Category Archives: Corporate flight attendant
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
Yes, there is an actual Art to networking… and like many other “arts”, this one comes natural to some people, but is a struggle for others. Innate talent vs. learned skill I guess you can say! But whichever category you fall into, networking is a MUST for those pursuing a career in corporate aviation. The competition is stiff out there- so many talented people that are drawn to this profession for all the wonderful things about it! So how do you compete with masses? Besides the obvious things like education, training, and skill building, you need to CONNECT with others in the industry. You need to reach out, get out of your comfort zone and pursue the opportunities that are out there.
Here are some tips I hope can help!
First, I am not saying you should “stalk” people or corporations. Don’t Facebook them or contact them on a daily basis.. Then you just look crazy and NO ONE wants to hire CRAZY! Your pursuit should be assertive but not aggressive.
Second, Start to build a trusted group of people in your industry that you can count on for good advice. You may not get job opportunities through them but the advice and guidance you can get is just as valuable. In reference to Corporate aviation, these people include pilots, flight attendants, customer service agents at FBOs, dispatchers, Training facilities like FSI or FACTS, and even line service personnel.
Third, the use of recruiters can be very helpful. There are a few good ones out there I believe I have mentioned before such as : in-flight crew connections, Aircare crew, and jet professionals. Again, even if they don’t have immediate job openings, they are still willing to share advice, help you build a profile and make suggestions to prepare you for the job openings when they come! Also, if you connect with a specific recruiter on a professional/ friendly level, they are more likely to keep you in mind for a position than if you simply sent your resume to them without any personal connection. Stay in contact with them. Even send holiday greetings!
Fourth, professional sites like LinkedIn are jems for networking! Its always best to connect as a second party to someone whom you have someone in common with rather than emailing complete strangers ( not that you cant do this from time to time as well). But if you have someone in common they are more likely to respond.
And if you personally know someone that you have in common, all the better! Don’t be afraid of people! Just reach out on a professional and friendly level. They will either respond or ignore you, but at least you gave it a shot!
Also, even if a job is not posted from a specific company, it doesn’t mean there isn’t one. Maybe one just opened or they are not going to post it publically! One time I sent a direst message to an HR person of a company I wanted to work for! He responded telling me exactly who to contact to inquire further, and sure enough they were hiring contract FAs and I got the gig! You just never know so GO FOR IT! Once you do make that connection, don’t let it be a one time thing. Follow up down the road, keep in touch, and build a repore/relationship with them so you are always in the back of their mind.
Fifth, Always be open to every opportunity that may possibly be a stepping-stone for you, gained experience, and a chance to meet people. Along with this, Be cautious but not guarded. For example, if you really want to just get that first trip under your belt, don’t turn down an offer because you think it doesn’t pay enough or it isn’t on the type of aircraft you think you want to fly on. What you should turn down is a trip that is not with a reputable company or any situation that seems odd to you. Check in with someone you trust and then make a sound decision. Sometimes people just want to get a trip so bad that they take ANYTHING that comes there way.. which could end up being a disaster.. On the other hand, I have seen people loose out on a chance to gain experience because they were too picky or too timid..
Sixth, socialize! Go to events, conferences, and any corporate aviation related group setting! Go to dinner with your crew and communicate! This is a social industry so be a part of it.
Lastly, don’t ever burn bridges ( In any profession), but in relation to corporate aviation specifically: it can be s SMALL world. East coast to West coast, we all seem to know, or know of each other… Be helpful to others when you can, and don’t JUST have a personal agenda.. be a team player.. That is what a “CREW” is all about!
Remember that what comes around goes around and if someone helps you get a job, help them back when the time comes. Because often it does in one way or another.
I believe the real key to networking is the circle. We all help each other and it keeps going around… what a concept huh?!
Cobblestones and Heels
As of late, the theme for the majority of emails I have received from new or aspiring Flight Attendants has been: “what is the first flight/trip like?” And, “how can you prepare for it?”
About a year ago, I wrote a blog on the same topic called “first flight”, but it has come to my attention that I did not adequately answer all the questions in people’s heads. I think what most of you want to know is : how to prepare for it, and what is the experience really like. So, here we go ..
