Interview with newly appointed British Airways Cabin Crew member Reena Patel
1– So you’ve been to a few assessment days with different airlines, what were the similarities?
They all included group work activities and they were all pretty enjoyable. Each airline gave a corporate presentation which almost always included things like company history, ethos, mission statement or similar and why you should work for them. Three of four airlines told us about pay (Thomson didn’t). easyJet did but not until the end of the day. At some, people were sent home halfway through the day if they hadn’t met the required standard and at three of my four assessment days there was a test of some kind, be it maths, safety and security or a general aptitude test.
2- What were the differences?
The level of ease that the airline puts you at directly correlates with the airline’s ethos about customer service. For example, easyJet wanted you to relax as their approach to customer service is based more around fun, whereas British Airways’ approach seems more professional and premium. At two, Thomson and easyJet, they sent people home at the halfway mark even before interview, but at British Airways, people were only sent home at the beginning if they were too short or didn’t meet any of the other basic criteria. Everyone who was there got an interview. The number of people they had interviewing you varied too; easyJet was one on one, Thomson had two, Titan had three and British Airways had two and another person overseeing so it felt like three.
3- What were the best bits? and which airlines were they with?
Overall they were enjoyable. I met new people, made some friends and generally had fun.
easyJet was my first (30 candidates), Thomson was my second (30 candidates), British Airways (15 candidates) my third and finally Titan Airways (10 candidates) was my fourth.
4- Did you find any to be more difficult? Why?
I found British Airways to be the toughest really. There was a lot to get through in half a day; a test, a presentation, a tough interview, a group work activity and a role play on top of admin such as paperwork and height, reach and jump seat checks. I think this difficulty was enhanced by my general excessive nerves.
5- Assessment days are stressful but can also be really enjoyable- which one did you enjoy the most and why?
I enjoyed the easyJet assessment day the most because it was a little more relaxed, the company seems like a fun place to be and they really showed that in their approach to interview and assessment in general. They did a good job trying to get the best out of you rather than put you on the spot. This meant that everyone was much more relaxed and therefore it was easy to make friends and have a bit of a laugh.
6- Did each airline give you information about working hours, salaries etc? Can you outline what each of these were?
Yes, they all did but Thomson so I’ll outline each that did.
easyJet (6 month standard contract):
Basic salary – £10,207 /1st year, going up to £12,135 if you do more than a year’s continuous service
Sector pay – £32.28 to £10.34 depending on length of flight, paid for each flight. Again, this goes up after one year’s continuous service to £12.60 to £39.37. In order to work out an average monthly salary (before deductions or tax) you can be safe basing it on four mid-length sectors a day which equates to around £60 a day in sector pay. From what I know from friends who work at easyJet, you do pretty long days on average 9 hours in length.
Deductions – you pay for your uniform (£181.21 for females, males are a little less), referencing service (£155.00) and accommodation IF you are trained away from base (£100 for the whole 3 weeks, not optional if you are trained away from base). Deductions are taken as follows:
Month 1 – £33.33 (accommodation, if required) = £33.33
Month 2 – £51.66 (referencing) + £60.40 (uniform) + £33.33 (accommodation) = £145.39 (£112.06 no accommodation)
Month 3 – £51.66 (referencing) + £60.40 (uniform) + £33.33 (accommodation) = £145.39 (£112.06 no accommodation)
Month 4 – £51.66 (referencing) + £60.40 (uniform) = £112.06
Bonding – You are bonded into your contract from when you sign the agreement (sent along with your contract) to the end of your contract. If at any point before the end, you choose to leave the company, they require a fee. This starts at £600 within the first month of employment and decreases by £100 each month you stay right until the end of your contract.
Commission – 10% of total sales onboard, divided by all crew. Eg. If £600 is sold on one flight with 4 crew, 10% of that is £60 so each crew member will receive £15. This can be really high in peak summer months and I’ve heard of it going up to £400 a month in commission!
Rostering – They do ask that you not have any holidays booked etc. before you apply and that is exactly what you mean. You are entitled to annual leave which is ten days during your six months in addition to four days public holidays. You don’t have any control over your days off work or days off or where you go but you usually do five days on and two days off.
British Airways (permanent contract):
Basic salary – £12,000/annum, rising to £12,250 after your first six months and to £13,000 after another year providing you reach ‘world class service’ standards.
Elapsed Hourly Rate (EHR) – £2.80, each hour you work, from the moment you get into Terminal 5 and check in to the moment you leave work back at Terminal 5 again, you are paid this hourly rate. You are paid the basic salary during training with no EHR.
