The cabin crew job: „A LIFETIME EXPERIENCE“ says Sorina, a former Etihad and Qatar Airways crew

Interview by Nicoleta Gherman, Trainer and Founder

While being both a cabin crew for Qatar Airways, I had the chance to meet Sorina Stanciu, a passionate young lady in love with flying. Actually, when I asked her about her life, she immediately accepted to write about her life as a cabin crew: “It all started on an early morning of May 2006 when Qatar Airways advertised its recruitment campaign in Bucharest, for cabin crew. It caught me at the right moment, at a 1-year distance after finishing my University studies and finding myself in an office job. Leaving a background of legal studies, with work experience in Mass-media and getting to know the political issues of Romania in its early 2000 through the election campaign won for one of the local mayors in Sinaia, prepared me for an easier interaction with colleagues from different countries right from the arrival at the airport in Doha.”

What motivated you to become a cabin crew?

Classic until now, maybe, however only the idea of escaping from the so-called conventional lifestyle brought me to the first photo shooting center and got me working on my CV. Sooner than expected, I received the positive reply from them asking to be ready by July for embarking on an excellent journey abroad, in the Middle East, particularly in Doha, Qatar, a place which not many of the people I knew had even any idea about the location on the map.

What do you think is the greatest achievement of your life till now?

Comparing the perspective of flying around the world, for living in a community of people sharing the same dream, for discovering places that you could only imagine, or exposing yourself to so many cultures, foreign languages or nationalities, made me always think of a famous logo: United through colors, celebrating diversity. And I was part of it.

My biggest achievement until now will be evaluated by the people I met and I brought a smile on their faces. Speaking about the time you spend away from your friends and family, you receive a kind of energy to keep you going. It is like a boomerang of your own needs. Speaking in performance terms though, I am happy to have been selected as the only cabin crew for an aircraft delivery Airbus 320 from Hamburg in 2010, I was also part of the team for the inaugural flight to Bucharest -Budapest in January 2011 and other events that Qatar Airways organised involving cabin crew for safety purposes.

To give you a few hints about the reasons why I think Qatar Airways selected only 4 of us amongst 120 other candidates registered for the interview, I will specify the genuine approach to the people you meet, to the endurance of long hours of interaction for 3 days of recruitment, the common sense that anyone should display when taking decisions in different group exercises and, probably the best aspect, a natural and genuine smile. Overall, an educated attitude towards everything around you. However, in Etihad Airways the recruitment process is a bit more relaxed, which gives you a comfortable feeling of giving your best for the interview.

Please describe for our readers your experience as a Qatar and Etihad Airways cabin crew.

So, here I am, at my first travel by airplane for the first time exiting the country, in a hot desert area, during Ramadan. Couldn‘t get better you think? Get ready for intensive training, strict examinations, fixed schedule during training and lots of drills. However, in order to break the rules, you have to master them, so this is what I did for almost 8 years of flying for Qatar Airways. Impeccable make-up, perfect preparations for the flights, excellent knowledge of Safety and First Aid, nevertheless Hospitality culture, all transform you into an incredibly new person: a cabin crew.

I have the experience of 2 airlines (Qatar Airways for 8 years, where I reached the Purser-CSD position and Etihad Airways for 2 years, as business class crew too) and maybe because of the similarities of location, culture, and expectations, it did not seem too different one from another. I would say that Qatar Airways was my first love – maybe because it was the first airline I worked for. However, in Etihad, I noticed more differences in the time which was not dedicated to flying that you could spend at your own ease, away from the imposed rules of housing for example. The aspects related to your personal life are a pro for applying for Etihad, a modern airline where you enjoy a multinational work environment, numerous international destinations that they fly to, the proximity to Dubai and its’ attractions, a new range of fleets like Boeing787 and Airbus380.

What does customer service mean to you as a 5* crew?

In order to receive this reward, you should be aware that Etiquette is a no-GO for an excellent cabin crew. Punctuality, social skills developed through everyday interactions, reliability in dealing with customers when delivering the 5* service or applying the rescue procedures, being able to offer emotional support when needed, all this make you more capable and more satisfied with what you can achieve for your own and for others. I realize you cannot be selfish when you think and act like a cabin crew.

But, to be more to the point, I would like to give you a short insight of a day for preparation for your duty. Even if the flight departs at 02:30 for example, you need to be getting up from bed around 4 hours before, start fresh, make sure all your luggage is prepared, your documents, your flight information, you brush up on some Safety and First Aid possible scenarios to discuss during briefing, perfect look and there you go. Ready to be the best host in the air. Even though most of the people see just the “glamorous look” of cabin crew during the flight, let me assure you there is more than this. Eventually, we are humans also, and most of the long haul flights (up to 20 hours of duty sometimes are exhausting and troublesome, however, it takes a little more effort not to show it). Coming back to the activities on board, the ground preparations and the service offered to the customers right from the moment they reach the aircraft are essential for the entire experience on board together.

What have you found to be the toughest aspect of this job?

You need to prioritize the tasks, even though there are some guidelines in the service flow, however taking initiative and anticipating the needs at different times – will make you stand out amongst the other colleagues. The flights to Saudi Arabia will be the best example when it comes to this, considering the sensitive issue of having a woman seated next to a man who is not a family member. Or the moments when you see a deeply sorrowed widow in the vicinity of a group of high spirited party guys, with a full load, a simple word of encouragement for the former will make a lasting impression. Speaking of attention to details, both in Qatar Airways and Etihad, there have been many situations when offering emotional support counted more than the table set-ups. This, along with technical issues arising on board or stressful moments when you have to rescue someone (either fainting, or having a heart attack, or difficulty in breathing, or chocking) are situations when you have to act immediately at your best knowledge. It happened that on my last flight coming from Beijing to Abu Dhabi, we had 2 emergency situations where 2 passengers were having heart attacks at the same time. Luckily, we delivered the best practice and it all ended up successfully.

What would you advise the young generation who would like to become flight attendants?

For the young generation interested in following this career I would suggest thinking about it in the most effective way because it might be one-lifetime experience. From traveling around the world (the only 2 places I didn’t visit are New Zeeland and Alaska) to getting even paid for it, what more could you wish for? However, be ready for some lonesome moments when you feel you have it all, but all by yourself. This I would say is the contrast of this job, not easy to handle.

But, with a little hardship comes the reward. I wouldn’t change a thing, and after 10 000 flying hours, I will be ready for that flight tonight if needed. However, this year I have decided that it will be nice trying to fulfill other fields of my life, such as a family of my own, hopefully receiving the blessing of a child and moving on with feet on the ground.

*Today, on your birthday, we wish you, Sorina, a Happy Birthday and as you unite this weekend with your partner in love and in friendship, we congratulate you. Here’s a Lifetime of Happiness! Let the “Happily Ever After” begin!