Aviation

How to become a first-class flight attendant

Lauren Croft

Being a flight attendant is no easy feat – have you seen how people behave on planes?

Hint: think death threatsrudeness, tantrum-throwing children and the drunk and disorderly – as well as passengers just being downright gross. Put your shoes and socks back on Carol, your feet stink. Economy, right?

But being a first-class flight attendant may be even harder than those in economy. The passengers may be more pleasant, but the rigorous training and high standards the attendants have to meet makes getting into first class harder than ever.

Emirates First Class is considered among one of the most luxurious around – they even have floor to ceiling suites on some routes. And now Joanna Collins, a Dubai-based flight attendant for Emirates First Class has spilled the beans on exactly what it takes.

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Spoiler; its not easy. From hair and makeup classes t0 knowing the ins and outs of silver service, first-class cabin crew are required to be much, much more than a flight attendant.

Speaking to Town & Country magazineCollins said that the work can be rewarding, but is far more gruelling than you might think. She spent two years in economy and two years in business before moving up t0 first, where she’s been for two years. And to move up requires a whole lot more training.

“It’s quite a dramatic change, especially when it comes to dining,” she said.

“In economy there’s just one tray; in First Class, we have ‘silver service’ dining, so appetizers, main courses, and desserts are all served at different times, and customers can ‘dine on demand’ whenever they want.

“We’re taught all the etiquette about cutlery and the different plates used for each course.”

First-class cabin crew even have to take a wine education course – because the selection up in first is a little different to that in economy.

“When you’re serving things like Dom Perignon and Bordeaux, you need to have a thorough understanding of what you’re pouring. We need to know the difference between old world and new world wines, as well as champagnes, bourbons, whiskeys, and other spirits,” Collins told Town & Country Magazine. 

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But forget wine and silver service classes – to be an Emirates flight attendant for any class you have to look neat, presentable and uniform at all times – in the form of hair and makeup, nails and the famous Emirates uniform.

“Emirates likes to keep uniformity. Your nails can be nude, light pink, or you can have a French manicure. We also have different variations of red nail polish that are outlined by the Imaging and Grooming Department,” Collins said.

“An ‘Emirates red’ lipstick with lip liner is required. We like to use Mac’s Russian Red because it stays for a long time. Eyeshadow can either be black or beige, and liquid eyeliner is recommended.”

Collins uses a ‘hair doughnut’ to get her hair into a perfect Emirates bun, and there are classes to get your makeup on point.

“Some girls know a lot about makeup and hair, and some go for a more natural look. We have classes that teach you how to do your makeup and care for your skin,” she told the magazine.

The crew definitely aren’t expected to keep their red heels on for a long-haul flight though – they only need to wear them (and their jackets) in the airport.

“In the airport and during the boarding process we wear heels, but we can change into red flats after take-off.

“Some girls prefer not to, but I couldn’t be in heels for a 16-hour flight. After take-off we switch to ‘service attire’—we remove the jacket and add a waist coat,” Collins added.

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If you’re travelling in First Class, the flight attendants also know bits and bobs about you before you even board the plane!

“We have a briefing and a team talk before each flight, where we’ll review the customers who are traveling with us, including any VIPs. We get their names and have information about them stored in on-board tablets,” Collins said.

“We [also] use these on-board tablets to record details about the passengers: their hobbies, their dietary requirements, what they like to drink and eat, where they’re going to or coming from, whether they’ll be tired on their next leg. That information gets saved and passed on to the next crew that serves them.”

First Class is sounding better and better – if only we could afford the five-figure price tag.

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