Bonuses – £150/month for arriving on time and not being sick. If you are sick or late, you do not lose the whole month’s bonus, just a section of it. This is paid every three months.
Deductions – Month 1: £135 (US Visa)
Expenditure – £25 referencing
£55 (approx) – mandatory yellow fever jab
£14.50 US Embassy return of passport fee (they courier it to you)
Commission – As British Airways aren’t a company driven by onboard sales, you aren’t pushed to sell onboard. You don’t therefore get much commission for it. I believe it is 10% of total Inflight Retail sales.
Rostering – You have control over your roster. You bid for trips with a range of start times, according to priority you choose. You can choose your days off and days on, most of the time getting at least 60% of your bid.
Titan Airways (6 month contract):
We didn’t get as much detail here but the basic is £17,100/annum. They also pay for your food, with no budget, and accommodation when you are away. The basic is quite high because they are a charter, bespoke service which can be ready in thirty minutes. This means most of your roster is made up of home stand-bys (wait at home, in uniform, packed and ready to leave) so the pay needs to be higher or it wouldn’t make financial sense for an employee to work there. They do require you to live within thirty minutes of Stansted Airport.
7- If possible, could you give a brief outline of what the day involved for each airline?
easyJet – 25th January 2013:
8.30am – Start. It’s important to be on time in this job, no matter what you do. One girl was five minutes too late and she was discretely sent home early on. We had a corporate presentation with question and answer. Next we had a group activity involving several briefs and coming to a decision together and justifying, a group activity involving making a bridge to support a stapler using certain items and finally, individually coming up with a short announcement that you might make onboard to sell an item, from a list containing a few product details and reading that PA out to the rest of your group and an assessor.
12.30pm – Lunch. It was a question that plagued me for a week before mine. Do I take lunch and look a bit weird with a packed lunch (you don’t – many others have one too!), or do I take a chance and hope they have a canteen (They do – with a lovely selection of sandwich fillings)?
1.15pm – Reconvene. They called out a group of people and then made it abundantly clear that this was the moment in the day when some of us were sent home. We were the bigger group and so we thought we were going home – not helped by a sombre voice saying “now you’ve all done very well to get this far, we know it has been a tough process…” – but somehow we were the group that made it!
1.30pm – Interviews, presentations and tests. Split into three groups, we carousel-ed between the three activities. The interview was straightforward and the interviewer did a good job of putting you at ease. Lots of ‘give me an example of when you have…’ type questions, which is to be expected really. The presentation was about pay, hours and admin. The test was the same test we had at home during the application process and only done again to ensure it was you who did it at home so nothing to worry about.
4.00pm – Home time! Ready for a long wait.
Thomson – 28th January 2013
After registering my presence at 9am, all forty of us were taken, two by two to a room to have our height recorded. We reconvened in a conference room to view a presentation about the company. Not a lot about the history, more about what the company values are regarding customer service, so don’t worry about learning too many facts and figures here. Splitting into groups of around seven, we proceeded to rooms to conduct a maths test; not difficult, just based on converting currencies and addition and subtraction and you can use a calculator! In the same groups, we did a group activity where we were asked to create package holidays for several customers, having been given a short profile on each. Once done, we were sent for lunch no doubt while the recruiters deliberated. We were then split again, this time they called only thirteen names out of the room. We were terrified that the thirteen of us were going home, reinforced by my easyJet experience. Turns out, we had made it through the first half of the day. With just the interview left, we waited nervously for our names to be called. Once called, I went to a room with two interviewers. I was given a sheet of paper with details of an onboard situation and asked to take some time to read and think about my actions, then tell the interviewers what I would do. The rest of the interview passed with the usual ‘tell me of a time when…’ type questions. And then, at 2.30pm I was free to go home! Two down, one to go!
British Airways – early February 2013:
This was it, this was the big one. The one I was two hours too early for. I was due to start at 11am yet there I was, eager beaver, at 9.15am, ready and waiting to go.
11am – We were taken two by two to have our height, reach and jump seat test and asked to confirm we either had or didn’t have any piercings or tattoos, showing them if we did. The jump seat test is just to sit in a jump seat, harness fastened and adopt the brace position (don’t worry if you don’t know it – they show/tell you) to ensure you are an appropriate physical size. If you are worried about it, don’t. I’m not exactly a size zero and I managed it, so do try not to worry.
11.30am – Corporate presentation about the company ethos, benefits, pay, uniform, development opportunities and generally why you want to work there.
12.00pm – Safety and security test. General knowledge or common sense really. Questions such as ‘What does DVT stand for? A. Digital Video Television B. Dedicated Video Tape C. Deep Vein Thrombosis D. Something I can’t remember‘.
