I’ve recently been doing a series of interviews/articles where I’ve been asking experts in various fields to offer some insight into what it is like to be pursuing their chosen career abroad. Interviews/articles have covered topics such as Teaching English in China, Teaching English in Taiwan, working overseas in a variety of professions and becoming a travel writer & travel photographer. Today my Thai friend shares her experiences as a flight attendant working and travelling overseas. She’s not a travel blogger and so I ‘totally appreciate’ her taking the time out of her busy schedule to answer a few questions for me. Kob kun mak krab!
Q1) Working as a flight attendant is one of many job/career choices one can potentially consider to work overseas and travel at the same time. How important was this particular aspect with regards to your decision to pursue your current position?
I can safely say that this is the most important factor that brought me here – to travel and to see the world. Given such limited time during each stopover, it is still adequate enough. This job grants me opportunities I would never have had with any other career. Frankly I could never imagine myself in Paris and the next week in Johannesburg if I were not doing this job!
Q2) What kind of qualifications and skills does it require for one to work in your field?
No specific course is required to be a flight attendant. Actually it depends on nationalities and airlines. For some you only need high school diploma while for others a university or college degree is prerequisite. I suppose the judges are more interested in individual characteristics and personality traits. It takes a specific ability to mingle and socialize for this kind of job. Additional language skills are a definite plus. I hate to say this but one’s appearance totally matters.
Q3) What are some of your favourite destinations you’ve had a chance to visit directly from your work experience?
This is one difficult question! I would say each city has its own vibe and charm, so it is almost impossible for me to compare. At one time I would enjoy my stays in big cities like London and Paris with hectic environments and so much to discover. I somehow can’t imagine myself settling down there. I personally find Asian countries far more habitable possibly because I enjoy the food in Asia – and nothing else really matters more than that!
Q4) On the other hand, where is a place that you visited that didn’t quite live up to your expectations?
To be honest it’s Italy. Since it has always been my dream to visit Rome & Venice when I was there, reality kicked in. I have been to very touristy spots in Rome, Milan and Venice. I admit that they are picturesque but somehow I found them polluted and super crowded. Some select bad incidents also caused me to have a bit of a bad impression. A crew I went out with in Rome also got robbed. Another was cheated by a bunch of fellas dressed up as Roman soldiers in front of the Parthenon. They acted sweet, asked her if she wanted to have a photo with them and then charged her for 15 Euros!
Q5) When I taught English to adults in South Korea several years ago one of my former students – who worked as an air hostess – frequently talked about the challenges of her job where she specifically mentioned her irregular hours and constantly changing time zones as negative aspects. What are some of the challenges you personally face?
This may vary for different airlines. I’ve never been jet-lagged and I have no problem with different time zones. Probably this is due to where I am based, which is in the middle of all continents, so it is never too extreme. What’s most difficult for me is ridiculously hectic flying schedule. Sometimes I have 5 flights in 7 days, with only a day off and another 7 days of flying. That’s beyond exhausting. This job is truly consuming, both physically and mentally. You find your biological clock dead after few months of flying. And trust me, this very job can sometimes be stressful.
Q6) What is a typical schedule (either weekly, monthly) that you have in terms of destinations, working conditions and days off?
For us it is mandatory to have a day off every 8 days. There are some regulations such as pre-flight minimum rest. Flight attendants are also given some rest on board for extra long haul flights. We can also “bid” for destinations we desire at the beginning of each month. Normally I have 80-90 flying hours per month. Ideally I should have all flights with layovers but sadly that rarely happens.
Q7) What kind of advice could you give to somebody interested in pursuing what it is you’re doing right now?
If you enjoy making new friends, socializing, visiting new places and sleeping in different beds all the time then becoming a flight attendant may be an ideal career for you. The funniest thing is sometimes you almost feel like you are paid to travel! Interested to join? Different airlines have different preferences. Just make sure you do your research, know the company and dress up to match the qualifications. Don’t forget to smile! That’s fundamental.
Q8) Has being based abroad changed your perspective of your home country (Thailand) from when you used to live there permanently?
I once heard a saying that we travel only to return home. Since I left, I often find myself longing to come home. Before I became an expat, I was so fed up with Bangkok. But I start to look at my motherland from the outsiders’ perspectives and I kind of favour it. I have no idea if I am biased by homesickness, but all the crew seems to love Bangkok and Thailand. And believe it or not, Bangkok flights have a notoriety for always being full all year round even though we operate 3 flights a day!
Q9) What is one particular destination you haven’t had the opportunity to visit yet that would be high on your list of places you’d like to go?