Its not all Roses…
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