Your hard working, gorgeous and glamorous cabin crew, no matter what airline they work for, are trained to the highest standards in emergency and standard operating procedures, first aid and of course keeping our beloved passengers happy with our inflight service. Our primary role onboard any aircraft however is safety. Forget your life jackets, safety cards, oxygen masks and seatbelts; should the proverbial hit the fan, we are the only piece of safety equipment passengers will need to get them off that aircraft.
Created by the formidable Sir Richard Branson back in 1984, Virgin Atlantic has since grown to become one of the worlds most iconic, innovative and stylish airlines. In their bright red Vivienne Westwood uniforms, their gorgeous crew turn heads where ever they go. But what is it REALLY like to be a Virgin Atlantic hostie? What is it like to wear that iconic uniform and travel the globe, delivering some of the best onboard service in the industry.
Here we take a look behind the scenes of ‘A Day in the Life’ for one of Virgin’s cabin crew.
“And so the alarm rings, usually quite early since the majority of our flights depart in the morning, our earliest report time is 06:20 and the latest is 20:35. I get up, put the kettle on and get ready for work; nothing can happen before a nice cup of tea.
Two hours later (I’m not a morning person), I get in the car and drive to the airport. This is most often Heathrow for me, but does sometimes include Gatwick. Indeed, many of my colleagues prefer flying from Gatwick and will swap duties to ensure they do. I park up in the staff car park, make a mental note of where my car is then get the bus round to the terminal and drop off my suitcase at the bag drop desk. Next I go through security, remove my shoes, jacket, liquids and tablet and inevitably ladder my tights in the process, HOW?! I go through departures, grab another cup of tea since my last is wearing off and make my way to ‘The Gatehouse’. This is where we all check in. It’s our little hub where we can be found changing those tights, painting our nails and chatting away before we go for our briefing, not to mention checking our company emails and notices to crew.
After these final preparations, at two hours before the scheduled departure time, we’re called into the briefing room. This is where we receive information about the flight, any updates to our operating procedures and to check we know our stuff by answering the dreaded safety, security, or aviation medicine briefing question. I’ve been flying for quite some time and for most of that time I’ve been answering a question before every single duty. You’d think by now I’d be less nervous about it. Alas, not the case. I still sit motionless in my seat, hoping the Flight Service Manager won’t see me and I’ll escape the humiliation. To this day that’s never happened, but I still hold out hope. The reason for our fear is that answering the question incorrectly or failing to answer at all could result in us being ‘stood down’ from duty and sent back to training. This is a big deal but in all my years of flying I’ve only seen this happen once, and never at Virgin. We know our stuff, even when we feel like we don’t. So questions answered (correctly!) we move on to other important matters like who is going out tonight and where?
We leave the bubble of The Gatehouse and head out to the aircraft. Once the cleaning team have left, we board and thoroughly complete those all-important safety and security checks. We pour out boarding drinks, make sure the aircraft looks spit spot for our customers and then we invite them onboard. This is usually quite a long process with massive cabin bags being crammed into small overhead lockers and many a ‘sorry’ as people squeeze by each other. Once we’ve got everyone settled in comfortably and shut the doors, we do the clichéd “Cabin crew doors to armed and crosscheck” which involves us kindly asking the door to pop the slide if necessary. Then it’s onto the safety demonstration. Now I know there is some fierce competition out there for who has the best safety demo video, but I honestly think ours is pretty damn cool. Passengers watch from the point of view of a customer falling asleep and reimagining the demo into a Hollywood movie. All I need to do is point out the exits and show you the safety card. Fabulous all round! We do occasionally do manual demonstrations to keep ourselves current, but this is only once or twice a month and generally undoes the valuable hours I spent in front of the mirror this morning. After checking customers are seated correctly and the aircraft is secure, it’s time for a moment of meditation before showtime. We buckle up while the Captain and First Officer do the heavy lifting and get us airborne.
As soon as it’s safe to do so, we leave our seats and prepare for Act One: Drinks. While the meals cook for later, we go out into the cabin with a huge range of drinks, a small snack and a menu to peruse while you sip your Virgin Redhead. Then we come round to offer you a refreshing hot towel. After clearing all this away, its Act Two: Meals. We offer a starter, choice of three main meals and a pudding. After the food has been enjoyed, including the nibble on a chicken Goujon I’ve had in the galley, we clear it away to make room for Act Three: Hot Drinks. This is always tea and either hot chocolate or coffee, depending on the time of day we’re flying, but if you ask nicely I can generally get the other option for you. Once you’ve sipped and we’ve cleared, it’s time for a spot of seat side shopping when we take the duty-free cart through the aircraft in Act Four. This service can be hit and miss from some flights where not one coin is spent to others where we sell out of everything that isn’t nailed down and half the stuff that is!
Then it’s time for us to eat and then go on Crew Rest. This is possibly the most valuable time of every single duty. It is a chance to recoup after you’ve been awake and busy for around 7 or 8 hours. It’s also around this point that I realise I’ve laddered my second pair of tights and go to change them. Most of our aircraft, the Airbus A330-300 is the exception, are equipped with crew rest areas where we can lay down and have a nap. Nap time varies but is often around an hour and we take it in three shifts. At some point in this time, usually while second break is happening, the rest of us play out Act Five: Ice cream and drinks. I’ve never seen another airline hand our ice cream to all its customers mid-flight but it is the most delightful little touch. It’s an interesting snack choice and that is what I think our customers love about it. Once we’re all back from break, it’s on to our finale, Act Six: Second service. This afternoon tea service involves sandwiches, chocolates, crisps and drinks.
Once we’ve cleared this up its time to hit the deck. This is usually a lot smoother than the phrase implies depending on how junior the pilot flying is. We secure the cabin same as we did before take off, sit in our seats for another moment of meditation and then we’ve got a lot of happy people to bid farewell to. Once our customers have left, we do a final sweep of the cabin to check no one has left anything behind, (you’d be surprised at how many passports and mobile phones I’ve found) and then we gather our belongings, I ladder yet another pair of tights while dragging my bag down the aisle and we disembark.
Getting in the line for immigration, I still feel the tiniest bit smug that we can skip the exorbitantly long queue as we glide down the crew channel. Once through, we hop into a coach that takes us to our freshly laundered bed for the night. But not before a nightcap, or five, with the rest of the crew. We don’t always get time for sightseeing but there is always time for a drink and something to eat with my colleagues.
The return sector is much the same, expect there is no ice cream and we serve breakfast instead of afternoon tea since most of our UK bound flights are night-flights. Once we collect our bags and get on the bus to the car park, that’s my time to mourn the numerous tights I’ve lost on this trip and to try to remember where I left my car”.
A MASSIVE thank you to the Virgin Atlantic dolly who wrote this fabulous behind the scenes story for us.
For more information on Virgin Atlantic check out our ‘Flying in the face of ordinary’ picture gallery and the airlines stunning uniform, as part of our ‘Style in the Aisles’ Top Ten Cabin Crew Uniforms of 2014.
If you would like to be part of our Confessions of a Trolley Dolly ‘A Day in the Life’ series please send me an email with your story to confessionsofatrolleydolly@
© confessionsofatrolleydolly.com by Dan Air