I may be new to private aviation, but I have been in close observation during my short time in the industry. I have asked questions. I have been curious. I want to know what makes some corporate flight attendants excel and others quietly crumble into oblivion. I’ve talked with pilots about what makes a flight attendant great. Surprisingly, their answers are quite simple. “I want someone who shows up on time.” said one department head. “I just want to know you have it handled in the back,” said a Chief Pilot for a large private aviation company. Generally, pilots and employers want to know that they can trust you on little amounts of sleep, when all goes to shit, and when the client is difficult and particular.
Pilots and employers want to know that you will be poised and pretty, hide your stress and fear, and say “I’ll make that happen.” During an interview I had with one charter company, the chief pilot and CEO said to me; “The pilots can do a perfect job. The flight can be smooth and safe, but the client evaluates the flight based on the flight attendant. The flight attendant is the face of the company and a large influencer and game-changer to whether the flight experience is good or bad.” This is why it’s so hard to break-in to private aviation. You have to convince a company, pilots, and client you deserve to be in their space. You have to earn their trust, and trust takes time. While you are building that trust and your reputation, take into consideration these ten strategies that the most in-demand private cabin attendants use to soar into success.
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“Perfect doesn’t exist, but the ‘image of perfect’ does—”
As a corporate flight attendant, you will make mistakes. What you can hope for is that you make the type of mistakes you can cover up; that aren’t life threatening and that are simply “great learning lessons.” These are the mistakes that don’t necessarily require an explanation. One private flight attendant told me, “Most of the time, if you don’t tell your client ‘you messed up,’ they don’t even know. And the pilots weren’t there.” Don’t pressure yourself to be perfect, because all you are doing is setting yourself up to fail— ALWAYS. The most successful flight attendants expect excellence, in every moment, giving one-hundred and twenty-percent to going above-and-beyond, but are ok with missing the mark of complete perfection. It’s amazing how forgiving demanding people will be when you operate from the space that there is a solution for anything and everything. In real life, perfect is messy, but it can be covered with a whole lot of pretty.
“Anticipate every scenario imaginable and then take that one step further and imagine the unimaginable—”
I’ve been told by seasoned corporate cabin attendants that the most important quality in private aviation is the ability to accurately anticipate “what could happen.” When you have foresight, you will be able to plan and have ideas in the event you have to solve an unforeseen problem. “Pre-pep till you think you have nothing more to do, then ‘Pre-prep your pre-prep’.”— An experienced corporate flight attendant and inflight management professional told me multiple times that, “I can tell how well an interviewee will do based on how she/he pre-preps for the mock-flight interview experience.” “Just based on pre-prep?” I ask. Yes. Just based on pre-prep. Time slips away quickly during flights. There is so much happening that, cutting food or opening packages requires precious minutes that a solo cabin attendant does not have. Always think, “What can I do before? What will make my job more simple when I’m in flight?” And, preheat your oven. Just do it.
“Know your client. Listen to everything that they DON’T say—”
Reading your client will be the most important asset to your success in business aviation. Don’t be bubbly and interactive with the guest who is obviously working and busy. Engage with those who are curious and interested in you, but don’t ask them questions about their personal life. Stay professional. You are never their friend or equal, but you also deserve respect. The best flight attendants posses an uncanny level of emotional intelligence; a skill that can be developed, but never really taught. Either you have it or you don’t.
“Be GENUINELY kind to every person who you meet—”
You never know when the charter client will buy a jet, the line0-guy will share a job opportunity with you, or the pilot on a small jet will upgrade to a Global 6000. One of my biggest pet peeves is people who are only nice to those who can “get them somewhere.” There is a girl I’ve met while in private aviation who is like this, and I literally, have no respect for her philosophies and the way she treats me and others. If you are someone “important,” sweetness like honey permeates from her. Otherwise, forget it. I’ve noticed a corporate work culture that encourages a caste system; where some people matter and others do not. Stop this nonsense and treat everyone with respect and kindness, not because they may get you a job someday, but because that’s the right thing to do. Truth is though— private aviation is small industry and you never know who will get you your next “big break.” A couple of days ago, I found out that one of the pilots at my company flew with my dad years ago, and you know what he said? “Your dad is the best! He was so kind and humble.” How grateful can I be that I am associated to someone like that? Ten to fifteen years after the fact, someone remembered that genuine kindness. Be genuinely kind to the point that you are unforgettable.
