With the Cabin Crew recruitment season upon us I thought many of my prospective Cabin Crew readers would appreciate a post to let them know what they might be letting themselves in for during the first 6-8 weeks of their flying career! The best and the worst times are had by many during training…. So I will tell you a little bit about my experience.
Day one. I was so nervous. So so so so nervous. What should I wear? How do I get to the training centre? I wonder what the people on my course will be like. Should I take lunch or will there be somewhere to buy food there? Should I have done a cabin crew preparation course to help better prepare me?
Any new Crew member will be asking themselves these types of questions before their first day. They’ll be filled with emotions; nervous, anxious, excited, scared. They are about to embark on not only a new career, but a new lifestyle. The first day of Cabin Crew training is the first day of your new life.
Having ‘virtually’ met many of my training buddies on Facebook prior to starting my course, it was brilliant to actually meet them in the flesh. As I presented my ID at the front desk to be given my pass to the training building, and to my new flying life, I was on the prowl for faces I recognised.
Is that, erm, him? Is that her? No maybe not. Should I smile? Introduce myself? But what if they think I’m weird? They’re not in uniform so they must be new like me, or maybe not everyone wears uniform? HELP!
As I entered the training room I felt immediately acquainted with my fellow newbies. We were going to go through some tough times together over the next few weeks, but also some fantastic ones.
Ask any Cabin Crew member about their training course. They will all say the same. Tough. Intense. Hard work. Stressful. But they will also tell you how fun it was, how they made great friends (difficult to do once you start flying and are working with different people each trip!) and how it was one of the most memorable experiences of their life.
My training course was made up of a number of components. We had SEP (Safety and Emergency Procedures), AVMED (Aviation Medicine), customer service, restraint training, aircraft conversions and several more. My first couple of days were an introduction to the job, the BA Brand Behaviours, company structure and expectations, that type of thing. During these days we got to know what would be expected of us and were introduced to the job and the people that we would be training with. But it wasn’t until day 3 that the fun really began.
‘Unfasten your seat belts and come this way! Unfasten Your Seat Belts And Come This Way! UNFASTEN YOUR SEATBELTS AND COME THIS WAY!’
I will never, ever forget my first day of SEP training and my ‘last flight as a passenger’. We were all taken into a mock aircraft and the trainers acted as the Crew, while we were the passengers. We sat down in our seats and buckled up. The Cabin Crew did their safety demonstration, their ‘doors to automatic and cross check’ and their pre-flight checks before taking their seats for take off.
As we ‘took off’ the mock aircraft made noises and vibrations and it really felt as if we were in a real aircraft. Then out of the blue the lights all switched off and the cabin began to fill with smoke. The Crew shouted at us to ‘unfasten our seat belts and come this way’, and so we did. We exited the aircraft in both a shocked and highly amused state. It was so totally unexpected, it was brilliant! I laughed so hard and writing about it almost a year later still puts a smile on my face. That was the beginning of SEP.
The next week was filled with planned and unplanned emergency evacuations, ditchings, inflating life jackets and boarding rafts in the water, extinguishing fires, dealing with pilot incapacitation, decompressions and passenger restraining. Wow, that looks like a lot written on paper.
But then again it was a lot. It sounds like a lot of fun, and don’t get me wrong, it was, but it was also a lot of hard work. Every night we had self study, and a substantial amount of it. We had tests, of which you could NOT fail. If you were more than 15 minutes late you would be kicked off the course (and this was proven to be true during my training when one girl lost her job!). The pressure was most certainly on.
There was laughter, and fun times. Friendships were formed and bonds were made. But there were also fights, tears and panic attacks. People were stressed. For most, this was the job of their dreams, they had been working towards this job for many years, perhaps they had even had many attempts at applying for Cabin Crew jobs and were finally successful. The pressure was immense.
After SEP was completed we began our AVMED training. This was a little less intense, but still incredible stressful.
How many abdominal thrusts should you give before a back blow? At what age can you use the defibrillator? What are the signs and symptoms of a heart attack? When would you offer temgesic?
It was important that we knew our stuff.
