The Life of a Flight Attendant: A Conversation with Rachel Warren Wilson
Tons of women are looking for jobs that allow them to see the world. One of the best ways to do this is by becoming a flight attendant. Frequent flights means frequent layovers and lots of time to explore new destinations–but it’s not all fun and games. Rachel Warren Wilson, a 23-year-old flight attendant based in Dubai, give us insights into the life of a flight attendant.
Tell us about yourself. Where are you from and where were you in life before becoming a flight attendant?
My name is Rachel and I’m 23. I was born and raised in the south east of England, and moved to a small town in Austria with my family just before my 15th birthday. I went to a specialist tourism and hospitality school there, although when I started I hadn’t even given a thought as to what I’d do after.
How did you decide to become a flight attendant? And how did you choose to do so in Dubai?
I was actually flicking through a fashion magazine whilst babysitting for a family friend one evening and saw an advert for the airline I fly for and thought something along the lines of “I could do that!” I remember it saying “An extraordinary job for extraordinary people” and something about that must have appealed to me!
I was still 20 at the time (you have to be 21 to be hired) so I waited a few more months and spent some time travelling Europe before I sent my application in. It just struck me as the perfect job for someone who loves to travel. All of the cabin crew and pilots are based in Dubai so once I got accepted I knew I’d be moving there!
What was the application process like? What sort of training did you have to undergo?
I applied online and then attended an open day in Munich (the closest city where one was being held at the time). Once I’d gotten through all of the group rounds and activities I had a one-on-one interview the next day. It was very nerve-wracking at the time, because although I’d worked part-time since the age of 15 it was my first “real” interview!
I actually wrote a pretty detailed blog post about it, as I’d done a fair bit of research online beforehand and blogs were what helped me the most!
Once the big move to Dubai came, we had seven intense weeks of training. The most important bit, safety and emergency procedures (SEP), takes up two weeks. It was a lot of studying but all so worth it in the end! We also have yearly SEP exams to keep ourselves refreshed and be legal to fly.
What’s your day-to-day experience as a flight attendant?
I have to say it completely depends on the flight. Every flight you have new crew (it’s very rare to fly with the same people, as there’s over 18,000 of us!) and of course new passengers. However I always have fun and I’m definitely a positive person, so even if something were to go wrong I’d try and see the good side of it. That being said, there are certain flights where I can’t wait to get home and into my bed at the end of the day!
What are the biggest challenges of the job? What are the greatest highlights?
The biggest challenge would definitely have to be the jetlag, and getting up in the middle of the night. So often my body doesn’t know whether it’s night or day, let alone which country I’m in!
The highlights – this is easy! Travelling the world and getting paid for it! Even if most of my layovers are only 24 hours, I still make sure to explore all of the destinations and I love discovering new places.
How often do you get to explore different destinations on the job? What sort of travel perks does the job come with?
I’d say I get around eight layovers on average a month. Now I’ve flown to lots of our destinations but there’s still so many more I have yet to visit. I do try and make the most of the perks of the job and go out and see the city.
We get great travel perks – such as plane tickets for around 1/10th of the average price. The only downside is that you’re flying on standby, so if there are no seats left, you’re stuck in the airport!
What’s your most memorable in flight experience?
One thing that came to my mind when I read this question was actually one of my very first flights. It was just a quick one to Kuwait and back, but I’d done the same flight a week before. During boarding a lady came up to me and told me how she remembered me from her flight! This may not seem very significant, but when there are 18,000 crew it’s rare that a passenger would see you again!
Is there anything you wish you knew before you started working as a flight attendant?
I think I was quite well prepared as I’d read so much online, but nothing can really prepare you for the intensity of the training! I was ready for a new adventure so I just took it all as it came!
What sort of advice would you give to other women who are considering becoming flight attendants?
Don’t hesitate if you’re thinking of doing it! There’s no way in the world I’d give up this job; I absolutely love it. Even if you only fancy doing it for a year or two to travel the world, I say go for it! Be prepared for jetlag and being more exhausted than you thought was possible…but then remember you’re waking up in a new city every week!
10. Anything else you’d like to share with the Pink Pangea community?
Thanks for having me! I hope I was able to give you a little insight into what life as cabin crew is like, and don’t forget to check out The Dubai Diaries!