A few weeks ago a good friend of mine from elementary school, Johana, decided to take a short holiday in Yogyakarta. She is working as a flight attendance for foreign international airlines, which sounds like a dream job for any women who likes to travel. If you have ever thought about being a stewardess, wondered if is it a fun job or considered being a stewardess in the future, then you better check out my conversation with Johana. I promise that you’ll learn a lot from this interview, just like I did 🙂
1. How did it all begin? Did you ever think that you would work as a flight attendant?
Having been a flight attendant for 5 years now is something that I had never imagined or plan to do in my entire life! I was a Media Broadcasting major back in Uni and was working as Account Executive for Indonesian TV news station for 2 years in Jakarta before joining the airline.
During that 2nd year in Jakarta, a friend of mine, whose wife was a former airline crew of 11 years, mentioned about the job hiring. My first reaction was “Me? Stewardess??” ..and then I giggled. Hahaa…
But he kept sharing interesting stories about his wife’s travel tales, salary, access to the best shopping outlets, and I remember the most tempting part was, never will I ever have to face busses and motorcycles always trying to get in my way in the busy traffic of Jakarta. My job scope at that time required me to be on the road almost all the time to visit clients and stuff so traffic is a big part of my day every day.
So I thought, why not, gave it a try, emailed my CV, next thing I knew I got a call for the interview and after a few steps of tests and try outs, I got the job. My reaction was “I got the job !! I got the job!! OMG….I got the job??! Hahaha… It was unbelievable for me for the rest of that week!
2. How long you have been working as a flight attendant? Do you ever find it as a boring job? What do you do then?
I never got bored of this job yet, though. Every flight every sector every day is a different story. I work with different set of crew on every flight, from minimum of 10 crew to 23 crew, depending of what type of aircraft we are using. And me being me, I actually enjoy working with different people, the crew and the hundreds of pax (this is our short term for passenger). I’ve heard some of my colleagues complained about how boring it is doing the same routine on every flight. I think she must be referring to our inflight service routine, which if you think about it, yeah of course we have to do the same thing right after take off or before landing. i.e., handing out hot towels, headphones, drinks, prepare for arrival, pretty much all the similar things you see airline crew are doing in the plane.
But then, we have different service standards for different flights, and this is the cliché part, if you have the passion for the job, you will not feel like working, let alone find it boring. This is where passengers receive that ‘service from the heart.’ And I am so happy to be able to contribute that every time I come to work. But like any other human, I do get tired after a lot of long flights. So what do I do? I sleep.. A long good quality sleep.. A quality sleep at a beach resort would be even better! And then a long night out with friends. Haha..
3. Considering that you fly frequently to places with different time zones, I’ve often wondered if flight attendants get jet lag as bad as the rest of us? If so, how you deal with it? Do you have any secret tips?
JET LAG!! We feel jet lag almost all the time, but we all got used to it. It became such a big part of the job, I think the company should include that in the contract! Haha.. For example, when we do an Europe/Frankfurt. Let’s say, you take an hour to get ready, you have a briefing 2 hours before departure time, plus the 12-13 hours overnight flight time, after landing there’s the ‘good bye’ part, basically the crew disembark the aircraft roughly 30 minutes after all the passengers. So that’s around 17 hours from our door step to the destination with 3 hours of sleep in the crew bunk. Your body is tired, but it’s usually around 10 in the morning when you finally arrive in your hotel bed.
If I am so tired and I need to stay awake when all the pax are asleep, my best trick is spray my face with Evian facial spray and just throw my face in the galley chiller for like 5 sec. That cold sensation will wake me up in an instant! Or having a good conversation with another crew through out that draggy moment helps to make the time go faster too.
Whenever we come home from a long flight (Europe or US) we are given a minimum 2 days off. The purpose of this 2 days is to help you ‘recycle’ your body clock when you are back home. Usually I arrive at home around 7 in the morning. I will stay awake the entire morning (catching up on social media, unpack, have something to eat), go to sleep at 12 until 7pm, have some dinner, do laundry, and sleep again at 11pm until 8am the next morning feeling rejuvenated and ready to start a ‘normal’ hour day.
