Antonia Talianu is one of the flight attendants who amazed us with their life stories. Now 32, she is a graduate of the Faculty of Journalism and Mass Communication, at University of Bucharest. Seven years have passed since Antonia went to Middle East to make a dream come true. Although it sounds like a cliché, she always wished to fly. At the early age of 15, she got a job that could allow her to travel, doing it whenever possible. Antonia told us how life as a flight attendant gave her freedom in many ways, from the way of thinking to the financial leeway. In a few months, she will become a mother, accomplishing her dream of having her own family too.
Oman Air, Etihad Airways, and Emirates Airline – an impressive chain of Gulf carriers for which you have worked. How did you find out about the interviews and how were they conducted?
To be sincere, at that time, you could gain access to more information only after getting hired by a Gulf airline. Unlike now, when there are so many forums, Facebook pages, or even personal development and professional counseling programs. I have found out about Oman Air from a job offers website. After applying, I was invited to a hotel, together with other 500 girls. It was the first time Oman Air was coming to Romania. The interview process took three days, and with each day passing, we were fewer and fewer. Eventually, 20 girls were chosen, but it was only me and a girl from Piteşti who had the courage to embark to Oman.
For Etihad Airways I’ve applied while I was already flying for Oman Air. I wanted a change, to really see the world, as Etihad Airways had many more destinations. The interview was quite difficult. I flew 45 minutes from Oman to Abu Dhabi. When I arrived at the Etihad head office, I noticed there were not more than 1000 girls who had come for the Assessment Day from all over the world. We started talking and I had around me there girls coming from America, Australia and even Venezuela. Some of them looked like real supermodels. The interview wasn’t different from that of Oman Air. It was a tough selection, lasting one day. We had no time to waste, but only to stay focused. At six o’clock that evening, we were 20 girls and boys waiting for the face-to-face interview. After that, I returned to Muscat, back to my work. In two weeks, I received my visa through an email, together with my air ticket.
Emirates, I have to admit, was my last attempt to live in the Middle East. As a First and Business Class Lounge Supervisor, I wasn’t flying anymore. They contacted me after finding my profile on a website, so that it wasn’t necessary for me to apply. At first I thought it was a joke made by my friends from Abu Dhabi, Etihad Airways being the only airline offering low-fare tickets not only for family, but also for friends. What followed was a Skype interview. After two days, they invited me to a face-to-face interview, sending me an air ticket, the visa and the hotel reservation. Out of the ten Romanian women coming in Dubai for the interview, I was the only one successful. After two weeks, I moved into a studio and started the training.
How long did you work for each airline and how were you promoted?
Oman Air is the airline of my soul. It was there where I have learned everything about culture, religion, mentality and behaviour. I have lived there for three and a half years. But I can honestly say it was thanks to Etihad that I become more mature. They are stricter, but also more respectful. I have been working there for one year and a half. Lastly, Emirates seemed incredibly relaxing to me; I was a different person then, more mature and with some experience behind. Besides, I used to work four days and have the next four days for rest.
At that time, Oman Air didn’t have its own system of promotion. After three tiring months of turnaround flights on a Boeing 737, I have shifted to Airbus 330, which meant flights to Europe and layovers, finally. It was the period when Oman Air was purchasing bigger airplanes, starting its flights to Europe.
Etihad Airways is an airline that cares for your personal development. So after six months, I applied and received the Cabin Senior role, being in charge of the whole Economy Class. My wide experience with Oman surely had a say on it.
In case of Emirates, it is not easy to get promoted, being a ground employee, even already a supervisor. In order to reach the next level, you must speak Arabic. Although I speak, write and read in five different languages, it did not make any difference.
For which one of the airlines did you most enjoy working and why?
I have most enjoyed working for Oman Air, as I had the chance to acquire everything step-by-step. The Omani people are extraordinarily friendly. That is why I have stayed there for three and a half years, starting from the Economy Class and after three months progressing to the premium classes. Wage differences weren’t too big between classes, but this was my opportunity to deal and interact with high society and royalty.
What was your favourite destination and why?
My favourite destination will always be London. I like to call this city “the country with all countries”. In my opinion, like any other big city, London makes it possible for you to experience different cultures, nationalities and various foods. I have long been fascinated by London. From Etihad I received the chance to visit it very often, through the monthly flight schedule which is built on your level of speaking a certain language.
What were your day off activities while living in Muscat, Abu Dhabi and Dubai?
In Muscat you don’t have many possibilities, except clubbing and exploring Oman. I have been hiking, visited oases, slept in a Bedouin tent in the peaceful desert and also found a family, with whom I still keep in touch, even now, after seven years. As for Abu Dhabi, there is a beach and entertainment everywhere; moreover, your cabin crew ID card lets you join all of the clubs and exclusive parties in town. About Dubai, I could say it was made for partying; but, as I had already experienced it, I preferred instead going to the beach or escaping everywhere around the globe for four days.
How would you describe your flight attendant experience at Oman Air?
My experience at Oman Air gave me the confidence I needed to get through all the interviews. I have always felt confident in my knowledge gained there, as well as in my life experience. My advice to both my friends and others who just look at my photos will always be to leave for the Middle East. What you learn there compares to nothing. Some of my happiest moments were those when I was taking by the hand a passenger afraid of flying, saved a life on board, and made someone smile through a small gesture. I could also improvise a vegan menu for someone who couldn’t have meal. I consider it the only possible way to resist tiredness and time zone changes.
Why did you give up flying?
There comes a time in life when you realize you want something else. Personally, I gave up flying because I was dreaming to have my own family and I didn’t want to lose any time. I have seen the world and spent all of my holidays in America, exploring each state one by one. My passport is out of blank pages for visa stamps. I had the opportunity to live an extraordinary life, filled with experiences and lots of things to learn.
How did you feel during your last flight?
This question makes me smile. My first and last flight had been both to Beirut. My colleagues used to nickname me “Dubai – Beirut”, which represented Oman Air’s longest flight; I was flying there at least four or five times a month. So I ended my flight attendant career with a last flight from Abu Dhabi to Beirut. They called me while I was at my base, in home standby, packing to come back home to Romania. I was on call until the very last moment.
How’s life in London, now that you are done with aviation?
Life is what you make it. In London, you have freedom and opportunities to do whatever you want. I don’t work in the aviation field anymore, but as an assistant building manager in an office building, I still get to meet pleasant people of many nationalities. The difference is not so significant, except now I am always on the ground, working from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. and having my weekend free.