Private aviation is a world of flexibility and absolute luxury; the tastes of the most discerning clientele have to be catered for on a daily basis, no detail is left unturned. Working on a private aircraft is not dissimilar to managing an exclusive restaurant or residence, however the caveat here is you can’t just nip out and get something once airborne, the detail and planning that goes into the shortest of trips, is immense
Most of this detail has been organized by your Flight Attendant, who generally is responsible for pretty much everything on board, from your beverage of preference, rare wine, vintage spirits, favorite type of flowers, thread count of bedding, brand of perfume, even sourcing Almas Caviar – the list is endless. The Flight Attendants (who usually have some form of culinary training) go to great lengths when it comes to the onboard cuisine, as this can make or break the most successful of flights. Sometimes organizing dishes from your favorite restaurant, which can be a feat of military planning in itself, then recreating said dish, as it would be in the restaurant, from the confines of a small galley at 40, 000 feet. All in a days work when flying from the more cosmopolitan cities of the world, however this can present quite a challenge when operating into some of the more remote destinations.
This particular career path is often viewed as a step up for cabin crew working in commercial aviation, whilst previous flying experience is preferable, in reality there really are few similarities in the role, unless you factor the obvious in – working on an aircraft. Quite often staff who have worked on luxury yachts or in private households have made careers in this industry and they have made exceptional Corporate Flight Attendants.
When working for a private individual the Flight Attendant, essentially is a member of their personal staff and the aircraft is an extension of their home or office. Most private aircraft will only carry 1 Flight Attendant, or 2-3 at most and usually they are hand picked (unless working in the middle east where numbers and turnover tends to be high), There is much focus on finding one person that has the skills, professionalism, personal qualities, flair, creativity, ability to think outside the box and also fits the culture of company/aircraft owner. Flight departments and aircraft operators will go to great lengths to find that one person.
The role itself can differ massively depending on whom you work for, you have to be a “jack of all trades”. In the line of work over the years I have collected children, pets, presents, grandmothers had birthday cakes made, had to sing happy birthday quite badly I may add, sewn more popped buttons on shirts, gone shopping for the bosses wife. I even had to loan a passenger a credit card and a cash advance when he left his wallet and cards in the hotel safe in the city we had just left and organized for said wallet to be repatriated. You are also responsible for the housekeeping and upkeep of somebodies 65 million dollar pride and joy, the polishing, cleaning and finger print spotting is constant, just getting the aircraft ready for a trip can take hours, leading to some very long days.
There is much focus on detail, service, luxury and the hospitality side of the role, however let us not forget, the unspoken priority, which is security and passenger safety. On a serious note when you are flying a HNWI or head of state they could be a potential target. The level of security and discretion is very high, movements, names and certainly also constant Facebook updates about your location and selfies on the aircraft are big no go. Flight Attendants also go through rigorous yearly safety training in emergency procedures, fire fighting on board, ditching and first aid. The bottom line is if anything unforeseen happens, it is your Flight Attendant that is going to be the person that is trained to and will deal with it.
It does take a certain type of individual to succeed in this role and it certainly isn’t for the faint hearted, there is a lot more to the corporate flight attendant than meets the eye. There is no slinging chicken or beef at guests at 40,000 feet on these aircraft. However it is a very rewarding career and I may add very enjoyable for those with the right attitude and don’t mind a bit of hard work and occasionally getting their hands dirty.