Marius Brazys, who has recently joined Baltic Aviation Academy as a sales project manager in the Initial Pilot Training School, has a strong background and extensive experience in working within the aviation industry. Having worked as a senior flight attendant on Boeing 737, Fokker 50, Fokker 100 and Dash 8-Q400 types of aircraft for a total of over 4 years, Marius is just the right guy to explain us what it really means to be a flight attendant.
1. There are many people dreaming to become flight attendants; however, they rarely act on their dreams. As I know, you have a bachelor’s degree in Automotive Transport Engineering which is absolutely unrelated to aviation. How did you get the idea of becoming a flight attendant? What were the reasons for choosing the sky highways?
I have fantasized about flying since I was a little boy. It so turned out though that I went on to study engineering. After my graduation I set off to visit my friends in Japan. I spent my flight back watching flight attendants and enjoying the comfort of B747. The idea that then crossed my mind was ‘Now or never’. As soon as I got back I left my previous job and started to search for Cabin Crew positions in airlines operating in Vilnius.
2. Was it hard to get a job as a flight attendant? Could you tell us more about how one starts seeking a career in this area? What are most airlines looking for?
Airlines are on a constant lookout for new talent. However, the selection is very complex. The main requirements include being at least 18 years old, a good swimmer, knowing several languages and having experience in customer service. Physical state is also very important – each candidate must pass the 2nd class medical commission and receive a required health certificate).
After sending out an application and all required documents you must wait until you are invited to attend either an Open Day or Assessment Day. During the day you are required to perform a number of tasks: sit through a personal interview, participate in a group interview and be involved in a group discussion, pass the English test. After every round candidates who fail to demonstrate adequate skills are automatically sent home, others proceed further. If you are lucky you receive an invitation to attend a final interview in the airline‘s headquarters. After that, a candidate must undergo the aforementioned medical checks and, if everything is alright, he/she is accepted and may place the first steps in aviation as a Cabin Crew trainee. Then, of course, there is an intensive training where one must be able to absorb a lot of information in a very short period of time and pass a large number of exams.
3. From an outsider’s view, the flight attendant job seems adventurous and fun but as we know every profession has its challenges. Please tell us more about the qualities a person willing to become a flight attendant should possess.
He or she must love flying, be a rather easy going person, flexible, excellent team player, honest, responsible and hard working.
4. You have a 5 years’ experience working onboard – what are the most attractive features of being a cabin crew member?
First and foremost – the flight itself! When here on the ground we are sometimes faced with rain or snow, up there the sun is always shining! Even if you tried, you could not spend two days alike. Every day you meet new cabin crew members, pilots and passengers, go to different destinations and see new places. Naturally, there is always a number of frequent fliers when you already know much about – for example, what kind of drinks they prefer onboard.
5. On every flight you have to provide excellent service to at least 90 passengers. Not everybody gets on the plane in their best mood. How do you deal with aggressive or snappish clients? Any memorable situations you could tell us about?
The main rule is to keep yourself in high spirits. Usually all that it takes to solve most of the issues is a sincere conversation, an explanation of why certain behaviour might be inappropriate. In more extreme cases one may apply stricter measures – usually in the form of captain warning. Passengers who understand the gravity of situation tend to be apologetic and cease to behave inappropriately. If no such measures are effective, after landing the plane is greeted by a police car. And that results in a very expensive ‘escort’.
6. What measures can cabin crew take to calm down aggressive/hysteric clients? I’ve heard you are even able to twist an arm and call the police. Did it ever happen to you?
A flight attendant must have nerves of steel. Most importantly he/she must understand that an aggressive passenger is not only a danger to himself but also to other passengers onboard. I can recall a situation when an overly intoxicated passenger went on to harassing other passengers and overly demonstrating his emotions. Having paid no attention to any cabin crew warnings the troubled flier ended up being arrested as soon as he landed and escorted from an aircraft in handcuffs.
7. We also know that cabin crew duties involve helping with the safety operations – we watch them demonstrating the proper use of oxygen masks and safety belts, the whereabouts of lifeboats and emergency exits, etc.. Did you ever face an emergency situation?
This is the first task that a flight attendant must complete after entering an aircraft. We must check whether all the needed equipment is onboard and we can proceed with the flight. I always watch the safety demo as a passenger myself and highly recommend doing that for every air traveler. For those not paying attention I explain that flight attendants are indeed well trained to help passengers in case of emergencies. Needless to say, they would never leave a passenger in a critical situation on his/her own.
Most serious situations onboard are related to passengers feeling unwell or losing consciousness. Then a flight attendant needs to demonstrate sharp reaction and the entire crew is required to coordinate their actions. The crucial thing is to determine the problem as quickly as possible and to provide the first aid accordingly. The captain must be also informed about the seriousness of situation so that if needed, the aircraft can be landed in the nearest available airport and the passenger can be provided all the necessary medical help.
8. Do flight attendants have enough time between flights to visit and actually see their flight destinations? During your career were you ever surprised by cultural differences in other countries?
It really depends on where you are going and how the schedules are arranged. Some flights are turnaround. Then the aircraft is only tidied and takes passengers for a return flight almost immediately after landing. Sometimes there are gaps of 12 to 48 hours or even longer. These are known as ‘city breaks’. Flight attendants often have their favourite cafes and bars they go to in different cities. Moreover, they often share their experience with passengers visiting those cities: places of interest, what-to-do’s, what-to-see’s, nice catering establishments, etc.
9. What type of relationships do crew members usually maintain among themselves: do flight attendants get along with pilots? Are the relationships between flight and the cabin crew – mostly professional or friendly?
Mostly relationships are strictly professional. However, as in any other workplace, people form friendships and find people they feel comfortable spending their free time with, for example, in a disco or a bar after work.
10. What was the most memorable flight you worked on and why?
It must have been the presidential flight to Brussels under the presidency of His Excellency Valdas Adamkus – mostly because of exceptionally high requirements, both regarding food and service. It was also memorable due to the fact that it was the last official visit of His Excellency as the president of Lithuania.
11. Hearing stories about flight attendant’s life makes you think that it is a very romantic profession. Maybe you could share some interesting stories from ‘behind the scenes’?
Customers, seeing smartly dressed and well groomed flight attendants, sometimes leave their contact numbers, invite them on dates, etc.
12. A cabin crew member – is it a feminine or a masculine position?
Historically speaking, it has always been a female flight attendant with a signature hat and a scarf streaming in the wind. Nowadays, however, the job itself has changed and there have been more and more guys wishing to fly for a living (most of them – future pilots). Statistically an average airline employs 80% of female and 20% of male flight attendants.
13. What would be your last word to all of those dreaming to become cabin crew members?
If you are bored from your 9 to 5 job, enjoy flying, working within a team and are a service oriented person – look no further! Just become a flight attendant!
Thank you for an interesting interview.
Baltic Aviation Academy has so far trained more than 10 000 aviation specialists. On the 6th of February, 2012 it is set to welcome a new group of students wishing to become certified flight attendants.