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PERSPECTIVES – Business aviation through the eyes of the cabin crew: Meet the cabin crew of Europe and the Middle East...
Grossmann Jet Service is based in Prague, and always has cabin crew on board its aircraft – more than one on the larger types.

Grossmann Jet Service is based in Prague, and always has cabin crew on board its aircraft – more than one on the larger types.

The head of human resources and the ceo work together with the flight department to select the best candidates, who are exclusively full-time, says flight attendant Barbora Wastlova.

"We are ambassadors for the company and the conduit with the clients when they fly. Attention to detail is the most important thing and something we pride ourselves on.

"This job is unlike any other. We have a very dedicated team and we work hard on duty, but we can still have the time to read a good book and enjoy somewhere in a warm climate during winter – should our jets take us there.

"If you are interested in travelling, seeing wonderful places, meeting new people, improving your language and professional skills, this job is a great challenge for everybody."

Gama Aviation has nearly 80 business aircraft, supported by its staff of forty full-time flight attendants, based in the UK, USA, central Europe, UAE and Russia.

Anne Chuard, group director of cabin services, is responsible for overseeing the team and reports directly to Gama's ceo.

She has spent some 30 years in the business, with Aeroleasing Geneva and KA Aviation, and as lead flight attendant at PrivatAir in Switzerland where she also moved into marketing. After a short career break to open a bakery, Gama lured her back three years ago.

Anne is also an ambassador for the flight attendant fraternity, sitting on both Flight Attendant Committees for NBAA and EBAA. She splits her time between the USA and the UK and oversees all in-house refresher training with Paul Milverton, in-flight services manager. Paul was previously on the Queen's Flight looking after HRH the Prince of Wales before joining Gama.

Ideally the company likes to recruit from the hospitality industry where there is an inbuilt culture of service, and then train them up. "The yachting industry is another like-minded service sector," says Chuard. "For many of our business jet owners their aircraft is an extension of their home. They want to feel comfortable and safe and their flight attendants, especially on long flights, have a key role to play in this. In our selection process personality is important. We have a variety of clients, of all ages, so we will want crew who are good with the elderly, with children, and demanding business executives who are used to experiencing the very highest levels of service.

"The biggest challenge can be one of logistics when an owner wants their aircraft dispatched quickly for a short notice flight and ensuring everything is ready in time. I have a multi-faceted role which may include working with an aircraft owner to make sure the layout of the aircraft is favourable to serving hot food, that the galleys are in the right position, that there is adequate space to store china and silverware in a safe manner, that we have the right products in the bathrooms, sleep suits for long range flights, and reading material to suit the client's needs. I am a renowned personal shopper and sometimes we get the most unusual requests from clients – from sourcing a rare French scent to sourcing special Tregothnan tea (from Cornwall) – all at short notice. 'Check list' is my mantra.

"90% of our clients are used to five star hotels and Michelin star restaurants so we need to mirror that for many of them. Others like plain and simple food and there is often a tendency by their PA to over order so we end up with waste. After a successful three month trial, Gama announced an agreement with Private Flight to develop and support its catering operations. Working with one central aggregator also enables us to streamline the process of ordering catering," says Chuard.

Is cabin crew a job she would recommend to a friend? "Definitely, yes, but only if they are prepared to be flexible. They need to be energetic too and not get flustered with all the last minute changes. This job is not nine to five and you need an abundance of patience. I love it though and couldn't imagine working in any other sector."

Vistajet always has one cabin hostess on board all its Learjet 60, Challenger 604/5, and Global 6000 aircraft, under the control of a cabin crew manager.

"As we are doing charter flights, we always fly with different passengers who all have different expectations," says Zarela Diaz Torres. "To fulfill all of them is probably the biggest challenge on a day-to-day basis and I'm really enjoying these. I fly for their smile!"

Being able to travel around the world makes this a job she is happy to recommend, although not without reservation: "Working a couple of weeks in a row and a busy schedule are considerations that have to be taken into account," she adds. Within the OMNI Aviation Group, all aircraft bigger than the Learjet 45 have cabin crew on board, especially the Airbus 319CJs which always have a complete set of flight attendants.

