It isn’t an exciting title I know. I’ve been getting a lot of emails recently from people who are currently waiting for assessment days/to start training/want to be crew, the majority all want to know the answers to the same questions. So before I write about Sydney I thought I would do a quick post response to the most common questions I get asked.
Q: How hard is training?
A: Initial training for the company I worked for has changed a lot since I trained last year. I believe you now do your first week with an external training company – this is known as your ‘attestation’. Your attestation is your legal qualification, recognised by the CAA and EASA it is a mandatory requirement for all crew working on EU registered aircraft. This week of training includes all the basic SEP (Safety & Emergency Procedures) stuff. This link will tell you more about it and what you’ll cover.
After you have done your initial week you’ll move on to your company specific training, gaining your individual aircraft licenses, learning about the different variations within the aircraft types you’ll be operating, company and aircraft specific safety and medical procedures, customer service stuff, service routines and so on. I wrote a couple of posts last year on training.
Basically though, training is tough. There is a huge amount of information to learn and a very short time frame in which to learn it. You can expect exams at least every other day with the pass rate being 90%. The days are long and you will be expected to do at least another couple of hours studying when you get home in the evenings. Although it’s tough, the trainers want you to pass and as long as you do the homework and completely focus on what you’re doing for the training period then you should be fine.
Q: What are rosters like? How much short haul do you do compared to long haul? How many available and standby days do you get?
A: How long is a piece of string basically. It totally depends what you bid for. I generally used to bid for trips 3-9 days long and then a couple of specific destinations each month. Some people don’t do any trip bids but instead bid for weekends off. Some people don’t do a specific trip bid or days of they just bid for starts after 11am etc. It totally depends what works for you, everyone you speak to will have their own system for bidding, everyone you speak to will think their way is the right way to do it. Essentially you just have to spend a couple of months messing round with the bidding system until you get your head around it and find out what works for you.
I found having a rolling generic 3-9 day trip bid generally always gave me long haul with the odd 2-3 day euro tour thrown in. I didn’t really do a huge amount of ‘there and backs’. I would then add in either one or two destination specific bids each month, for example I might add a generic ‘PVG’ bid if I wanted to go to Shanghai and then say ‘BKK’ if I wanted to go to Bangkok (I don’t know why I used that as an example. I would pay not to work a BKK flight). The more specific you make your bids the less likely you are to get them as the fewer options you’ve given the system if that makes sense…I think they go over all this in training anyway.
In terms of stand by and available days; For those that don’t know, availables are days you can be used for a duty, you need to check your roster at 7pm the night before to see where they’re sending you…once you’re experienced crew (3+ months flying) you can call scheduling to fill them earlier on in the month. Some months you’ll get quite a bit of standby and availables, some months you’ll have none. It all depends. Once you’ve been flying a while, or if you’ve had a really busy month, and your hours are starting to look pretty high (you can fly 100 hours every rolling 30 days or 900 hours in a rolling 12 month period…I think) you can bet you’ll have a month of standby the following month.
Q: What is the money like?
A: Look. Here’s the thing. Read everything you can find online, from both sides of the argument, educate yourself and make your own decisions. You’ll have good months and bad months. You’ll certainly not get rich serving tea and coffee but it’s an amazing job for the most part and a great way to see the world.
Q: What cases should I buy?
A: I’m fairly certain Mixed Fleet single handedly finance Tripp. They won’t break the bank too much and they come with a five year warranty. Keep the tags and they’ll swap them hassle free when you destroy them. Just don’t tell them you’re cabin crew.
You need a small cabin bag for most of your trips. On eurotours and short haul night stops you aren’t allowed hold bags so anything you need will have to come in your cabin bag. I have this one which is a good size, the four wheels make a huge difference I think and really save your back. To go on top of your cabin bag you’ll need a ‘topper’. In here you’ll put your gilet (waistcoat for wearing during service), flat shoes (again for the service), cardigan, water, book, make up bag, old seals, liquids bag, PJs and hot water bottle for rest on long haul, biscuits…essentially any of the crap you can’t shove in your hand bag goes in here. I have this one , but in black obviously.
For longer trips, you’ll need a hold case. Make sure its a hard shell one or you won’t be insured if anything gets destroyed by the baggage handlers…and trust me it will! I would generally take my hold bag on 4+ day trips. They don’t make my one anymore but something like this will be fine. Again, four wheels and a TSA lock are key.
Q: What do I need to pack?
A: Firstly, you are grown ups. You need to work out somethings for yourself. However, I know it can be confusing knowing what to take, especially in your topper for long haul/short haul etc.
Long Haul: In your topper and/or cabin bag you will want; Flats and waistcoat obviously for the services, your cardigan for after the service, your book and ipad, make up bag (liquids in your liquids bag…mascara, foundation, highlighter, hairspray, face mist etc), hair brush, spare hairbands, pins and a bun net if you use one (I did, best decision you’ll make) you’ll also want a toothbrush and toothpaste for when you come back from break and just before you land, I always felt better having brushed my teeth. You’ll want something to wear on your break..I would always get changed if my break was longer than about an hour and a half. It can get really really cold in the bunks, you will want warm clothes! I always had leggings, a thick hoodie (pull the hood up to keep your ears warm!) and thick socks, always have some ear plugs and your headphones too. On flights where I was likely to have a long (3+ hours) break I would take my own fleecy blanket in my cabin bag, I found being nice and warm always helped me sleep in the bunks.
Short Haul: Snacks. Take lots and lots of snacks. Biscuits, fruit, cereal bars, chocolate. Trust me you’ll thank me for this. Waist coat and flats, cardigan if its the middle of winter, ipad, liquids bag, make up bag and make up wipes, toothbrush and toothpaste, clean underwear. Always, always have your make up bag, liquids bag, toothbrush and clean underwear. Even if you’re just doing a there and back. If it’s the last flight of the day, you started at 6am, you’ve already done 3 sectors, and you go tech on the ground wherever you happen to be and you end up in a hotel with no make up wipes, no make up, no toothbrush and no clean underwear as a minimum you will literally hate your life. Trust me.
Q: What needs to go in my liquids bag?
A: Liquids funnily enough. Seriously though this is useful for anyone who travels a lot. Always have your liquids bag with you. Even on a Dusseldorf and back. Shampoo and conditioner. Buy one lot of miniatures when you start then just refill the bottles from your big ones at home. Face Mist, you’ll thank me one day. The Body Shop do a lovely Vitamin E face mist. Hand sanitizer, hand cream, perfume (a cheap one, don’t wear your nice perfume at work), mascara, foundation, highlighter, suncream, moisturizer etc. Use a spray or stick antiperspirant then it doesn’t need to go in your liquids bag.
If you’re doing an Africa trip you’ll need to be able to fit your Deet in your liquids bag as well so bear that in mind.
Q: Do you work the whole flight on long haul?
A: Nope. You’ll all do the services obviously but between those times the crew will be split in half and will go on break. Whether you are on first or second break depends on which position you are working. Sometimes certain positions on certain aircraft will swap break to make the service prep easier and to keep the spread of experience across the aircraft even. Don’t worry about it. It’ll all make sense when you start flying.
Q: What aircraft will I fly on?
A: When you start you will be on the 777 (200 and 300), the baby bus (A319, 320, 321) and then either the 747 or the A380. Once you’ve been flying a while you’ll also be trained on the 787 (-8 and -9).
I think this covers the majority of the questions I’m emailed on a fairly regular basis, however if there is anything I haven’t answered that you have a burning desire to know, please leave a comment below and I’ll come back to you.