Special thanks to two of my best friends, Carmen and Mihaela, who helped me polish and made this article better and more accurate. They have been both Etihad Airlines crew for a very long time, and their input for this story was priceless.When I was in primary school and even later on growing up, the idea that someone dead gorgeous is jumping from one plane to another, changing exotic destinations like I change my underwear and on top of it is paid for it, damn! It seemed like a dream achievable only for lucky goddesses.
I grew up in a communist country, and my family could afford many things. However, most Romanians were still hardly allowed to travel until 1989 (yeah, those times sucked big time).Even after 1989 until the 2000’s it’s not like we were frequent fliers. Romanian families were more likely to drive to Greece, Turkey, or Bulgaria for vacation.
I remember in high school, one of my friend’s mom’s was a “stewardess” – someone that today we know as “cabin crew” – and she used to bring her a lot of cool stuff from wherever she was traveling, plus their house looked like a museum with antiques and items bought from all over the world. I was fascinated.
So that iconic image of an “air hostess” was portrayed as a model-like beautiful woman equivalent to exquisite beauty: luscious hair put in a perfect bun, full lips, flawless skin complexion, long legs, neat uniforms, and a charming attitude.
After 2010 I started traveling, and I saw stewardesses many times, but in 2012/2013, while somewhere in a European airport (Zurich from what I recall), out of nowhere, an Emirates crew popped up for check-in.
For the first time, one of the world’s largest and most luxurious airlines with the most iconic crew was a few meters away from me.
I have goosebumps now, just writing about it. I was not looking. I was staring like an idiot. And I usually don’t stare. At anybody.
They were the impersonation of flawlessness, beauty, and high standards.
All the details of their outfits, hair, and make-up style were in perfect balance and harmony. They were utterly outstanding.
In 2014 when I was looking for ways to move to the UAE, I went to Emirates and Etihad interviews. I didn’t pass. I was very sad at that time as I really wanted to leave Germany behind and build a new life in the UAE. But of course, everything happens for a reason.
The interviews themselves were for sure an unforgettable experience. The emotions and excitement were overwhelming. From a personal perspective and because I have flown both airlines, I always pictured Emirates as much better and has higher standards, but the interviews were the opposite. While Emirates rented a crappy small boardroom in a 4**** hotel in Dusseldorf and had a grumpy interviewer, Etihad was a whole different experience. They rented a big boardroom in a 5***** hotel where around 80 girls attended. They offered us breakfast. We had a little army of Etihad trainers and interviewers that each had its well-defined role. And it was not just an interview, but they made a proper introduction into the Arab culture and the UAE that perhaps not everyone there in the room was familiar with.
All in all, I witnessed sweat, tears, and so much emotion and desire to get that “cabin crew job”. Even myself, I have really put some effort into being there.
Frankly, I would have been very good at it, but I could not imagine doing it for more than two maximum three years, so in the end, I am happy that life had something else in place for me.
Here Are A Few Of The Golden Benefits, So Many Girls Are Craving If Joining Etihad And Emirates Airlines (I Was One Of Them):
In every layover, the stay is in a 5***** hotel where they have their own room.
Travel to different destinations worldwide, some of the exotic such as Maldives, Seychelles, Mauritius, Singapore, and more.
Always meet new people from passengers, ground staff and of course crew. For those who don’t know, every flight has a different crew, from the first officer up to the economy.
The accommodation for both airlines is paid for, and most of the time is shared, but you will always have your own master bedroom, which includes your own bathroom. And most apartments are really lovely.
Extensive training before starting flying and with different other occasions.
Discounted or free flights for them and their families. Before, it used to be for their friends as well – I don’t know about other airlines, but Etihad and Emirates for sure had this benefit.
The crew becomes family.
Dealing with nationalities from all over the world
Living in the UAE – ideally in Dubai, the most fabulous city in the whole wide world !!!! (for me)
Shop today in Manhattan, have coffee on Champs Elysee in the next few days and lay on an exotic beach in the Maldives next week. How cool is that?
Emirates and Etihad give you a card with worldwide discounts from hotels, spas, entertainment, and restaurants.
For Etihad, if you have been working with them for more than 15 years and quit, you will receive discounted flight tickets for life for your and your family.
Less than one year after I finally moved to Dubai (Read #MyDubai Journey). Most of the girls in the group I landed were cabin crew for either Etihad or Emirates.
With some, I got very close, and they are still my friends. From them and the other crew that I interacted with, I heard so many stories. Some were entertaining, but I was shocked to learn what a cabin crew’s life is behind the scenes.
When you actually pull the curtains, there is a whole different world, and there is a dark side that, as a passenger, you have no clue about. I didn’t. I imagined all is nice and pretty. All they do is travel, smile, and shop till they drop, and all this while they are so well paid.
Yes, they have a lot of benefits. There is no denial here, but there is definitely another list with negative aspects.
Struggles And Pain
- Layovers, turnarounds, and different times zones make you feel like a zombie many times
- Spending time away from home and being more in the air than on the ground.