12.15pm – Split into 3 groups of 5 and rotate around 3 activities; interview, role play and group work. The interview was tough. It started with reading a PA from a sheet and then continued with so many questions where I was required to give examples of everything. I probably got asked around fifteen questions in thirty minutes, including reading the PA. The role play involved reading a company factsheet for an imaginary company and then going into a room to deal with a customer who had a problem. Little tip: Don’t give in. Always remain polite and respectful and look for an alternative, but never give in. At 30,000ft, if a customer wants cheese and onion crisps and you don’t have any, you can’t just pop out to the local supermarket and get some. Having discussed on the day with the other interviewees, those that gave in, I have not seen around the training centre, those that didn’t I have since seen them at work. See a pattern?
4.00pm – Admin, sign a form to say that in the event that you are successful you allow the company to open the envelope containing your criminal record check and a little about your previous experience with flying eg. do you have an airside pass already etc. They will also take a photocopy of your passport.
5.00pm – Home time. This begins the longest wait for my entire life (it was only 15 days!)
Titan Airways – mid February 2013:
I only went halfway through the process at Titan as I had been offered the job at BA and wanted to accept but the first half was very simple. I was there for about an hour and a half. Started off with a quick introduction and a short verbal company presentation about rosters, the type of company they are and pay. We did a short test on why we want to work for Titan and a few questions to check what we knew about the company (good idea to research this beforehand). We went in for an interview which lasted ten minutes each and were then allowed to go home! I wish there was more to tell you but sadly not.
8- You were offered a job after each assessment day- well done, you must have been doing something right! What advice would you give to people with assessment days coming up?
First and foremost I would recommend that you do your research. The Internet is great, but it’s no substitute for the formal literature and courses that are available- I thought “>your book was a life-saver Hayley, so well written and literally covered every detail I needed. I also purchased this book which was pretty helpful and I did this course. Together, these materials helped me to feel really well prepared and they definitely helped me to get so many job offers!
Aside from this, it’s important in this job to be sociable and approachable. Airlines are watching you from the minute you walk up the drive to the moment you leave their property at assessment days and as such, walking into a room full of interviewees and sitting on your own or being silent is a massive negative point. At easyJet, I really noticed that those who were reserved were sent home at midday.
Look the part. Apart from being a brand behaviour at British Airways, airlines want to know what you look like in their uniform so look tidy, presentable and well groomed. Tight or casual clothing is a certain no and it’s advisable to have your hair up girls, but not essential. The best accessory you will wear to your assessment day is a smile.
Don’t assume that because you’re going to a ‘budget airline’ or a premium airline, that they will be any more or less hot on customer service. They still want you to have excellent skills in this area, likewise they still expect the same level of grooming and standards as each other.
9- You chose BA in the end, why did you choose this airline over the others?
Mainly the freedom to choose what my working month looks like, where I go and when. It was also the only company offering a permanent contract, which in the current climate is pretty important. The opportunities for development and progress within the company are good and there are always opportunities to work elsewhere within the organisation of you want to stop flying. This is what my next month’s roster looks like and should give you a good idea of the hours we do, although this can and does vary.
10- Is there anything else you think our readers would be interested to know about your assessment day experience?
I’m not sure of the facts and figures at the other airlines but at BA from December to March, they had 13,500 applicants. Only around 10% were invited to an assessment day and only 4.5% of total applicants were successful. Although this is a small number, there is no reason why you can’t be one of them. They aren’t looking for ex-flyers, in actual fact most people I know haven’t flown before. I came from an outdoor education background and this is my first time applying for Cabin Crew jobs and I really didn’t think I’d be successful so when I got my first assessment day I was shocked. By the fourth invite, I was still as shocked, but it just goes to show, it doesn’t matter what you did before, you can always be Crew with the right personality. There is no upper or lower age limit – I’m 23. One of my best friends from training is 18 and he is just as good as colleagues who are 40 and those who have flown before.
Finally, to those of you who are as nervous as I was, even by my fourth just remember one thing: so is everyone else. Get ready for the most exciting journey you will ever embark on because once you’ve started, you’ll never look back.
Finally, just to make you aware, views expressed here are my own opinions and not the views of my employer or any of the airlines mentioned.
Here at Lifeasabutterfly I am fortunate enough to get many e-mails from prospective and recently appointed Cabin Crew in response to my blog posts. Reena is unique in that she has experience of assessment days with four different airlines, and subsequently had four job offers! Here interview here is really insightful and will hopefully be very helpful to those with up and coming assessment days, regardless of airline.
Thanks so much Reena and good luck in the skies!
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