Air Hostess Career Information
What an Air Hostess does
First, let's clear your head of some glaring misconceptions. Air hostesses DON'T lead glamorous lives. Nor is it a cakewalk in the air. Your job profile ranges from passenger safety to good public relations. It's your job to make people feel comfortable during the flight and ensure their safety at all times. You got to be strong enough to lift heavy containers and slim enough to glide through the aisle and in between carts.
As an air hostess, your duty starts much before take-off. You have to reach the airport an hour-and-a-half before check-in time and undergo briefing by the senior flight attendant. Briefing includes a basic lecture on safety, take-off and service procedures during the flight.
Flight attendants often spend up to half of their working hours preparing the cabin for flight, writing reports and doing other related work on the ground. Flight attendants need to have excellent communication skills, tactful, well groomed and enjoy taking a methodical approach to their work. While this is a mere formality as far as domestic flights are concerned, it is advisable to know your stuff thoroughly if you're flying international.
That's not all. As an air hostess, you also have to run a safety check on the aircraft. This includes testing safety equipment, life jackets, mikes, etc. Ensuring that pillows, blankets, books, food, plates, glasses, napkins and medicines are in stock is also part and parcel of the job. The final check includes making sure that the aircraft has been cleaned and is ready for boarding
It's after boarding that your real duties begin. After handing over the boarding passes, the air hostess has to assist passengers and help them settle down in their seats. Then comes the most boring part of explaining safety procedures and building a rapport with the passengers as, after all, you will be serving them for the next several hours.
However, it's not as easy as it sounds. Dealing with different passengers can be one hell of a trying experience. If you're lucky, you won't have more than two to three troublemakers on a flight.
The longest shift for a domestic hostess can be about 5-6 hours but international hostesses have to serve for 12-15 hours at a stretch. Phew! Now that can be really very tiring. Add to that an emergency like a medical problem or a hijack and you are left handling 200 passengers all at the same time.
The highs in this career are worth talking about. Think of all the kinds of people you'll meet right from the businessmen to film stars and even VVIPs! Of course, as an air hostess, you'll see all the exotic destinations, stay in 5-star hotels and shop at some of the best malls in the world. And we haven't even spoken about the money yet. At the end of the month, you take home an attractive pay packet.
As an air hostess you can start off work in the economy class of a flight. After a year or so you will then progress to the business class and then to the First Class. You can then become a supervisor and finally a chief purser - incharge of the whole aircraft.
It usually takes about seven years and a good track record to become a purser. All through the years, the airlines you are working for as an air hostess will offer various training and skill development programmes.
Most airlines recruit staff on a contract basis for about 2-3 years and as an air hostess you will be bound to the airline till the contract expires. Some places you'll be working are:
• Government owned carriers: Indian (formerly known as Indian Airlines), Air India and their subsidiaries like Alliance Air.
• Domestic private airlines: Sahara India, Jet Airways, Go Air, etc.
• Foreign Airlines operating from India like British Airways, Qantas Airlines, Delta Airlines, Gulf Air, Singapore Airlines, United Air, Lufthansa, Cathay Pacific, etc.
• Corporate companies with their own private jets like Tata, Mahindra & Mahindra, etc.
You could also opt for another glamorous and exciting career similar to that of an air hostess known as “Passenger service agent”. A passenger service agent is essentially a facilitation agent doing, at the airport what the flight attendants do in the aircraft. Your duties would include greeting the passenger the moment he/she enters the airport, see them through baggage screening, check-in, preparing boarding passes etc. As a Passenger service agent, you will also assist them and ensure smooth sailing through Immigration, customs and finally the boarding on the aircraft.
Though the trade pundits have announced a slump in the domestic air traffic industry, as an air hostess you have no cause for worry. As far as people wish to fly there will be demand for air hostess. Or just look at the increase in the number of airlines operating in the regional trunk routes like Calcutta - Bagdogra, New Delhi - Shimla, Mumbai - Hubli, Mumbai - Nagpur, etc.
Airlines like Alliance Air are operating in these routes and several others are planning to do so. This will also mean an increased demand for aircrew including air hostesses. Apart from domestic airlines, it is always possible to get a job as an air hostess in foreign Airlines or in Air India and Indian, which operate, on international routes.
Abilities & Traits Required
Take one hard look at yourself in the mirror. Do you look good? Well, then, that's about all any airline will bother look at. Of course it helps to be:
• Well-modulated voice
• Friendly and outgoing personality
• Above 155 cm tall and the proportionate weight
• Normal vision (contact lenses are o.k but no glasses, please)
• Of course you have to be single!
• Capacity to be on your feet for long hours
• Graduate in any discipline
• Diploma/degree in Hotel Management or Tourism Management is preferred.
• Prior experience in hotels or in the tourism industry will be the best
• Knowledge of one foreign language other than English, Hindi or other regional languages
• Below 25 years
If you possess the above qualities, you'll get a call for a written test from the airline. The test is fairly simple with multiple-choice objectives. After clearing the test you'll then be called for a group discussion followed by a personal interview.
Note: These are just the broad selection procedures. However, the eligibility criterion is different for different airlines. So make sure you check the requirements of the airline you apply to.
As an air hostess your designation your salary will depend on the airlines. Including salary and other allowance it may add up to Rs 25000-75000 or more per month.
Senior air hostess in Air India or Indian Airlines gets Rs 100000 per month.
