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Gear up for a flying start

Meeting people, globetrotting — being an airhostess is all this and more. All that you need to be an airhostess is the right attitude. It is a myth that airlines only recruit from training institutes.

education Updated: Nov 25, 2009 10:27 IST
Vandana Ramnani

As a high school teen, Anjali Menon thought it would be “really cool” to look smartly groomed and travel the world in high heels. She was captivated by the idea of visiting exotic lands and getting paid for it.

Now 23, Menon is living her dream — she is an airhostess. She shops in New York, buys cheese in Amsterdam, samples chocolates in Frankfurt and gets her weekly stock of noodles from Tokyo.

Before joining a renowned international airline, Menon, a hotel management graduate, worked as a guest relations executive in a hotel. “I knew from the beginning that I had to join the aviation industry,” she says. “So I looked at the hotel industry as a stepping stone. It also made my CV look good, compared to students who came from a non-hospitality background.”

“The entire experience is great and the travelling is the best part, but one has to forego a major part of one’s social life,” Menon says. It can get lonely, being away from home for long periods, “but flying with colleagues makes it so much easier and makes work enjoyable”.

For cabin attendant Neetu Suri, who works for Spicejet, “this is one of the very few jobs that allow for frequent travel, seeing new places and meeting people from varied backgrounds”. She feels this is a great way to develop as a person, and it doesn’t hurt that the pay is good and the job is glamorous. “There is a lot of hard work, but I enjoy doing what I do,” she says.

The scope for career progression in this field has improved as more airlines are allowed into the country. One can become senior cabin attendant after two or three years on the job, and then, if they so wish, move into administration or base operations. The other option is to be a trainer in technical or customer services, etc.

The job has its challenges, the biggest being “handling customers and effectively solving their problems with limited resources”, says Suri. Also, job timings require a great deal of setting and resetting of the body clock. “There are phases of very intense physical activity, followed by breaks,” Suri adds. “We have to constantly adapt to different time schedules, which means altering meal times and sleep habits. Quality time with family and friends must be planned as per the roster.”

What’s it about?
An airhostess’s primary job is to ensure the safety and security of passengers and she is specially trained and certified for safety and first-aid situations. She also has the added responsibility of making every passenger’s flight comfortable in terms of customer service. Her tasks involve welcoming passengers on board, providing in-flight information, demonstrating emergency safety regulations and assisting old and sick passengers. An airhostess is expected to help passengers during critical situations calmly and patiently. There have been instances of airhostesses displaying exemplary courage and even laying down their lives for the sake of their passengers. It is an airhostess’s responsibility to evacuate passengers from the plane during an emergency

The Payoff
An airhostess is paid according to her experience and the airline she works for. A fresher may earn Rs 20,000-25,000 per month. A head flight attendant can earn up to Rs 60,000 per month. Major international airlines pay Rs 80,000 pm to Rs 1 lakh per month.

This can differ from organisation to organisation, and the number of hours one clocks per month

Clock Work
3 am: Cab for the airport arrives
3.15 am: Get to the airport, screen and check in baggage
3.30 am: Report to the movement office
3.40 am: Attend briefing sessions
4 am: Meet and greet the cockpit members and keep special instructions in mind
4.10 am: Check emergency equipment on board
4.15 am: Check cabin cleanliness and meal configuration according to the booked load of passengers
4.30 am: Greet and seat passengers on board
4.40 am: Distribute cold towels, sweets and candles and juices to passengers
5 am: Clear up
5.10 am: Flight safety demonstration
5.15 am: Take off
8.30 am: After landing, wish passengers good bye, see that infirm passengers have got off
9 am: Go to the movement office again for a debriefing. Go home

Institutes & urls
Frankfinn Airhostess Training Academy
. Avalon Academy for Aviation
. AHA Airhostess Academy

. Ability to remain pleasant and presentable no matter how much the pressure
. One has to stay fit. Good skin and good eyesight are musts
. Functioning as a team player
. Handling difficult situations and the ability to deal with them independently

How do i get there?
The minimum qualification required is 10+2. It pays to be a graduate in any field or in hotel management. Knowledge of foreign language is a plus. Some airhostess training academies help you learn the ropes

Pros & Cons
Improves people management skills and self-confidence
. One gets to explore the world
. A well-paying job
. Crazy hours, and some amount of menial work on-flight
. Family life suffers

Boarding pass

A hiring expert outlines the advantages of this profession

What’s the selection procedure for airhostesses?
Each applicant is checked for communication skills, friendly and positive attitude, personality, grooming and customer-service orientation.

Various rounds are conducted before the final selection. The applicant is expected to speak on a given topic for a minute. Mandatory health tests and checking of height and weight ratio are also carried out. Competency-based personal interviews are key to the selection process.

What are the basic skills and qualities you look for?
Appearance: An airhostess should have a friendly and warm disposition, good posture, a spontaneous smile, communication skills. She should also be an attentive listener.
Personality: She should appear confident and demonstrate an ability to handle adversity.

General competence and knowledge: She should be able to think on her feet and have awareness of the aviation industry and the airline she is being hired for.

Is there an age limit?
The selection age bracket is 19 to 25 years.
Please advise youngsters wanting to take up this job.
Flying can be challenging, but it is fun, too. You see new places and interact with people from different walks of life, including VIPs.

No formal training is required. The person should possess the right attitude. It is a myth that airlines only recruit from training institutes.

Growth prospects and challenges?
In three to four years, one can become senior flight attendants or check crew. They can also opt for a non-flying career in the field of training like safety or grooming and can also opt for airport services such as base in-charge or duty manager.

Mandeep Baweja HR head, Spicejet Interviewed by Vandana Ramnani