Interview with Vera: The life of a Corporate Flight Attendant

After having several jobs in diverse domains during the period she attended the Law University, Vera did not settle only with a Law degree, so she oriented her career towards the National Institute of Magistracy. However, her first flight decided her further career in aviation.

When you had your first flight, was it as a passenger or as Cabin Crew?

At the end of my faculty I rewarded myself with a gift: a trip to Madrid. That was the moment when all my goals had changed. As I was in the airplane for the first time and as I kept on seeing the Crew, I knew immediately that my decision of becoming a Flight Attendant was already made. I didn’t wish to be a Cabin Crew from a young age, this first flight experience also made me see and appreciate the beautiful part of the Aviation Industry. My vacation was not just a vacation anymore, and my days were not peaceful anymore till I hadn’t returned to Romania. So, in just a month after my return back home I was already registered for a cabin crew course.

How did you feel when you participated for the first time at an interview, what tasks did you have to pass?

Although I was working as an Assistant Manager at a gas and oil company, I announced my superiors that I intend to resign for the job of Cabin Crew, but they made me an offer to fly on the private jet of the company I was working for. In my case I can say that it was 90% luck because I had the position of VIP private jet flight attendant at the age of 26 without any prior experience in private aviation. However, I, of course, had to pass a series of procedures and tests, including equipment and aeronautic medicine.

What kind of training did you follow in order to become VIP Cabin Crew, where and how long it took?

I followed specialized courses in Customer service domain, a course for the type of airplane I was going to fly on – Cessna Citation Sovereign 680- at Anvers, Belgium, and both I and the pilots had an instructor that was a former Commander on Air Force One for six months. My first flight on a private jet was a mix of emotions, incredible joy, fear and a big challenge.

How many years did you work for the private company and where did you have the base?

I worked 2 years for Flying Group Luxemburg and I had the base in Bucharest, my hometown.

How is the atmosphere in a private jet company, comparing with what you know from your colleagues in the commercial airlines?

The atmosphere in a private jet company is very unique, demanding, but full of advantages. The role of a Corporate Flight Attendant is somehow different, you have different responsibilities, here you have to put a greater accent on the service on board, presentation, product personalization, creativity and be extremely careful to details.

Having almost the same passengers, they made us feel like we were part of their family, they invited the entire crew to dinner in the destination we had, and we participated at their birthdays also. With the occasion of Christmas or Easter holidays we were waiting for them with a basket full of goodies at the airplane stairs and little presents for all the passengers. I was lucky and I worked hard to keep this “luck” with me.

What were your duties on private flights?

The responsibilities of a Corporate Flight Attendant are similar with the ones on a commercial line, but, due to the fact that there is only one Cabin Crew in the airplane, we have to replenish the airplane, to make the menus and a list with each passenger preferences, to go shopping for the passengers in the cities we landed or to order catering. The cleaning team wasn’t allowed to enter the jet, so this responsibility was also ours.

Having the same guests, it was wonderful for us, Flight Attendants, because you arrived at a point where you knew all the culinary preferences, I knew when is the moment to offer a glass of water and step by step we arrived at a point where it was only necessary to look in the eyes and we already knew what they wanted. In private aviation you must know when to appear and when to stay out of sight. I had the immense honour to have as guests state presidents, ambassadors and business men from all over the world, all of them with an exceptional character. I lived unforgettable experiences and I gathered so many beautiful memories. The responsibility I and the whole crew had was to offer them a 5* safe and comfort experience, 5* service and, especially, 5* discretion.

Do you think that a VIP crew is paid more than one at a commercial line?

The satisfactions of a VIP Cabin Crew depend on the level of your devotement, responsibilities and services offered, so I had the joy of seeing the most beautiful cities in the world, to be accommodated at 5* hotels with a chauffeur and a car at the disposal of the Crew any minute we were in another city other than the home base. The financial satisfaction is a very important aspect, is at least 2 times higher than the one at a commercial line (in my case). The biggest satisfaction is that I had the opportunity to meet so many great humans that have all gained my admiration and respect, and with some of them I even became very good friends.

Is a VIP Flight Attendant career only for women?

I consider that the job of a VIP Flight Attendant it suits not only women, but also men who desire a career in this world of luxury and full of satisfaction: the aviation world. I can say this from my experience because I often met with a colleague of mine that was VIP Flight Attendant for a private jet with whom I always made the joke that the airplane is not parked well due to the fact that the red carpet wasn’t long enough to arrive ‘till the boarding gate! I know that he worked before as a waiter for a cruise ship. After he entered the world of aviation, the passengers were asking for him as a flight attendant on their flights, alongside with two other girls, because he had such a delicacy and beautiful attitude in his service that was very appreciated by the passengers.

What are your future plans?

I didn’t make any plan, yet. I always trust my intuition. Sure, I desire to continue my career in aviation and at the same time I think about my personal life alongside my family. My experience was so wonderful and I dare to say a little unusual for aviation. There can be exceptions anytime, the most important thing is to wish for them and to wait, because they will come sooner or later.