Senior air hostess with foreign airlines gets Rs 200000 or more a month in Indian currency. Junior domestic hostesses get Rs 25000 a month.
The money scene is any day better in international airlines and as an air hostess you could earn a minimum of Rs 50000 per month if you're working with a reputed airline.
However, you must remember that you cannot fly for more than 72 hours in a month. So this would greatly limit the amount of money you can make, especially if you're flying with a not-so-reputed airline.
Interview with an Air Hostess
Coleen Hai, Air Hostess
Coleen Zaffar Hai, who joined Air India in 1962 as an air hotess retired as the Executive Assitant Director - Inflight Services. She is 58.
Did you always want to be an air hostess?
Actually, it was my dream to be one. In fact in my school autograph book I had written that I wanted to be an air hostess. But when I told my relatives about it they said I'd never make it and that to be an air hostess you need to be extremely beautiful and all that.
So, then how did you become an air hostess?
So as soon as I finished my senior Cambridge from Convent of Jesus and Mary, Pune, I came to Bombay and applied to Air India. This was in 1962. My first interview was interview with the Chief Air hostess and Chief Purser.
After about two weeks I was called for an interview with Bobby Kooker, the man who introduced the Maharaja as the symbol of Air India. He was a tough taskmaster and made me walk, talk, questioned me on family background and why I wanted to join the airlines.
Tell us something about the training you received.
We were trained in a 707 mockup, which was half the size of an actual aircraft. We were taught things like service, first aid, history of aviation, calculating the time difference, types of aircraft, service procedures (different for economy class and first class), how to look after unaccompanied children, how to make food for babies, how to heat up the food, how to prepare cocktails, etc.
Plus, they also taught us documentation for different countries - embarkation cards, customs forms, etc. We were also initiated to flight safety procedures like how to give oxygen to a passenger, how to put off various types of fires, etc. Knowledge of different types of bread, wines, cuisines, etc was imparted to us. We also learned how to make announcements on the public address system. It was a three-month training.
You must have absolutely loved your job as a hostess. Didn't you?
One hundred per cent. I loved the thrill of meeting different people not just on the aircraft and abroad, but also among our colleagues who came from all parts of India. Looking after people and seeing the world was another high. Those days traveling was expensive. So this was the best way to do it. I visited all the places that I had read in geography and history like Eiffel Tower and Tower of London.
But having to deal with different people must have had its own difficulties? What were your experiences?
I have never really had any serious problems on that count. In the service industry we are taught that the customer is always right. No matter what. I have learnt that it's O.K to make a mistake. But you have to own up to it. Just smile and try to make up to that person in some other way - like give him a free drink. Never get into an argument, as it will reflect badly on your professional life. Customers are very demanding. We always try to pacify the customer.
What was your job profile at Air India?
I joined Air India in 1962 and in 1968 I was promoted to the post of Deputy Chief. So I was grounded and handled the training school. I was involved in everything from releasing the ad in the newspaper to selecting and training the hostesses. I used to bring home suitcases full of applications. Apparently people were not aware of the profile of an air hostess and so we had men applying for the post, girls with glasses, married women, etc.
What was your criterion for selecting an air hostess?
I primarily looked for someone with a pleasing personality. You don't need to be beautiful in the conventional sense of the term. But you should be able to hold a conversation with anyone. By talking to them about their family background and such things I could judge whether the person will be likable and get on with other people.
The most important thing is to be able to adjust to your customer. That's because everyday you are meeting a different passenger on the aircraft. They could be old, infirm, illiterate, irate, etc. Basically we look for a pleasing personality, no crooked teeth, or cock-eyed.
Do you have any funny incident to share with us?
In the early 60s, we used to fly a number of sardarjis to Canada to work in sawmills and lumber camps. They used to carry just 3 pounds, as that was the money they were allowed to take with them. So they refused to eat anything on the aircraft thinking they might be charged for it. We had to literally explain to them that it was absolutely free. In fact this is even funnier. One sardarji gentleman who was traveling Delhi - Canada was sitting in his kacchas (short pants). First he refused to eat and had to be told that it was free. Then, I was wondering how he was going to get off at London in his kacchas. But just before landing at London he took out his grey pants, which he had put in between the blankets to keep it flat. I was so amused with him.
Is it tough being a hostess, especially in India?
Not really. If you mean sexual harassment it could happen in any profession. A secretary could be harassed by her MD or a nurse by the doctor. It all depends on how you carry yourself. You got to be very balanced and very stern. It's unfair to talk badly of one profession. But yes it's tough, physically. You are on your feet all the time - serving and looking after passengers.
Do you remember your first solo flight?
You won't believe this. My first solo flight caught fire on ground and I had to jump off the aircraft without handbags and coats. The whole fuselage was burnt from the top. It took 13 fire engines to put off the fire. So my first solo flight was a horrifying experience.
Any tips for aspirants?
You have to judge yourself very critically to find why if you are good enough to make the grade. Education is a must. You should be prepared to work all kinds of hours and sacrifice your family life to a great extent.
Sometimes you don't even get to eat on a flight. So it's a tough life. Your life is not your own.
What is the scope for air hostess in India?
Though Air India and Indian Airlines (now Indian) has stopped recruiting air hostesses as they are over staffed, Gulf Airways, British Airways, Cathay Pacific and other foreign airlines are now taking in a lot of Indian girls on board. That's because they want to capture the Indian market. So there is a lot of scope here.