female FA? Or that maybe they think females are too much drama?? ( I am really just speculating and going with opinions of my peers on this one). One of the guys I know informed me that the female celebrity he flys “refuses” to have a female cabin attendant onboard after she had a “bad experience” with one… (hmmmmm…wonder what that was about?!)
From what I have seen, the male FAs in corporate aviation all seem to have some of the best resumes out there: including many years of culinary experience. Many have held past positions as international chefs, restaurant owners, and personal assistants to fortune 500 CEOs. Some are also aircraft mechanics and pilots! They all seem to have tremendous skill, impressive experience, strong work ethic, and excellent personality.-Exactly what it takes to make a great corporate flight attendant!
Unfortunately, there are still employers that will, at times, only hire the young pretty girl that has no experience because they think the clientele will prefer that. Sexism AND Ageism !( I guess that’s a whole other blog).
I am not judging or criticizing those employers, it IS their right to hire or not hire whomever they wish. However, I do believe that people should always be judged on “ who they are, not what they are”.
Now I don’t mean to exclude male commercial fight attendants, because they have had their own challenges on the job (like dealing with homophobic/old school pilots,and getting unfairly stereotyped) but in this day and age, they are generally accepted and welcomed into aviation without question. During MY commercial days in the sky, I worked with MANY male flight attendants and honestly enjoyed their company and work ethic more than some of female flight attendants I worked with..
YOU KNOW I AM ALWAYS HONEST…. After all, this blog is a place where I express my honest opinions, share my stories, and give the best advice I can..
As always, PLEASE feel free to give me your feedback, thoughts, or share your OWN experience!!
With Love (and honesty),
Cobblestones and Heels
As a CONTRACT cabin attendant, tax time can be quite scary…
Throughout the year we are flying our little butts off making bundles of “tax free money”!! when we are new.. the reality of what that will mean the following April- usually doesn’t set in till its too late ☹ ..Unfortunately, the majority of us have learned our lesson the hard way about saving or (not saving) our tax money.
The first time I flew “contract” for an entire year, was a real eye opening experience for me.. Luckily I had a great accountant that helped me out of my mess, After scolding me of course! She also taught me a great deal about “itemizing”, and all of the things I can “write off” as a contract flight attendant because essentially we are running our own business..
If you are new to this game, here are my tips…
First, speak to an accountant at the beginning of the year and get some help estimating how much you should save from each pay check for the end of the year and put that money aside!
Also, don’t take the advice of your friends, family, or co-workers when it comes to this stuff unless they are a professional CPA or accountant! Everyone likes to put their 2 cents in, and although they may have some good advice (including this blog), no one knows your personal tax situation but you!
Second, try to pay twice a year instead of all at once at the end of the year!
Third, here are some of the most common things you can write off for your “business”:
1. Clothes ( all those pretty suits you buy, shoes, and hosiery too)
2. Laptop and computer purchases
3. Cell phone bill
4. a watch purchase
5. Transportation to and from airports and FBOs
6. Car mileage or payments
7. Rent if you have a second bedroom and you claim it as your “office”
8. Trainings (this is huge!!)
9. Getting your hair done
10. Office supplies, faxing, copying, etc..( at kinkos or your hotel)
11. If you do not get reimbursed for food expenses, or do not receive per diem, you will write off your meals on the road
12. Other travel or hotel related expenses- that the company you are flying with does not pay for.
Now depending on your personal situation, geographic area, etc., there may be much more added to this list. But make sure you keep all receipts in case of a scary audit!!
There are also companies that will take taxes out even if you are working contract. ( this is ideal in my opinion).
If they give you the choice, you may have to figure out what the best route is to go for YOU (again with the help of a professional).
Don’t let April 15th be D day for you!!
Fly safe and wise,
Cobblestones and Heels