Travelling the world as a flight attendant is a dream many wish to live. Yet most people are unaware of the different types of flying jobs available. There's more to aviation than only airlines!
Anna is no stranger to the aviation industry. She worked as an internationally flying flight attendant in the middle east for 4 years (starting in economy class and ending as a service trainer in business class) before returning to Europe and gaining experience in private jets.
To help others decide which career path is best for them, Anna decided to paint a clearer picture of the jobs by sharing some useful tips and information. Of course, this is based on her own experience, so there may be differences at other airlines and private jet companies. But this is a great place to start learning.
Although she isn't flying anymore and is in the process of finding a new job, Anna plans on remaining in aviation. She is building her skill set by completing her degree and aims to branch out into different roles. Her experience as a crew controller in Europe and plans of eventually obtaining a Masters degree in Aviation Management makes Anna the type of woman to keep an eye on.
1. What are the main differences between the job at an airline and a private jet company?
We have neither a typical airline roster nor planned trips. Most flights are announced the day before, sometimes even ad hoc on the same day.
All inflight duties are our responsibility; galley, cabin and lavatories.
We’re responsible for cleaning the aircraft.
Our job includes stocktaking of items (like cutlery or laundry) and any day to day articles (such as sweets or tissues).
We have fewer passengers on board so everything is smaller and cosier.
Our service standards are equivalent to the first-class service in a middle eastern airline.
Mostly have a binding roster so you know what to expect when you leave for duty.
The crew usually have fewer responsibilities in terms of cleaning and inventory of the aircraft. Mostly these tasks are completed by catering or ground staff.
More passengers on board so less personal interactions.
2. Which job allowed you to see more of the world?
My old airline had a wide network of destinations and I visited most of them. Having a monthly roster and knowing the length of my layover gave me the chance to make layover plans and explore cities.
In private aviation we never knew where we would be going - there was always some excitement and nervousness when getting a new flight on our roster (it’s like checking your standby in an airline). I worked on flights to places that I would never have seen at an airline. (Some places can only be reached with a private jet). Yet I only get to explore a place occasionally since one cannot make plans - your roster might change at any time. Even though you thought you’ll be staying in a destination for a whole day, you could end up being called out during breakfast as a flight was booked ad hoc.
I was in flying private jets for 6 months and I guess I had around 5-6 layovers that were long enough to explore the city.
3. How many days at a time were you normally away from home?
Normally my private jet duty was 6-7 days long. Sometimes duties were extended so it was possible to be home a couple of days later. Airline trips were much shorter! Our layovers were generally only 24 hours long so the entire trip was usually only 3 days.
4. How did the passenger profile differ?
You’re just one of many onboard at an airline.
A private jet is more personal. People make themselves at home – everything happens in the cabin; you can overhear family discussions and business meetings. Many passengers feel like they’re relaxing in their living room after a long day. I have flown different kinds of passengers, including business people going for meetings, celebrities on the way to a concert or families going on vacation.
5) What about the salary? Did you make more money working in private jets or airlines?
I'm not sure about the salaries for commercial cabin crew in Europe, but I don’t think it differs significantly to private aviation. The bonus in private flying is that passengers might leave a tip, but this did not match up to my former airline paycheck.
So, in my experience, the middle east is the place to go if you're looking for money!
6. How did the training for private jets differ from airline training?
There is one major difference. Flight attendants pass exams to obtain a license to work at an airline, whereas we were not licensed flight attendants at my private jet company.
The airline training was a standard combination of safety, first aid and service in a 6-7 weeks long course.
On the other hand, my very short training for private jets lasted only 1 week. We briefly touched on safety and security. Medically speaking, we were not allowed to advise or treat passengers on board under any circumstances. Since our service is at the core of the job, most of the training week focused on that. Beforehand, we were given a service manual to work through and familiarize ourselves with company standards. The expected level of knowledge prior to joining was high, no basics were taught during training.
7. Which would you recommend to others? Airline or private jets?
It depends on what you're looking for.
If you love teamwork and having fun with other crew in the galley, you'd prefer an airline. You always have the support of colleagues who can help (or take over) if you need a break. Rosters tend to be more stable and life more predictable. The job also required a strong focus on safety, which I enjoyed!
In private aviation, you have to be prepared for anything. You might change aircraft every day or have a stressful rotation extended for 2 days when you're dying to go home. Since you can be the only cabin crew on board, there’s no one to take the pressure off you. Service is everything! So, if you don't love doing inflight service – don't choose this job! Your day is not over when you land and leave the aircraft - apart from cleaning, it might be necessary to prepare the cabin for extreme weather conditions by removing stock. And it's your responsibility to go to the shops to replace items required onboard.
8. What preparation advice would you give to others who want to be a private jet cabin crew?
Have deep gastronomical knowledge – in theory (alcohol, food from all over the world, food pairing etc.) and practice (carrying 3 plates at a time, setting a table for several courses etc.)
Intercultural competencies are very important. You should know and understand the basics of major religions and cultures since your passengers will come from a wide range of backgrounds. Knowing how to behave around people who think and act differently and respecting their culture is essential.
Above-average general knowledge of geography, travel and tourism.
Fluency in English (written and spoken) is mandatory for most aviation jobs. Some require additional languages. For example, I'm also fluent in German and Polish, so I'm sure this helped my application!
The views presented in this article are solely the author's based on available information at the time of writing. The purpose of this blog is to inform readers, not to provide professional advice. Readers are advised to research further and consult relevant professionals, such as flight training schools. Readers are cautioned when acting on information provided and assume all risk from such actions.