First, you must remember that no two trips or flights will ever be the same. As the passengers’ and crew change, so does the whole dynamics of the trip. Your prep for each trip will be different depending on all variables such as destination, weather, flight time, pax load, and time available for preparation. I will say, the only way to “almost” guarantee yourself a good first trip is to be PREPARED. Generally speaking, you are given a decent amount of advance notice. Don’t EVER put anything off till the last minute if you can avoid it. Pilot’s rule of safe flying is “ staying ahead of their aircraft”.. Similarly, we need to stay ahead of our passengers and their needs. This does take practice and gets better with time, but if you are an organized person, you will catch on to this pretty quickly. For example, don’t just shop/cater for all REQUESTED items.. You should also be prepared with extras in case of late additions to your pax list, or the concept that minds do change at the last minute. Your passengers may order chicken, but the day of the trip, have a taste for something else. Most of our passengers have the expectation that private jets are like 5 star restaurants in the sky and they will have many options available to them. As crew members, we are more in touch with the reality that at 45,000 ft- the options are limited to what you brought with you and there is NO going back! But knowing how our pax think, our job is to be prepared: IE. keeping in mind that the “original” request for chicken may change to beef or a salad…
Additionally, plan ahead for later legs on your trip in relation to aircraft stock and destinations that may have limited resources. For example, if you are flying to a 3rd world country that may have limited options or lower quality food, be prepared for the trip back out by stocking your aircraft with items from a better location. Another tip is bringing an extra cooler with you for additional needed storage space..
How do you keep your cool when change happens? Be mentally prepared for it! If you anticipate change occurring, it won’t catch you off guard. Lets face the fact that in aviation, “nothing is consistent but change”. That makes sense right?!
Another big part of having a good first flight is being a good team player with your crew. CRM folks. We are not alone on that aircraft, we are part of a team. Accept help, advice, and input from your pilots. In addition, keep them happy too. If a bad situation arises, it will have a smoother outcome if you have synergy and a good working relationship with your whole crew! How do you do you this?- Wel it starts from the very beginning. Prior to setting foot on your aircraft, establish a relationship with your pilots. Call them and talk about the trip. Feel them out a bit for their temperament, needs, and agenda. Not only will gathering this info help YOU, it will also set THEIR mind at ease about you and set a good tone for your trip in terms of communication and overall compatibility.
Finally, I want to share with you a couple “first trips” of FAs I know that were gracious enough to share their experiences for all of you!
How could I ever forget my first flight! It’s hard to believe it was only 6 months ago! As you know, I was brand new to corporate aviation and had flown for a commercial airline for almost 6 years. I had outgrown it and was ready for something new, a challenge but I didn’t want to sit in an office. I love flying, traveling, food, meeting new people, exploring new countries. I’m a gypsy at heart and this is perfect for me.
The night before my first flight I hardly slept. I was too excited and a bit nervous but I knew that this was exactly what I wanted to do. I had planned out the entire pre-board, flight and post flight duties. It was going to be a short flight, just a little over an hour. I was going to have 4 passengers and was to serve lunch. I had ordered my catering and also bought some fresh produce, cheeses, charcuterie and dessert from a local Whole Foods.
Once I got to the plane I began my preflight checks. This was routine at commercial aviation as well so nothing new except for where the equipment was located on the plane. I proceeded to put my ice away, lay out the newspapers and organize my catering. It was then I was informed that I was going to have an extra passenger. I panicked for a split second but then carried on with preparing the boarding appetizers. I was raised in southern Italy and food, good food is a big part of my life. It’s probably my favorite part of the job. Drafting menus, buying fresh produce, talking to the caterers, plating the food. The tiny galley took a minute to get used to but somehow I pulled it off! The flight was over before I knew it and 5 people had been fed a boarding appetizer, an entree, dessert, and coffee.
What an incredible feeling! I had done it and loved every single moment of it!
“I remember feeling ecstatic, anxious, and hopeful as I did my first trip from DC to Dallas. It was on a Falcon 50, and I had waited months for this moment. I was so happy that all my work completing FACTS training and applying to countless companies had paid off! Simultaneously, I was nervous as anyone would be the first time completing a new job alone. I had only two passengers who requested very simple service – fruit crudites. An unexpected situation occurred when the lead passenger’s pen leaked and stained the carpet with blue ink. Fortunately, this was on the return leg so I informed the cleaners about it immediately when we returned to the FBO. My advice to new FAs is to keep calm! You have to ease into this job, and in training they make the catering seem very elaborate. Perform the job in a way that makes you feel most comfortable.
If you are unfamiliar with a new galley, keep things simple and order from the caterer instead of trying to prepare everything yourself. Don’t be afraid to ask others for help – whether it’s another FA, the pilots, the caterer, or even the dispatchers coordinating the trip.”
Thanks Girls for your input!
And I hope this blog helped to clear up what that first trip is all about!!
Cobblestones and Heels