30 years among the clouds: meet Rucsandra, a devoted flight attendant and an amazing trainer

I met Rucsandra in the summer of 2016, through a mutual friend. I admit, when I heard how many years she has flying, I had a shock. Rucsandra entered the world of aviation in 1988 and from that point her life was among the clouds for almost 30 years.

Rucsandra Magdalena Mihai was a Flight Attendant for Tarom, Cabin Manager with a significant experience in this domain (she reached 20.000 hours of flying), but also an inflight auditor and certified trainer. She considers that aviation is about people, trust, knowledge and responsibilities, about honesty, passion, professionalism and competence. Every time she speaks about her work, her face lights up and her eyes are sparkling. Because she loves what she’s doing and she dedicated her best years to aviation. The world among the clouds had brought her many challenges, but also at the same time the opportunity to learn new things every day and to do her job with passion, love and why not, courage.

Since October 2016, Rucsandra is part of our How to be Cabin Crew team and she takes care of the Cabin Crew preparation for our general Cabin Crew course and our private aviation course “Corporate Cabin Crew Training- Silver Service & Etiquette”– a new concept of training in our How to be Cabin Crew courses portfolio, dedicated to people who want to take part of the glamorous life of private aviation.

Tell us about your beginnings as a Flight Attendant. How it was to fly at the end of the 80’?

I started to dream about aviation from 1986, at the end of high-school. Back then, aviation was a very exclusivist world. Tarom was the only airline company in Romania and the biggest one from the South East Europe. It had a fleet of 80 airplanes, most of them Russian, AN-24, IL-18, TU-154, IL-62, but also some of them from the western part, B-707 and BAC 1-11.

Aviation in the 8s0’ in Romania was very well developed. Tarom was a very vivid company, who managed, from the first years to connect Bucharest with some of the most important European capitals, but also to develop routes to west-European destination and also to USA.

What determined you to choose a career among the clouds?

I was fascinated by airplanes and travelling since I was a little girl. I remember that I wanted to see the pyramids more than anything. I took my exams, studying a lot about geography, and then I saw an announcement for the Cabin Crew position at Tarom. My chance to fulfill my dream of flying, to meet new people, to discover different cultures was starting to take shape.

How long it took for you to become a Flight Attendant?

I had the luck to be among the 52 selected persons out of 2500, from a very rigorous competition, that was spread over the entire year. I started courses at Civil Aviation  School in October 1987 and I graduated one year later, when Tarom hired us, but I managed to start flying only in May 1989.

During my schooling, I followed complex courses, from knowing the airplane, meteorology, 2 foreign languages, geography, aeronautic medicine, service on board course, I passed through all the companies services, from issuing tickets, handling, to catering. It was an extraordinary period that taught me so many things. I had amazing professors, extremely dedicated and who were truly mentors.

Where was your first flight as Cabin Crew? How was the flight?

My first course was Baneasa-Tulcea-Constanta, with AN-24 airplane. It was a dream come true, I didn’t know what to do first, to enjoy the flight or to get used to the airplane. I felt very comfortable from the very first minute, and I knew I would have a very special relationship with aviation. In 1989, the junior employees were doing only intern routes. Immediately after December 89’s revolution, I started external routes, my first flight being Otopeni- Berlin- Copenhaga, with BAC 1-11 airplane.

What meant for you to fly along with state presidents of Romania and other countries?

I had the chance and privilege to be alongside state presidents of Romania and other countries, but this meant a special training, totally different, but extremely challenging, a very high level of knowledge, and an outstanding professionalism.

I know you have so many unforgettable flights until now. Tell me about a flight you won’t ever forget.

Each flight is different from another, every day you meet new people, stumble upon different things, try to solve different situations. But there are always flights that will be always in your memory, as it was for me the one from 2002, with President Iliescu, in which I worked for 11 days, in 7 countries. I left from Bucharest to UAE, Abu-Dhabi and Dubai, then Japan, Tokyo and Nagoya, then Vietnam, Saigon and Hanoi, then Philippines at Manila then Singapore, and back to Bucharest via Dubai. It was one of the most beautiful flights from my career, both through destinations, but also the multitude of feelings, places, people and events. I met so many special humans, with whom I am now still friends, I visited some unique places, of a stunning beauty and I remained with unforgettable memories.

You worked for the commercial line, but also for the private aviation. What are the differences? What new experience you accumulated working in private aviation?

The commercial line is extremely complex. But I think that the private aviation is more difficult, more challenging and full of satisfactions. Through the nature of qualities you need to possess and especially the fact that flexibility is the most important. In private aviation you develop your creativity, integrity, confidentiality , professionalism, personal abilities, analytic thinking. At the same time, you must split your time very well, to adapt to the requirements of the position you have, to improve you level of knowledge, to have patience, initiative, to be diplomatic, intuitive.

Tell us a funny story on one of your flights

I was on a flight to Istanbul, a short one, only one hour. The airplane was full, we were in the process of preparing the cabin for landing. One of my colleagues was collecting the remained glasses form the passengers table, on a tray. At one moment, the tray was full, so he advised a passenger, who was trying to put his glass on the tray, to put it in the pocket. Obviously, he meant the chair’s pocket. But the passenger didn’t understand this, and he put the glass in his jacket pocket, to my colleague amusement.

What meant for you to spend almost 30 years among the clouds? How changed you the aviation world?

I gave almost 30 years of my life to aviation, beautiful years, but not so easy. I grew up in a special world, different, challenging, and tempting at the same time, but extremely demanding. I learned new things every day. I learned to be tolerant, empathetic, to understand the non-verbal language and the passenger’s psychology. I learned to think analytically and to make quick decisions, to face critical situations, to have self-control at any moment. I learned that a smile will break all the barriers of communication and that the time spent in the air passes more rapidly, and working in a team will develop multiple abilities. I learned that having a family is not easy when you have this kind of job that you have to give up on many things, to make sacrifices, but in the same time you enjoy at maximum level the free time that you have. More important, to have with you people that will understand your strange work schedule, to understand that you may work on holidays, to be there for you unconditionally.

What do you love to do when you are not flying?

I spent so many years travelling and I have a hobby, photography. The clouds are still fascinating me, even after all these years – my daily office view.

How is it for you to go from Cabin Crew to a position of a teacher and what do you think are the challenges of an aviation trainer?

Accumulating so much experience, I thought that I could give to others the secrets of this special job. I became in 2008 a certified trainer and I didn’t hesitate to put my knowledge and passion in the job of those who want to succeed in this world. I developed qualities that helped me guide them, motivate them and teach others to love aviation, to find satisfaction in this job and especially to not regret a minute the choice they make. For me, passing from Cabin Crew to Trainer was the result of my work of 30 years in aviation combined with passion and motivation. The satisfaction is higher when I see so many people that want to embrace the life among the clouds. It is what I wanted to do, in a domain truly special.

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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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