f/a''s and there other careers

FA Mikey

Aug 19, 2002
Fly me to the moonlighters
Being an air hostess was once considered the height of glamour. Then it became totally naff. So why is it now taking off again - this time as a useful second job, asks Tessa Williams-Akoto
Monday February 10, 2003
The Guardian
In the 1960s being an air hostess was ranked as one of the most exclusive occupations available to young women. Not only did it mean free air travel at a time when only the well-off could afford to fly, but it entailed adoring men, caviar, champagne, a peek at the world''s top spots and all in a workspace 40,000ft above ground.
But not every woman could apply - you had to be 16-21, at least 5ft 2in and no more than 5ft 6in, confident, wholeheartedly single and good looking enough to turn heads.
The glamour and charisma of the job shines out of Steven Spielberg''s new film Catch Me If You Can, in which Leonardo diCaprio''s character passes himself off as a pilot mainly so that he can be surrounded by PanAm beauties in powder blue mini-skirts, white gloves and cobalt hats, all smiles as they sashay through the terminal. Gwyneth Paltrow''s new film is also about the glamour of the cabin; in A View from the Top, she plays a girl from humble beginnings desperate to change her life by becoming a flight attendant.
Hollywood not withstanding, air-stewarding has had a bit of an image problem in the past few years. With the proliferation of low-cost airlines and international tickets sometimes costing as little as £5, the glamour seemed to be waning faster than a nose-diving jet. Programmes like the docu-soap Airport, orange polyester uniforms and the easing of the strict physical requirements for the job did nothing but dampen the glossy image once advertised by Braniff International Airways with a beautiful, enticing young girl alongside the words, I''m Mandy, Fly Me. But the job is taking off again - this time for women with more than just a yen to travel.
A growing number are combining a stint in the sky with another career on the ground. Some flight attendants also work as lawyers, actors, designers, photographers and in business. Next time you hear the monotone call of Chicken or beef, madam?, just remember that the person who is dishing out the plastic tray for your supper might be in court next day defending someone accused of murder.
So how does it work? Flying part-time with a cabin crew involves approximately three flights a month, and most can do two weeks on and two weeks off. That makes it relatively easy to fit in with a day job. And there are added benefits: seeing the world, free flights for friends and relatives and a part-time salary of around £12-15,000 a year.
Cici Carter, who is a jewellery designer, set up her own business by working on the side as a flight attendant. She started off with PanAm in the 80s, and now flies part-time for Delta Airlines. On the ground she designs silver pieces, costing £300-£600 and worn by celebrities such as Dannii Minogue. In the early days we had to wear hats and white gloves and had our own little room above deck in the 747. They used to serve caviar and really amazing food. Every Monday morning we had to be weighed in to make sure we hadn''t overeaten.
If our makeup wasn''t right we had to have it redone, and if you didn''t look good enough you would be sent home.
But Carter had other plans. It had always been my dream to have my own business and I had been studying gemology for five years. But I didn''t want to give up flying. Now I''m able to do two things that I love.
In the past week she has flown to Los Angeles, Paris and New York, often in the one place for just a day. Now back in London at her favourite stop-off point, the chic Blake''s hotel, she says: Times are changing; most of the people I crew with are very educated, talented people. There are qualified doctors, lawyers, people who work in real estate. I''ve been flying for 23 years and feel that up there at 39,000ft is my home. I could never give it up; once you''ve tried the jet-set lifestyle it''s too hard to stop.
So how does it fit in with designing jewellery? It''s a great opportunity for me to source the stones and materials for my collection.
She then has all her pieces made up in Hatton Garden, in London, by goldsmith Charles Prior.
In the last few years, British Airways has introduced a flexible roster so that cabin crew can pick and choose their working times. One person who has benefited is Paul Ghai, a 29-year old criminal lawyer who has been with BA for seven years. I had just finished university and was struggling to pay off debts. I was working at a bookshop in the airport. Someone suggested I apply for cabin crew. I was accepted and a year later, took my law exams.