OMNI employs only full-time cabin crews, and cabin crew manager Marco Gordo sees his biggest challenge as maintaining the same standards aboard very different aircraft, including the Challenger 300, Falcon 900, and three ACJs with different configurations. "Due to the range and size of the aircraft, our clients vary from football teams to government delegations to royal families," he says.

Gordo came into aviation after working at an airport restaurant. His contact with flight crews made him start as a flight attendant, where he made his career. "It's a rewarding and interesting job, with its ups and downs, but I wouldn't change it for anything in the world."

He recalls preparing top-notch catering for a first-lady, who it turned out only really wanted bananas, and the most unusual passengers aboard the 29-seater ACJ? Nineteen individually caged falcons each with a seat of their own. "They were going to be trained in a desert region, and were only accompanied by their trainer and keeper," Gordo recalls.

"On one cruise flight through Africa we won the ProSky Aviation Excellence Award. During 17 days, we flew 43 German, Austrian and Swiss passengers (between 60 and 80 years old) to nine destinations in Africa, transporting around 650 bottles of wine and champagne and 400kg of ingredients for locally cooking most of the meals."

Crew at ABS Jets include at least one fully trained flight attendant, all full-time employed, even though there is no legal requirement in the less than 19-seat category. For flights with more than nine passengers on Embraer Legacy, there can be two attendants to maintain the service level clients are used to.

Chief flight attendant Darina Stastna is responsible for cabin crew in cooperation with the crew training manager and flight operations manager. She recommends a career in cabin crewing to any flexible person who can work hard independently and is a team player. "This person must be creative, able to improvise in different situations and must think highly of this job," she adds.

Nearly all Tyrolean Jet Services aircraft operate with cabin crew members, the only exception being the CJ2.

Martina Keller is cabin crew manager, and employs full and part-time (minimum 50%), with no freelancers. "All of our cabin crews have worked with our company for many years and so the turnover is very low," she says.

"The biggest challenges are organising catering in foreign countries where they don't really understand you, organising catering at very short notice, and sourcing passenger special requests like champagne with golden leaves in it or a special arabic cough tea," she adds.

"But the most satisfying part of the cabin crew job is when a stressed passenger boards the aircraft annoyed and angry, and leaves the aircraft smiling.

"Once I had a flight to the Seychelles for a week and it was planned to fly the passengers afterwards to central Europe and then back to our home base. The day before leaving our company told us we were not going back to our home base, but to fly to Siberia for one more week.

"In my suitcase there were only skirts, t-shirts and sandals, but nothing for the cold temperatures of Siberia. So since then I have some nice Russian clothes in my wardrobe and my suitcase is even heavier because I am prepared for everything.

"You often fly with celebrities for many hours, trying to create a relaxing and special time on board, sometimes having a chat with them, making their beds, playing with their children. And the next day you see them on television or in a movie and you cannot believe that it was just hours ago you had such a nice time with them on board."

Erica Jacques joined Twinjet five years ago as a freelance cabin crew member, progressing to deputy and eventually overall cabin services manager.  

"We manage two aircraft at the present time – a Challenger 604 and an Airbus A319. The Challenger has one dedicated cabin crew member and the Airbus has between three and four cabin crew, depending on the passenger figure and the length of flight," she reports.

"I am responsible for the liaison and decision making for all of the cabin crew, all aspects of training and the day-to-day running of both aircraft and, as often as I can, carrying out flying duties. We employ six full-time cabin crew and a small number of freelance staff."

At Jet Aviation, Tamara Taleb, chief cabin attendant, is responsible for hiring cabin crew, as well as training and scheduling. "We do not have cabin crew on all the aircraft, only on mid-size and large, and on request of the passengers," she says.

The company uses full-time staff and freelancers, with one 50% part-timer. "We employ them directly, not through agencies," she adds.

Peter Waters, cabin crew general manager for PrivatAir, is responsible for 220 cabin crew working from six bases, each with a cabin crew base manager. "We have normally four cabin crew on our aircraft made up of three crew members and one inflight director," he says. "We employ full-time, part-time and freelance staff, but we don't use agencies. However we do use, during our summer period, students from the International Hotel School of Lausanne, train them as flight attendants and fly them during a five month period."

