December 21st marked my one-month ‘Workaversary’ as a Ground Attendant for a large private aviation company. Just as my job title hints; I am grounded. Although a former and experienced commercial cabin crew member, and legally qualified to work as a private flight attendant, I have a lot to learn in the field of corporate aviation. The full-time option of Ground Attendant offered happened to be good timing for my need to find a new job quickly. It also garners me the opportunity to learn and be exposed to a new avenue of aviation; while simultaneously having time to recover from living out of a suitcase and the fatigue that subsequently ensued.
I’ll be honest though; I miss my suitcase. Not enough to want to go back to my former employer or the way that things were for me, but my new lifestyle requires some adjusting. Probably, when I finally start getting “used to it,” I’ll commence flying again; which will take more getting used. Maybe, that’s just the nature of private aviation— always adjusting. Always improvising. Always accepting a new challenge to face and problem to solve.
My job is a very unique and an uncommon opportunity in the private aviation industry. Basically, the Ground Attendant is a full-time entry-level option, so that one can learn the dynamics of what being a cabin attendant involves. Eventually Ground Attendants are sent— by the company— to FACTs or FlightSafety to obtain a Corporate Cabin Attendant Certification. This is amazing as that training alone costs between $2500-$5000. Since I already paid for my Cabin Attendant training, I could fly now if needed, but it also could take up to six-months or even a year until I have my “wings” again.
You might think that I am taking the long-route to get to being a Corporate Flight Attendant. I realize that I might be on the slower path to cabin attendant success, but this pace is a welcome relief to the past three years of turbocharged destination hopping and all-inclusive jet lag. The Ground Attendant job is wonderful for who I am and where my life is at; helping to prove the fact that what you are looking for can and does exist. I didn’t want to get out of aviation, because I love it, but I needed a different pace and a “different thing.” Based on my financial needs, and how intense my travel schedule has been over the last three years, working as a Ground Attendant buys me time. The other option I had included a lot of ‘hustle.’ What I mean by that is that if I didn’t get a full-time job, I would have to be hustling with my writing career and hustling to call companies to be put on a ‘pop-up list’ to fly as a contractor. I just don’t want to deal with the stressors that are included with that option right now. This ground thing is kind of fun and feels like a process of re-orienting my life. Space to appreciate home, and time to miss being on an airplane. I need to miss it enough to want to hit the grind again. But, what I am super thankful for is that I still get to be around these beautiful jets—every single day. I was able to “leave flying,” but not leave completely. That is bliss.
It’s humbling starting on the ground. “Starting over” has a way of putting you in your place. It questions your commitments and desires. It makes you ask, “So, are you sure you want to do this? Are you really determined to put in the long days, long nights, and long drives to scour a plane’s sodas and medicine for expiration dates. Restock shelves with snacks and pick up catering, or golf cart ice bags and newspapers to the pretty flight attendants, so that they can somewhere exotic? Are you really serious about this, because this is a test on your dedication. Can you stick with it when it’s not pretty and NOT glamorous?”
As Oprah said, “Do what you have to do until you can do what you want to do.”
I now see why so many never make it as a Private Flight Attendant. I feel like, because these cabin attendants fly with the one percent of income earners, entrepreneurs, and influencers; private flight attendants become the one percent in the field of private aviation. Corporate Flight Attendants have to be all of these opposites rolled into one-person; organized and scheduled, yet spontaneous and go-with-the-flow. Detailed and communicative; while laid-back and non-disclosure secretive. Razor sharp and quick; yet patient and thoughtful. Creative, culinary extraordinaire, personable, professional, tough-skinned, confident; but willing to learn. There are so many qualities one person needs to have to be an excellent Cabin Server. I can understand why this career is not for everyone, but I believe anyone who wants something in life can figure out how to make it happen. If you are willing to do what it takes to get to where you want to be, you will eventually get there.
You can’t tell me it’s “too hard,” because I did it, and I’m doing it. You can’t tell me it’s “not worth it,” because I’ve watched it be “worth it—” with both blogging and commercial flying. If my previous adventures were SO GOOD, I can only imagine how incredible the next years will be. That’s at least what I am choosing to claim for my life and tell the Universe. I get you that it’s scary to jump into the unknown. It’s not easy and probably never will be to go out on a limb, but think of the alternative? Living a life you don’t really want to live. You have a short time to make a great impact, so why not make the hard decisions you need to make to do what you love and make your life meaningful? And, FYI– be prepared for it to take a LONG time to see the results of your intentions.
It’s been a process to get to the place where my feet are firmly planted in something other than The Airline and break-open the door to private aviation. What I have come to realize is that for most, they never find the key to unlock a career as a corporate flight attendant— or the career that they want. In private aviation, it’s just a difficult industry to enter without experience or “knowing someone.” The thing is about life though— we walk through our days accepting “No’s” as the final word or wait for ‘chance’ to give us our big break. That’s cool if you want to do that, but I would rather not act like my life is a lottery; where I just hope I’ll win. Louis Pasteur said,“Luck favors the prepared mind.” Don’t wait for your luck. Make your luck. Keep hitting back when life hits you with ‘No’s.’
My work days at this new job entails common themes, tasks, and routines; but every single day is different. I’m in this middle-ground of being a flight attendant who is not flying, but learning the pieces of prep that happen before a flight departs. Griffin always tells me, (as well as other Corporate Flight Attendants), that you really just learn by actually flying. I believe them, but I’m also building confidence in myself and overall understanding. Quite honestly, I was so burnt out and fatigued from ‘The Airline,’ that this time on the ground is buying my recovery and health back. I know I could handle flying a private trip tomorrow if I had to, but I don’t want to “have to.” I kind of just want to “be.” And, when you have a really good sense that, in the future, your entire life will always be around airplanes; this is a few months where I get a break. You kind of accept being told by someone, “We want to keep you on the ground a little bit longer,” resulting with the thought that, “I’m sure I’ll be wishing next Christmas, New Years— or every other day eventually— when they will STOP calling me for at least two days.” I could be frustrated for this time on the ground, and in moments, I am, but I always attempt to redirect these emotions into gratitude. Because all time, is precious time. You may only have this moment, so be grateful it exists. It may even exist for reasons you have no comprehension of at the moment.
I work with four other really nice and amazing women. They are kind, helpful, sweet, beautiful, and willing to teach me what I don’t know. We work together and yet somewhat independently. The operation of a successful flight requires so many pieces, people, and components, that it takes autonomy, team-work, and an excessive amount of communication. The private cabin attendants are willing to take moments to show me how they set up their plane or give me tips on what needs to be here and what should be stowed there. They tell me that my greatest asset will be learning to improvise, and a lot of the job requires that you “figure it out.” I spend hours auditing different aircrafts— from little Lears to large Gulfstreams— checking for things like toilet paper, diet coke expiration dates, food serving gloves, and at least 3-4 packets of each medicine. There is more detail that goes into it, but essentially it’s a mix of light cleaning and detailed restocking or organization. There are items we take off the plane if there are too many or if it shouldn’t be there. There are certain tail numbers we don’t go on and certain tail numbers that take certain items and certain ones that don’t. You don’t even know how many times I’ve thought, “Oh— I had no idea that was this way,” since I started this job.
Every single day I learn, and that makes me happy, engaged, and grateful. This route in private aviation feels like I’m working towards something; that there is no cap to my success if I so choose. In commercial, you will never make more than “they” tell you. You will never fly something that is not on the route of already scheduled destinations. You most often will only be a number. I’m glad I’m doing this new thing, but it’s not easy, and I don’t know what exactly will happen next. I’m working towards what I want to happen, but between there and then, I’ll let adventure do the rest.