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The Flight Attendant That Had As Passengers Madonna and Ford Coppola

If you cross path with her, you are sure to look back again. Great hair, long legs, an enviable waist. When I first met her, she was wearing a grey suit, high heeled ankle boots and red leather gloves. In short, she was appealing to the eye. Our students gazed at her and couldn’t take their eyes away. From the moment I laid my eyes on her, the sparkle in her eyes vanquished me, and the way she firmly shook my hand, made me understand that in front of me was a strong and very determined person. Later on, while hearing her speaking to our students, telling them about her career in the aviation, I realized that I was right. I was pleased to discover Nadia to be a wonderful woman, the kind you would like to meet every day: hard-working, ambitious, modest, that didn’t forget her roots and continues to enjoy the simple pleasures of life. Nadia made quite an impression on me from our first meeting, so, when opportunity for an interview arose, I did not hesitate.

Nadia Pamfile has been a flight attendant for the private aviation for 9 years. Luckily, immediately after graduating the Aviation School, she went to an interview, successfully passed all the tests and fulfil her childhood dream: to be among the clouds. The beginning was hard, as her parents never wanted her to pursue such a career and Aviation School costs exceeded by far her budget. So, she worked hard, struggled even more and was finally able to raise the money. She kept all this a secret, never telling her parents about her plans. Until one day, when one of her father’s friends spotted her on the hallways of the Aviation School. And that was the end for Nadia’s secret but her beautiful career has made even her parents change their opinion regarding aviation.

One meeting was enough for our students to get irremediably high on her. For as long as she spoke, they drank her every word, and paid attention to all of her gestures and pieces of advice. Nadia spoke from the heart, put her soul on the table and told them both the highs and lows of such a career. I was impressed with her modesty, her ” motherly” tips given to the students, the way  she chose to paint this job and the simple human she chose to remain, after 9 years of flying and interacting with extremely important and influential people (such as politicians or businessmen).

“I followed my dream with all my heart”

1. Why a flight attendant and not any other job?

I had a big dream that I simply followed it with all my heart. As a child, when I was about 11 or 12, a lady-friend of my mother’s, a Romanian married to a German, living abroad for a long time, used to visit us. She was a flight attendant in Germany and was a lady in every sense of the word. Calm, fine, stylish, kind, a beautiful woman inside-out. I wanted to be like her when I grew up. And to see the world. Without knowing, this woman has influenced my entire life. But it was somehow also “the hand of fate”, because along the way I always felt the positive vibration and support of the Universe.

2. How were your beginnings?

As I already told you Anca, “I pursued my dream with all my heart” I reflected, did some research, worked, put aside every penny and had the exam at The Aviation Academy of Bucharest. I passed the medical and theoretical tests, after succeeding, I  was grateful and hungry for knowledge at all courses, and soon became head of my group. And two weeks after my graduation, following the advice of a colleague, I went to an interview like a babe in the woods, without knowing much about the company itself and what it meant exactly. But I had the chance to be selected and in a couple of months’ time I started to fly. This is the story in short.

Oh my God … I do not know when nine years flew. Time flies and I fly with it. I was again, as at the Academy, eager to know, curious in the positive sense of the word and always very grateful for everything that was happening to me. A feeling I still preserve, moreover, has grown significantly. I had the chance to learn from valuable people. Even today, I am glad to meet every new colleague that I get to learn interesting things from, be it connected to the job or not. I appreciated, and still do, every person met, every event, employment or place visited. And I may say it from the heart that I rarely felt I was working.

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3. What did your parents say when you told them you wanted to work “among the clouds”?

Dear God, a more definitely “NO” couldn’t have been said. My parents are ordinary people who at that time only saw in this job a huge risk. Things have still not changed much :). Out of too much love and the urge for protection, our parents are sometimes taking the risk of putting an end to our dreams. I am glad I didn’t give up. And my dream never lost its intensity. Today I know that, whatever my child decides to do, it will be his decision and he will get all the support he will need from me.

4. How was your first flight on the job?

  Stunning and uplifting. Obviously, I have not slept all night, and the day after, a lot of questions were running through my mind. Although I was a school graduate, it was all very new and different. But things unfolded smoothly, without any incidents and soon, the very first day I might say, it all became natural, part of my life. I will never forget that my first flight was Bucharest – Venice (a two-nights stay) – Cairo – Bucharest, and while in Venice, my parents came to see me because it was close to where they live. It was a very touching moment, especially since my family did not believe even for a moment that I will fulfil my dream. Maybe this too constituted a motivation.

5. Tell us a cheerful cabin story.

Oh, there are so many, some are funny, others touching or heart-melting and some others scary. I would not know which one to tell first. You do realize that funny things happen everywhere, in every field, why not in aviation too? Especially when people are “imprisoned together” in a restrictive area, they tend to behave slightly differently than normal, some become more permissive, more childish, others the exact opposite. It was very funny when a head of the state with a fear of flying, asked me to go sit next to him during the take-off and landing. And after that episode, to thank me, during a dinner at his residence where we were all invited, he himself served me stuffed cabbage rolls. My colleagues made fun of me for this episode for a very long time. And there would be a lot to tell, I could even write a book.