Waters worked at British Airways as cabin crew for many years before ending up in Qatar with the Amiri flight. He has held his current role since 1999.

"I think the highlights of the job would be the various airline shuttle programmes we have been involved with organising and operating," he says. "The most challenging was probably setting up the Airbus operation which involved a totally new product which we designed, sourced and delivered in a very short time period. It was its own mini full-service airline."

Challenge Aero employs about 20 full-time flight attendants, sometimes supplemented by part-time or even freelance cabin crew. "Usually this happens in the periods of summer vacations and increasing political activities in our country [Ukraine], when we have a lot of flights," says cabin crew manager, Tatyana Iliukhina.

"Our passengers mostly are businessmen, celebrities, politicians, government officials and presidents, through various companies. So it seems to me the biggest challenge our cabin crew face is to find the right approach to each of our customers, to feel their mood in order to be attentive even to the slightest details of their needs.

"Of course there are some other difficulties our ladies overcome on a day-to-day basis, such as the absence of a clear schedule with little chance to plan their private life, and constant concerns about the quality of catering delivered, amongst other things.

"Now I regret that my career of a flight attendant is about over. After 14 years of working for Ukrainian National Airlines and 10 years as a senior hostess in business aviation I have a lot to remember. And fortunately all my memories are only bright. I have never been in an emergency situation, but of course I am prepared to face it.

"And if there are healthy and attractive young persons who have a strong intuition for diplomacy and excellent negotiation and public relation skills, then I recommend them to try themselves in this sphere. It could be life-changing."

Petroff Air employs full-time cabin crew, organised under a cabin chief, and usually has one or two on board each flight.

The biggest challenge, says assistant flight director Sergey Zakharov, is to find the time for the necessary training between the flights, but the most satisfying parts of the job are good feedback from passengers and safe flights. Titan Airways currently employs around 70 cabin crew for its BAe146, RJ100, B737, B757, B767 and Legacy 650 aircraft.

All cabin crew are type rated on three aircraft types, this normally being the Boeing fleet. They are employed on a permanent full-time contract, subject to a successful six month probation review. Requests can be made by existing cabin crew to work part-time.

"Time is the biggest challenge that I face on a day-to-day basis," says cabin crew manager Shaun Fitzpatrick. "Priorities change on a minute by minute basis and while this is challenging it is also very exciting; you never know what the next challenge will be. My role here is probably more varied than it would be if working for another airline.

"I am involved in the acceptance process of new aircraft, including checking safety equipment, inclusion and publication of the new aircraft into the operation manual, training manual and training courses.

"Schedules are usually very tight with aircraft bookings sometimes being a matter of days after arrival. This means getting everything right first time.

"Having 70 cabin crew employed I am able to get to know all members of the cabin team which is something that I would not be able to do working for a larger airline.

"During my career at Titan Airways [since 1997] I have held various positions including deputy cabin crew manager and cabin crew training manager. In 2008 an opportunity arose to take on the role of cabin crew manager, a role which I thoroughly enjoy. It is really nice to have been part of the continued development and growth of the company throughout the years.

"I have been fortunate enough to fly many interesting customers to numerous fascinating destinations. There really is no better way to see the Northern Lights than at 30,000ft.

"The passenger profile is equally varied, whether it is a ski flight to Chambery, a recital in the Rose-Red City of Petra, a football team to New York or a flight for royalty, we have successfully flown the wider spectrum."

Ocean Sky has cabin crew on board all its aircraft, whether privately managed aircraft or charter.

"Those operating on privately managed aircraft focus on a very personalised service to the aircraft owner, their family and friends," says cabin crew manager Louise Jackson. "We have to anticipate their travelling needs and cater for their specific requirements, tastes and personalities.

"Although there are many people behind the scenes involved in making the travel experience perfect, it is often the cabin crew member who has the most direct exposure to our clients. Their appearance, professionalism and manners are a direct reflection of Ocean Sky's ethics and standards, therefore recruiting the right crew is crucial.

"As cabin crew and service delivery manager I am responsible for safety on board our aircraft and for ensuring our cabin crew deliver a service which both reflects and promotes our company brand. I also oversee their recruitment and training.