When people refer to Cabin Crew as ‘Trolley Dollies’ or ‘Waitresses in the air’ it annoys me somewhat. How many waitresses could recognise a stroke or deliver a baby? Not many I should imagine. As Cabin Crew you’re not only there to serve food, you’re there to act as a potential doctor, nurse, midwife, security officer, police, counsellor and much more. There is far more to the job than many realise.
Before I began my training I obviously knew the AVMED stuff was important, however I never really thought my chances of actually having to use these newly learned skills were that high. I was however, quite disillusioned. Every time I worked with a new crew there was at least one person that had had to divert because of a medical emergency, or get the defib out, or had somebody die on their flight. Medical emergencies weren’t as few and far between as I had anticipated.
AVMED training was tough. Exam after exam, both practical and theoretical. CBT after CBT (computer based training). And it was important you got the grades, because if you didn’t, you wouldn’t pass your Cabin Crew training.
We had to do pre-training coursework, much of which was a CBT AVMED programme that took about 20 hours to complete. So we were prepared for the training, but there was a lot more to learn, and jeez did we learn fast. In a matter of days I became a qualified First Aider, Medic and Midwife (OK not quite a Midwife but I was trained in emergency midwifery). It wasn’t just important to retain this information for the tests during training either; we would be tested on various elements of AVMED during each pre-flight briefing. I don’t think I will ever forget the acronym OATS (For those of you less familiar it’s; Oxygen, Aspirin, Temgesic, Sit still and upright= the treatment for a suspected heart attack).
Aircraft conversions were also quite challenging. Learning how many Club Class seats on a High J 747, compared to a Low J was not an easy task. Equipment locations were another difficulty; the defib is in the dog box between Club and Traveller seats on a 777, in the overhead locker above 17G on a 747, in the rear left hand locker on an A321 and not present on an A20 or A19. Did you remember all that? Me neither. What number do you dial in an emergency to call the pilot on the interphone? ‘Erm, **?’ ‘No, that’s on a 747, we’re flying on a 777 today’.
Customer service took up the bulk of my Cabin Crew training and was probably the least stressful part, or so I thought. ‘Why is your hair grip in the side of your bun brown? You have blond hair!’ ‘You will need to buy new shoes, these have stitching around the rim’ ‘Do not touch the glass with the wine bottle!’ ‘Why didn’t you refer to that Gold Card holder by their name?’ I thought I had customer service mastered, until I began this training.
There was so much to learn. Serve the customer by the window first. Always offer wine with every meal. Speciality teas must be served with a cup and saucer. Wow, this was overwhelming! Service standards were coming out of my ears, and I will admit that I felt slightly silly acting out all of the above in front of all my classmates. But hey, I would be doing the real thing soon and it would be all worth it.
After training for about a month, we went into uniform. I had previously been for a uniform fitting, it had been adjusted specifically for me, which made me feel quite special. I had been so excited about wearing my uniform ever since my fitting, and when the day came I felt so proud. The day that we all left our black trousers and shirts at home in exchange for our cravats and jackets, it really began to feel real. If I popped to the shops after work peoples’ heads would turn, they would look at me, they would talk to me and comment about their recent flying experiences or travels. It was all becoming so real, I really was going to be Cabin Crew.
At the end of my training I felt incredibly proud. I had learnt so much over the past few weeks and I had successfully passed all of my exams. On my last day of training we had a presentation session with one of the senior managers. After a speech about how we are ‘the crème de la crème’, how well we have done to get where we are and how wonderful our future is going to be with the company we were given our wings.
I sat in my seat waiting for my name to be called. ‘Don’t cry Hayley, don’t cry’ I kept saying to myself. It was such an emotional day. I was sad that my training was over, yet enthralled at the same time. I had made some fantastic friends, and although we were all working together, I didn’t know when I would next see them again.
When my name was called, the manager shook my hand and presented me with my Cabin Crew training certificate and my wings. After everything I have been through in the past six weeks, I finally had my wings, I could fly. I quickly attached them to my jacket allowing them to be proudly on show. From here on I was a fully fledged Crew member, and my life would never be the same again.