He flies on a 75% schedule, spending, on average, three weeks of the month in the air with 10 days off in between. If he has an important case he can bid for longer time periods on land. It can be quite tricky adjusting to each job. I specialise in criminal law so it''s a serious business, and going from that to working on a flight to Sydney can be a bit of a culture shock, he says. There is one problem you can never foresee - major delays. There have been times when I have had to hand on cases to other lawyers, as I have been delayed.
Ghai is firmly attached to his part-time job. It''s fun, exciting and it can be glamorous. When you are walking through an airport with 16 other crew all dressed immaculately in uniform, it''s quite a buzz.
I am always quite amazed at what other jobs people do as well as flying. One of the most unusual is a chap I met who had his own pest-control business. I''ve worked with nurses, teachers, and paramedics. I think people are doing a lot more of what they actually enjoy in life now, rather than being stuck to just one thing.
Tara Panchaud, 32, started out working for Dan Air but was finally accepted by Virgin on her third attempt to join the company and given the tomato-red suit she craved. She had also been interested in photography for some time. After a course at Reigate College, two years ago she decided to set up her own business called Northern Exposure, specialising in weddings, portraits and travel. Her long-haul schedule is mapped out so far in advance, that she can easily plan her photography jobs. She has had work published in travel brochures and is now receiving commissions and working on a forthcoming exhibition.
Flying is really not a nine-to-five job, says Panchaud. You can request a flight that makes sure you are back in time for an assignment. Flying does allow for more flexibility than a regular job and it also doesn''t have the boredom of always being in the one place. Panchaud works 11 days a month, three to five flights. The rest of her time is devoted to photography.
You do get people who just think we''re waitresses in the sky, but I think that is changing. The job is certainly not all glamour. One of the worst aspects is when its four o''clock in the morning and all the passengers are asleep and you''re still wide awake. And you have to clear up people''s sick which can be a bit disgusting.
But, she says, I see it as an opportunity to combine two things I like.
A certain amount of acting ability is needed to be a flight attendant - the fixed smile and chin-up confidence as the aircraft heads into turbulence - but for Alexa Povah it has translated on to the stage. She is currently rehearsing for a play in Brighton. She has done a variety of television work, commercials and voiceovers while flying. Hostessing is quite similar to acting. Every day there is a new set of people on the plane who are a bit like an audience, and quite a lot of the work is repetitive, like a play.
Her acting commitments fit in snugly with her short-haul work schedule for BA. I like the odd hours and it''s great to go somewhere like Naples or Barcelona just for the day and get a flavour of the place. Many of the girls I work with at Gatwick do other things. One is a nurse, another runs a bridal-wear company, and another has a computer business. I think there are many advantages to doing two jobs.
Joy Hordern, director of inflight service with British Airways, is encouraged by the trend. We are keen to see cabin crew develop themselves, and it''s one of the reasons why we try to offer as many opportunities as possible to pursue other interests and goals. We have a lot more part-time working options available to our crew which provide them with the flexibility to do other things when they are not flying.
At Virgin, Mark Carter, head of cabin services, also believes that combining a job in the sky with one on the ground is a good thing. We think it''s great that so many of our cabin crew have other talents. It illustrates the endless possibilities they have.


Aug 19, 2002
"f/a"s and there other careers"

Mike, I hope yours isn't as an English teacher!


Dec 24, 2002
PIT deportee
This looks like a fun post although my "other career(s)" are born of necessity to survive financially. Most of my fellow regional airline f/a''s work another job also.
Until Nov 2001, I worked as a travel agent then was laid off from that. Now I sell on eBay to supplement my income. I''d like to know what other f/a''s do outside of our flying career...


Mar 7, 2003
Visit site
I also have a "real" career. I own a Premium and Incentive business. The company sells anything and everything that a company may want with their logo on it. I deal with over 25 companies in Tiawan to produce the products. It''s quite a lucrative little business. Now, if I could only get the United account


Aug 21, 2002
I walked dogs in SFO for 6yrs and made a pretty buck doing so..
I also worked for a party promoter...which led to more money lost on "the life" and time of from flying to attend these partys and then recover...

With the new pay cut/work rule changes at my company now I am considering hooking...............................................................