"In Moscow we have our lead flight attendant for Russia. She offers support to our crew who are either based in Moscow or travelling through. She is also responsible for maintaining the company standards on board and inflight training.

"Our crewing and rostering manager is responsible for the logistics of getting our crew to the right place at the right time, not always an easy task!

"Airline cabin crew tend to find themselves within the same working environment each time they fly as they have regular schedules and destinations. Corporate cabin crew have to adjust to various corporate cultures and client expectations within non-structured time frames, potentially anywhere on the globe.

"I worked for a wealthy management company's corporate jet department in the USA as a chief flight attendant for almost five years before returning to the UK. During my time at Ocean Sky I have seen an amazing amount of change and growth.

"Obviously discretion is paramount in the private jet industry. However, meeting celebrities and dignitaries always makes the job interesting. Cabin crew can be privy to many high profile highlights and disasters which is what can make it interesting and rewarding, sometimes humbling, and other times grateful for the family and friends at home."

"Every one of our aircraft is required to have one or more cabin crew on board. The number depends on the aircraft and the number of passengers," says GainJet cabin crew manager Olga Beglopoulou.

"We employ full-time and part-time cabin crew, but most are full-time. At short notice, we hire freelance cabin crew, many of whom we have worked with in the past.

"The biggest challenge that we face is to ensure all standards are kept high no matter what circumstances arise. Operating worldwide sometimes means that we operate to countries where vip level services are lacking and we have to find the most effective solution while making sure customer service is not affected.

"During my days at university, I began working as a part-time cabin crew member in the commercial airline industry. I enjoyed the experience and realised that this was the career I wanted. After graduating I took all the necessary courses and became a full-time cabin crew member. After a few years, I was offered an opportunity to work as a cabin crew member for a private individual. This is where I was introduced to vip/corporate aviation. I flew for this individual as senior cabin crew for six years, and then was introduced to GainJet. Here I soon became cabin crew manager.

"We fly to many destinations throughout the world. I remember one time in particular where we travelled to a nation in Africa with vip passengers on our Boeing 757-200. On arrival, we were shocked to hear that there were no dish or glassware cleaning services available and no facilities for potable water at the airport. We needed to save the potable water we had on board for upcoming flights. So after a long flight, with many passengers, we had quite a load of dirty dishes and it seemed that there was no way to clean them. Thankfully we have all the cleaning supplies we need on board. We used all the bottled water we had, purchased more and our crew cleaned everything right there on the airport grounds. It was a great experience because we all worked together to tackle the problem."

For smaller aircraft it is simply not possible to have a flight attendant on board due to space restrictions, but for most ExecuJet charter aircraft there will always be a cabin attendant on board. One cabin attendant is usually the standard but if there are more than eight passengers or the customer requests then the company provides two cabin crew for the flight.

Currently staff are all full-time or freelance. Due to working schedules and training it is more efficient to employ full-time staff that work alternate periods of time. The freelance crew can then be on standby for when someone is on annual leave or to cover sickness.

Challenges usually involve a third party, ExecuJet's cabin crew manager reports. "This could be catering that doesn't arrive or flowers that don't look as you requested. We try and build good relationships with suppliers as they then know exactly what we like; this inevitably makes the day-to-day business much easier. It is really important for us that catering, etc, arrives on time and is of the quality you would expect in private aviation.

"We clean the aircraft ourselves which means that this is always up to our standards. It is also important that we communicate well with the charter team to ensure all customer requests have been taken care of."

For some operators full-time cabin crew are not essential. Redstar Aviation provides cabin crew on the passengers' request, employing freelance staff like Canan Bulut for this purpose.

"The most satisfying part of the job is to get to know new people and new places," says Bulut. "It is a good job for full-time employees, especially those who work in an airline."

"As our operation is sporadic, being sole use charter, it does not make sense to employ full-time staff with days off. We have found that the best solution is to look for staff who have previous experience in cabin services and/or silver service," says Aviation Beauport's Paul Holroyd.

"The staff that we have at the moment have young families and enjoy the opportunity to get away on their own for a few days a month. "As the Falcon 2000 does not legally require cabin crew, we give them the basic training that we deem necessary," he reports.

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