Believe it or not, sometimes I would take those NyQuil syrup (cough medicine from US that’s supposed to make you feel drowsy) just to help me sleep better when I am so tired but I can’t sleep. But I don’t always like to do this. I just prepare my body clock for whatever is coming up days ahead. If my next flight is another europe/ US flight, I will live like a zombie during my 2 days off so I won’t have to struggle again during my next night flight and the opposite time zone when i am overseas. That means, I will sleep during the day, and then dinner time becomes my breakfast time. Hahaa… I am feeling kinda weird now telling you this story, but it is a common lifestyle that comes with this job. So make sure you share your flat with the right people!
4. What is the biggest challenge of your job?
Biggest challenge of the job, besides the jet lag, is actually having a normal social life. I think not many people know that living as a cabin crew also means living another lifestyle. Suddenly, all the relationships that I used to know become a ‘long distance’ relationship. As I mentioned, very often I would be asleep when most people are awake and vice versa. I am away flying when friends/ family are having birthday or graduation parties, for example. So when ever I am ‘on ground’ I make it a habit to call my friends/ family so I can catch up w them because every time they try to catch up with me, they’ll find that I am not around.
I just feel lucky that technology nowadays is very dependable, so I make use of that as much as I can. Skype, Facetime, Facebook, chat, all of that literally become my social tools.
5. Can you tell me your funniest experience when dealing with passengers?
Oh I love this part…..! There was one unforgettable flight when I heard a call chime from the pax seat in economy, I immediately attended the seat number (he was seated about 4 rows away from the galley), and as soon as I got there, before I had the chance to address the passenger, I caught him talking to the handset (which was attached below the entertainment screen in front of his seat)! He was like, “Hello… Hello, can I order one coke?” while still pressing the small person button. I am guessing where he comes from, drive-thru service exists inside the plane! Hahahaha.
6. The pay off? What is the coolest thing about your job?
Besides the obvious having the access to travel, in my opinion, the best pay off is getting a lot of discounts with my ID card! A lot of restaurants, hotels, and especially airports really appreciate the airline industry and often offer further discounts once you show them your crew pass. And honestly, speaking of the ‘coolest’ thing about this job, is actually when I tell someone what I do for a living. For some reason, when I am in a middle of a conversation with a person and they ask me, “What do you do?” I say, “I’m an airline crew”, that person’s face expression somehow changes and they become nicer and more interested in you. It gets better when I tell this to persons of authorities…! Hahaha.
7. When you’re doing long haul flights, how long do you get to stop over in cities?
We get a minimum of 48 hours layover for flight time of 9 hours and above.
8. Do you like to travel? What are your top three favourite countries so far?
Besides Indonesia, I love the USA. American people are so laid back and very easy to talk to. Australia as well. I like Cairo too. Being in Cairo is like being in a different era, I wish I could go back there. There’s just so many things to learn and discover.
9. Besides being tall (and proportional), in your opinion, what are the most important qualities of a flight attendant?
Physically, you need to be prepared an fit to deal with jet lags and pushing and arranging those heavy service carts and over head compartments. And don’t forget every time the plane descents the air pressure can be such a pain to your ears! Some people struggle with this problem so much, ear blockage is such a common problem among crew. Some, including myself, are lucky enough to not have this problem.
Mentally, you need to be patient and able to compose yourself. Keep in mind, you are going to deal with long hours of work with hundreds of passengers including children and the occasional drunk/ rowdy people. These people depend on you for their well beings through out the flight, so if there is any kind of emergency situation, or if something goes wrong, whether it’s a big problem or small, the last thing you want to do is make everybody panic, so you really need to compose yourself and put up a strong face and ensure everybody that ‘things are OK’. Nobody wanna see a stewardess crying at her seat during a rough landing.
10. What is your next holiday destination in Indonesia? Why you are considering to visit that place?
WA KA TO BI !! heard about this amazing diving islands too often, I have to see this place for myself!
11. Last, did you enjoy Yogyakarta? Will you come back to visit Yogya again someday?
I really LOVE Yogyakarta!! Can’t get enough of the food! The little streets, the temples, south beaches. The locals are so laid back and life seems so stress free. I am still so happy I ended up talking to you that night and made that last minute trip! You’ve made my 3 short days a very eventful and memorable time! I think I will come back to Yogya even before Wakatobi!
Some pictures are Johana’s personal collection