Cabin Crew Life: Preparing For a Flight

I thought I’d give you also an insight about what life as a cabin crew is like. To do so I’ll be writing in this mini-series of posts about “Cabin Crew Life”. As I mentioned previously, I worked as a flight attendant for Emirates Airlines for 3 years, so these posts talk about my experience during those years. One last thing if you have any curiosities feel free to ask in the comments box, I’ll do my best to give you an answer.

Step 1: Sleeping

This might seem like a pretty dumb point, but it really isn’t. As a flight attendant you need to sleep even in unusual hours. For instance if your next flight’s departure time is 4 AM and it’s a turnaround (a round trip without a night’s stay at the destination) you’ll have to sleep in the afternoon. If not you risk being very fatigued during the flight.

So you can see how the flight preparation starts with a proper sleep at the right time. This also implies that you have to plan ahead from the day before. In a similar fashion to what I explained in in my fighting jetlag article.

Step 2: Wake Up

When in base (Dubai) my wake up time was exatly 4 hours before the flight departure time. I would give myself a few minutes to start functioning and prepare myself a coffee. From -4 to -3 hours was my preparation time.

I had to shower, shave and prepare my suitcases. In case of a turnaround I would have just one piece of luggage, my carry on bag. For a layover flight I would have my carry on plus a hold suitcase. In my cabin bag I would have: my service vest, all my documents, my oven gloves and a shoe shining sponge.

My hold bag instead had: a uniform change to wear on the return flight and all that I needed for my stay at the destination. This would vary from destination to destination, depending on season and what I planned to do once arrived.

By now we’re almost 3 hours before the flight’s departure time. It’s time to wear the uniform with a few drops of colone and fix my hair.

Step 3: Pick Up Time

We are now 3 hours before the flight departure. It’s time to leave home to get to the airport. When I worked Emirates there used to be shuttle busses which would pass by each crew accomodation building. There used to be a bus every 20/25 minutes. So I would go downstairs to the building’s lobby and wait for the next bus to arrive.

I used to live in Bur Dubai, the older part of Dubai not far from the “creek” that separates Deira and the airport area from the rest of the city. The bus ride used to last between 25 and 40 minutes depending on traffic. Traffic in Dubai can get pretty hectic at times. I had to take that into account to be at the airport before cut-off time, after which I would have been marked as absent.

Step 4: At The Airport

We’ve not reached -2 hours from departured time. This is when I meet the rest of the crew before the flight and we do our briefing. It was pretty rare for me to fly with the same crew members more than once. This was another challenge of the job. You needed to quickly create a positive team spirit with the rest of the crew to ensure you had a good day at work.

At this time we would also meet the flight deck crew (captain and first officer), who would give us an overview of all the flight’s details. Once all of this was done, it was finally time to get to the aircraft. But we’ll continue with that part of the job in the next article of this mini-series.

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