So here’s something I haven’t done for a little while. Write. Just so happens that recently I have had a lot more time on my hands then I usually would. Yes, that’s right, I am furloughed. It is true that I have stripped and repainted the decking, potted a few plants and jet washed the shit out of everything that could take it. It is also true that I, like most others, am taking this whole thing pretty darn hard.
When I was younger the aviation industry was just another formality to me, a means to an end. And although I loved flying, it was more about what was at the other end like the beach or the adventure. I literally never even thought about it as a career.
One day I was working in my fathers retail store, I was nearly finished my degree and like most undergraduates I had absolutely no idea what was next. Until I did. It hit me like a wave of revelation and it was by complete accident. Some may call it fate, I do. One lady, one Virgin dolly wandered into the store and we got talking, as you do, she told me that her job entailed her flying to a destination having a few days off to explore then flying home again for a few days. ‘Excuse me what?’ I said, ‘hang on explain that again in more detail!’. And so she did, only for about ten minutes but it was long enough to convince me that the next path for me was in fact, the aviation industry. How did I never think about this before? I have always loved to travel, I had spent a fortunate amount of time on holidays and I was constantly annoying my boyfriend (now husband) about when and where we were next going on holiday. This was perfect. And I was now obsessed.
I spent numerous hours surfing the web, discovering who was hiring and under what terms. I was from the north and had only really flown to Europe. I think the Dominican Republic was probably the furthest away I had ever been, I hadn’t even been to America! I hadn’t even seen a jumbo jet, never mind flown on one. I thought I knew about airports and planes but actually I knew nothing. Less than nothing. I applied for BMI, Air New Zealand, Virgin and British Airways. Air New Zealand never even replied, Virgin said maybe next time but BMI and British Airways called me in for an assessment day. I researched and prepared a lot, even down to how I should sit in the interview. I spoke with former crew to get a little insight. I wanted to make sure I had the best chance, but then, with the ridiculously high standards I set myself back then, failure wasn’t an option. BMI was first, a group of 20 or so hopefuls entered the BMI headquarters and the scrutiny began. Near the end of the day the group was whittled down to have and have nots. Each name was called and you were told to go in one room or another. Only two names were successful thus far, and I was one of them. This was the actual interview, and it wasn’t easy. But it went well and I went on my way feeling pleased with myself. Then BMI went bust. Before I even got an answer.
Lucky for me though, British Airways still had me booked in for their assessment day. That day was awful, we drove down from Cheshire the night before and stayed over in Heathrow. My dad dropped me off and he and my mother went into London for the day nervously awaiting my phone call, which came earlier than they expected. It was me and it was only lunch time, I was completely and utterly convinced that I had messed up the day. The BMI interview went so well, it felt like I said all of the right things, got all the approving nods and was one of the successful two. But the BA interview was harder, less was given away and there was many more hopefuls to choose from. I felt awful, I felt like a failure. I cried on the way home, I had blown it. I had failed, failure didn’t seem like an option to me.
Except I didn’t.
I remember to this day where I was when I got the email to say I had been successful and I had the job. The dream job and with the dream airline. Have you been to Liverpool? Are you familiar with the cathedral at the top? I think it’s called the Metropolitan Cathedral? Anyway its a cool bit of architecture and I used to park my car under it when I went to university. It has a big staircase leading up to it at the front and I was exactly half way down those stairs when I got the email. I know this because I nearly fell down rest of them. I did cry, that’s becoming a theme isn’t it? I called my Dad first, because I always do. ‘Anna man stop crying what on earth is wrong?’ He said through my whimpers of joy. ‘I GOT THE JOB AT BA!’ I screamed. He was so proud. I think I will remember that moment for the rest of my life. He was SO excited and SO happy for me. My dad doesn’t show his emotion much, but believe me when I say, he was absolutely buzzing.
I have to admit, half way through my final year at university probably wasn’t the best time to find out I had gotten a job like this. The procrastination was unreal and my grades suffered. I was very much walking around with the attitude of ‘I have a job already, blah’. Pathetic really, but I was still only 22.
Que the emotional rollercoaster of the next year. The olympics in London arrived and the A380s were delayed and so was my course start date. The months rolled by and nothing. The anxiety was real, well let’s be honest, its always real, but it was intense. Finally in March 2013 I got the email and away to London I went.
You will hear many people say with conviction that being cabin crew is simply a waitress in the sky. It has been heard on flights parents say to their children ‘See you must work hard in school otherwise you will end up a trolley dolley’. No I am not joking. The fact of the matter is, that 6 week training course was one of the most consuming and fierce ordeals I have ever been through. Constant exams, everyday scrutiny, information overload. You learn to evacuate a plane, run a seamless and premium service and resuscitate an incapacitated customer all in a short space of time. It is a lot, but its the perfect foundation for the life you are about to lead.
Cabin crew, the best thing I ever did. Thank you to the lady from Virgin, whoever you may be.
(Next time, some ups, some downs and the reality of what I could lose…)