- Dealing with rude, drunk, and disorderly passengers
- Coping with extreme situations that sometimes they are in a position that they have to make a significant decision that will have to be justified after
- Their salary and allowances are decent, but it’s not what people think.
- As pretty as the outfits are, the ugly and uncomfortable the shoes are!
- Not the healthiest job: being on an airplane so often the quality of the air is not the best so getting sick is very easy, changing time zones weekly, not eating regularly and adequately, dealing with different temperatures.
- The level of radiation that they are exposed to frequently is high.
- Standby times are stressful. They could get a flight anytime, so it’s risky to engage in specific activities because they have only 60 minutes to be ready from the moment they get the call.
- A flight can be very stressful as each has a different crew team, and let’s face it, not all are nice and friendly. So many times it’s not just the passengers that can give you a headache but even your peers.
- Most of the time, you have to live in shared accommodation in a building, not in the city’s best area, and get some obnoxious flatmates.
- Pick-up times and flight schedules are crazy. Many times they have to wake up at 3 am for a 6 am flight
- Taking sick leave days, especially before a flight it’s a complicated and exhausting process, and the risk is that if you take too many, it will affect your records and the chances to getting fired are high,
- Maternity leave – while many airlines in Europe have a benefits package, other companies don’t. This means that as soon as you announce that you are pregnant, you will be on unpaid leave, so you will not receive a dime until you are back to work. This is usually expected 3 months after birth. Inhuman if you ask me …
- If one of your relatives is deceased, you will only have two days of compassionate leave. You have to support this with a lot of documents that prove that you are telling the truth. Now, let me ask you if you live in Brazil or Australia, how can these two days be enough??
- Their roster doesn’t take into consideration holidays such as Christmas, Easter, NYE or family gatherings, birthdays, and celebrations so many of these events are spent by them in “the air” at work.
And here comes the sad part: the image created around them is that all they know is how to serve us food and drinks in the air, provide the safety briefing, meet and greet us, and smile politely.
In fact, being a cabin crew is an underestimated job that comes with insults such as “waitressed in the air” or” what else are they good at rather than serve me and clean the airplane toilets.”
Nasty, ugly, and VERY disrespectful.
These girls are intelligent and hard-working and deal with many challenging situations and “special” passengers. I know some are gold diggers, rude or obnoxious but every garden has its weeds.
Most of them have a diploma and are very well trained in psychology, engineering, marketing or business management, and so much more. Yes, being a stewardess maybe it is not the most intellectual job in the world, and you don’t need a Ph.D. to work there, but it is damn hard work. Not to mention the skills you must possess:
Skillset, Strengths, And Capabilities
Excellent customer service
Think skin to deal with unreasonable passengers and even crew
Deal with a constant time zone change and different temperatures
Patience as they deal with a considerable number of people coming from different cultures.
A positive and constructive approach, especially to critical situations
Organized with managerial skills
First AID trained
Learn how to deal with life-threatening conditions like medical emergencies and terrorist threats.
The flying license has to be renewed every six months, which means hours of study and preparation.
As you already might know, my whole life has been about preaching about the comfort zone. Being a flight attendant, especially for Etihad or Emirates, is another way to get out of your cozy place. It means you left your home and familiar surroundings and embarked on an exciting, challenging journey. HATS OFF for that.
How Is Life For The Former Crew?
I personally don’t see this job as a long-term career for different reasons. Companies such as Etihad or Emirate will only hire you if you are in a specific age range, and if you are getting older, your chances to get fired are very high, there is no pension provided plus it is not a healthy environment from a physical point of view. The options to work as ground staff afterward are also very low, plus the packages are not that attractive.
Some European air companies have older crew such as Lufthansa, Blue Air, etc, and most likely have also a retirement plan in place. Still, for this kind of job, I really think you should have a plan B.
What is really bothering me is how many people and I am not talking about stupid people but smart and open-minded ones they judge and put them down.
Here are just a few examples of successful former crew.
Etihad Airlines (current job)
While she is still flying, she is studying to get her second diploma as a financial analyst. And I am 100% she will.
Etihad Airlines (former crew)
She has flown with Etihad for 15 years. Recently got married and has a kid. She is PT and teaches Crossfit classes at her husband’s gym.
Emirates Airlines (former crew)
She moved back to Romania 2 years ago. She changed two jobs by now and currently, she is Head of Customer Happiness in an IT Company. Yeah, she must have been very stupid to get that job … lol
Emirates Airlines (former crew)
After flying with Emirates for a few years, she joined a private jet company for a few more years. Currently, she is running a successful etiquette school business in Dubai.
Saudi Airlines (former crew)
As Covid came, shortly after she got fired. Salma worked for 4 years in Riyadh and joined Emirates in 2020. But a few months later, she was hired as PA of the CEO of one of the most successful Private Jet Companies in the Middle East.
Bravo! And good for them!
All these girls (and there are so so so many more like them) have a diploma. They are bright, very hard-working, sharp, true champs.
I know many others that, after being flight attendants, made a career in PR, blogging, photography, marketing, you name it.
So let’s be a little more respectful here and less hateful and judgemental 🙂
If you are a cabin crew or have friends who are crew, what are your thoughts?