“Walk confidently onto every jet— knowing you earned the opportunity to be there. Live and work like you belong—”
“Kara was green, and you thought she was great,” the trainer from SkyAcademy said in a debrief with a captain. “Yeah, but she had this confidence; like she belonged on the plane and had done this before.” When I heard that this, I sent my words of gratitude up to the heavens as— that flight in question— had intimidated the hell out of me. I knew I had to have a high-level of confidence to impress this pilot and the client, so I manufactured it. I had to have it, so I had it. Ultimately, what it comes down to is this: No one can (or will) believe in your capabilities if you don’t believe in your capabilities. This isn’t a job where you get a babysitter or someone to hold your hand (although many people are available to “hold your hand”). You are not completely alone in this journey, but the one thing that you will always have to do alone is find your confidence. That belongs to you and you own that. Once you own that, you will own every flight. When I say ‘confident,’ I don’t mean cocky. Be confident, and yet, teachable. This will be a key component to staying constantly employed.
“Think (and work) untiringly to how you can make the pilot’s (and anyones’) job easier—”
When you work to make someone else’s job that much more simple, they will most likely love to have you around again. Never tell a pilot, a line-guy, or client, “That’s NOT my job.” In private aviation, job descriptions are blurry, and I guarantee you that the next flight attendant down the street will do exactly the task that you said is not my job. That being said, it’s never ok to feel that your respect or personal boundaries are compromised. That’s not what I’m advocating, but instead, I’m saying that on a professional level, you will make yourself indispensable when you make everyone else’s job around you easier.
“Network like you will lose your job—”
Stay in contact with FBO managers, chief pilots, any pilots, scheduler’s, safety trainers, and other flight attendants. Your network of individuals will be a resource for you when you need someone to validate who you are and what you are capable of. Your network will be a resource when you find yourself out of a job, because the owner sold the aircraft or upgraded to a bigger jet and didn’t take you with them. You never know when you will need your network or when they will need you. “Help your fellow flight attendants. It’s competitive, but there is ALWAYS room for everyone at the top—” When I was just beginning in the flight attendant blogging world, there was an established flight attendant blogger who taught me this. She helped me, mentored me, and offered me quite a few big opportunities; even once passing along an interview with CNN when she couldn’t do it. She said, word-for-word, “There is room for everyone at the top.” I’ve always kept this close to my heart and her generosity at the forefront of my life philosophy; especially when I feel threatened by someone prettier, smarter, a better writer, bigger audience, etc. than me. “What is meant for you will always be yours.” Don’t feel threatened by the competition, but let the competition inspire you; working together to build each other up.
“Never think you are TOO good to improve. Never think you have “arrived.” The moment you relax and think you that “know it all” is the moment the job will slap you in the face with a huge (and possibly embarrassing) reality check—”
Don’t get lazy once you “can do this job in your sleep.” Don’t get lazy with life in general. There is always an area that you can improve in your life, job, and relationships. I broke my ankle five days ago, doing the sport I absolutely love. I broke my ankle doing a trick that I can land 95 percent of the time. Maybe I got cocky. I know I was sloppy. I was thinking, but I forgot to think about what I would do if things went wrong. I forgot to think this, because— “How the hell would things go wrong?” I mean…c’mon? It’s me. I’m a “good” kiteboarder by now. Well…for the next three months I have the proof and the pain that reality will check you hard when you get “too big for your bikini.” Don’t get too big for your private jet job, otherwise you will find yourself in a moment when you are faced with your humanity.