6. Have you ever came across an emergency? How did you react?

In nine years, positive and less so things happen. But I was lucky and never met very serious emergencies. We had “bomb threat”, “strong turbulence”, “skid off” situations and so on, but I was lucky and we have all been fortunate. I acted naturally, with calm. These are the kind of moments when you surprise even yourself on how calm you can react and in the evening, while at home, pondering the day, you are still amazed.

“This profession has been my life coach”

7. What was the greatest satisfaction this profession has offered you?

I would not be who I am today if I haven’t had this job, and I say this with all my heart and with gratitude. Of course genes and the education you receive at home matter, but luckily I  had the inspiration to choose a profession that cultivates a lot and satisfies in all of life’s aspects. This profession has been my life and character coach, it “polished” me, made me question myself, built me up. And the fact that I travelled places I didn’t even know existed  before, (for instance Bhutan, with the capital at Thimphu) has also played an important role.

9. You have been flying for over 9 years. What do you feel like missing in your life right now?

Honestly? Absolutely nothing. I have wishes like any other human, but I am perfectly happy with my life, my choices and the thought that eventually all we wish for comes true, if we work hard enough.

10. How do you integrate personal life with being a flight attendant?

It’s a particular job. It’s not an office job with eight hour working program and weekends off . Therefore it is not always easy to harmonize these two aspects, personal life and profession. But nothing is impossible. As there are special professions, there are also special people who can understand  and with whom you can come to a favourable agreement for both parties involved. See, I say “agreement”, as if love were a business!

11. I know that over the years you have invested a lot in yourself. You attended various courses, learned foreign languages and so on. What has determined you to do all these?

My continuous urge to self-educate, grow beautifully, improve, to be a better person inside-out. And I honestly think that I have so much more to learn, I must have achieved at most a tenth of the potential. But it is a need I have always felt and don’t think is directly linked to being a private flight cabin crew. I think if I chose to be a mechanic, I would have done the same. But I am grateful that I have the time and can afford it, financially speaking, all of the above being advantages my profession delivers.

12. What duties do you have as a flight attendant on a private jet?

A simplified answer would be: security, safety, comfort and service on board. But in addition to these, long before the boarding we already provide protocol services. And I say we, because usually I am part of a team. If it is an official flight, sometimes we have to meet, or be in touch with the personal assistant or the head of the protocol, establish all the details of the flight: special requirements in terms of food, drinks, flowers, cabin perfume, seat layout, children on board, animals, travel program, everything taking into account the policies of the countries we fly to, customs regulations and so on. After that,  draft a catering order according to the requirements, choose the company to deliver it, send the order, constantly remain in contact with that company, the day of the flight receive it on board 2 or 3 hours in advance and make sure everything is accurate. Then, wait for the passengers – all sorts of general or internal ” protocol procedures” occur, followed by the actual flight during which we operate the service of a restaurant / 5-star hotel, trying as much as possible to take care of every detail with professionalism and dedication. Our work is finished only 3 or 4 hours after that flight.

“I WANTED TO BE A CABIN CREW, BUT NEVER THOUGHT I WAS GOOD ENOUGH”

While I was a flight attendant, I had no worries! Every roster was different, every flight was different. Besides, the crew you worked with were also different almost every time.

You had to be ready to face unexpected situations, be professional and positive.

Turbulence? Keep smiling! Annoying passenger? Keep smiling!

Read Beata’s story

13. What celebrities have you had the opportunity to have on board?

I’m awfully grateful to say that I have met and been influenced by people that are very good in their fields, real stars, heads of state, exceptional people, people who I once secretly admired only in magazines: Madonna, Eros Ramazzotti, Francis Ford Coppola, 50 cent, Amr Diab etc, many personalities, members of the royal families in the Middle East region whose names probably would not ring a bell and countless heads of state, official delegations, consuls and prime ministers whose names I unfortunately cannot mention out of confidentiality reasons.

14. What advice would you give to a future flight attendant?

It’s easy to give advice. We can all do that, but we are all so different and create very different situations around us, so that, I do not know how my advice would help. To however answer your question, I would say to first of all follow their dreams. Stay rational and open to opportunities, whatever they may be, to choose with the heart and follow their intuition. Not to forget who they are and where they come from. And especially: to be proud of their origin, and their behaviour to be the ambassador of their country. You must first give in order to receive, and it all begins with respect, gratitude, kindness, dedication, passion. They are generic tips, so very simple, suitable to any profession, yet so very important. It is a profession where you can easily “be carried away” and if the “foundation” is not very strong, you can easily get lost too.

I would tell them not to choose a career exclusively for the money. They are important but aren’t everything. To meditate and invest their income intelligently because being a flight attendant is not a job that you can do after you retire. Not to forget to respect their chosen profession and consequently themselves – the moment you put on the flight attendant uniform, you become member of an aircraft’s crew and your life gets on 2nd place,  for the lives of others become our priority! And not so important, but still important: invest in yourself! Because if life one day takes away everything from you, you still have yourself!

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