My first flight. I remember the day so clearly and the emotion. Panic.

Image: SkyAngels Founder, Steffany Kisling, snapping a photo with her pilot in Buenos Aires.

Pure panic.

As I mentioned in the previous blog it took me three months of some serious pavement pounding before I booked my first flight.

In between sending out and delivering resumes and a million follow up calls to make sure my resume was received I was working for my brother. He’s an amazing welder. So what was I doing for him? I know. I know. The obvious answer would be “sales”, “managing the books”, things that a girl would do for a welder, but those who know me, know THAT’S NOT ME. I like to get my hands dirty. And after spending the last of my savings on the training for my new career, I was in dire need of cash flow.

So what was I doing?  I was welding…err no. My brother was welding. He’s the welder. I was his grunt laborer at $12/hr. polishing OSHA handrails he was building for a large trucking company. Metal pipes are what I was polishing eight hours a day with a sander AND a welding hat. I insisted on wearing the overbearing, eight-pound welding hat after my brother told me a story about his buddy losing half his face when a sander kicked back at him. I didn’t think losing half my face would help me land a job any quicker. I was deep into my task when I received The Call.

I answered.

Me: “Hello. This is Steffany.”

Caller: “Hi. Steffany.  Are you available for a flight?”

Me: “Yes. Absolutely!”

Caller: “We have a four-day trip coming up this week and we need someone for the flight. I am tired of seeing your resume come across my desk so I thought I’d try you out.”

Me: “Great. Thank you. I am available.” *giggling as I hang up. Yes! It worked! Persistence bordering on pesky.

Looking back I don’t know whether to laugh or cry. What. An. Experience. What a mess.

Without the proper training you will make mistakes. And even with the proper training if you don’t have a support group or someone with experience in the industry that you can lean on when you’re in the throws of your first flight you will be riddled with such anxiety you will make mistakes.

As a Corporate Cabin Attendant, it is your responsibility to ensure that the flight experience is seamless and perfect for your guests. That means you are responsible for catering/meal requests, sourcing this food and ensuring it is to the expectations of your guests. Picking up special requests, running errands and shopping for any additional stock that is needed on the aircraft in order for you to accurately fulfill your responsibility of providing a flawless flight experience for your guests is also your responsibility.  And this is all done before the flight, without pay.

On the day of my flight, when you arrive at the aircraft you will be required to clean and stage the aircraft for your guests arrival, the cabin set to their preferences. Additionally, you will need to ensure the proper stock items are available on board the aircraft from toilet paper, to linens, to water, drinks and snacks.  If any of these items are missing, you better get your butt in gear and get to the nearest store to purchase these items before your guests arrival. 

Unlike Commercial Aviation, you will rarely have assistance in preparing and prepping for your flights. When travelling internationally you will need to gauge how much of the stock you will need to have on board for the duration of the flight. And don’t forget your pilots. Don’t you dare.

Luckily for me, on my first flight I had amazing pilots who helped me patiently execute the duties of my job. I would have been terribly lost without them.

The reality is, most likely the only reason I was called back for another flight after the epic fail on this flight, was because I maintained a positive, “can do attitude”. Your attitude and how you handle situations will be everything! I didn’t break down in tears, paralyzed. I kept a smile on my face and a hop in my step. But yes, things went wrong, in my opinion, terribly wrong and it took all of me to stay strong and keep on keeping on.

First, none of my guests spoke English so serving them the right items was near impossible. Next, they requested a slew of food ranging from Chinese food, to lobster to clam chowder bowls to steak, hamburgers and sushi. Not being properly trained on how to accurately order catering, I ordered way too much food and the catering bill was more than $3,000 for 8 people for one leg and still, my pilot’s remained patient. 

Next, I crammed way too many tins of food, with the foil paper lids still on (as I was taught) and almost started a fire in my 8x5 heating oven.  Once the food was warmed and ready for serving, I served my guests without placing down placemats or a tablecloth. This was only brought to my attention, after the flight by my very patient pilot. “Hey Steffany, next time you might want to use placemats when serving the guests.” Ding. Dong. Of course I knew this. My job as a child was setting the table and this always included placemats – it was ingrained in me, but with so many other things to be thinking about, these are the simple and obvious mistakes you will find yourself making. Still you must remain calm.

Finally, the fist day of my first flight was done and my pilots and I were off to our rooms, me hauling a bag with no wheels down what felt like the longest hotel hall ever (think Las Vegas) my pilots giggling kindly behind me and commenting, “She will learn.” It was only after I closed the door to my room, and looked at myself in the mirror to assess the damage did I recognize I had a run, correction, multiple runs down my stockings.

Mortified.

So why do I share this story? One of such embarrassment and riddled with mistakes. Because, you will also have days like this. The most important thing is to learn from them, and not let them break you. Keep that beautiful smile on your face and laughter in your voice. This will be your job security. It is your demeanor and how you handle situations that will get you that call back, even when everything else goes wrong.

The career of a Corporate Cabin Attendant sounds glamorous, and it is, but it is not easy. Regardless, it will be the most rewarding and fun career you will ever have. While your friends sit in cubicles counting down the hours before they can go home, you will be flying the world on private jets, seeing parts of the world that others only dream about, catching rays on beaches with crystal waters and creating memories of a life time while meeting people that others read about.

My first flight was a mess. Everything that could have gone wrong did. I was green, VERY green.  

It is these mistakes that molded me. As the saying goes, you only fail if you don’t learn from the lesson. I took these lessons and applied them to my business and now teach our students from my mistakes to ensure, that when they graduate, they are the best this industry has to offer. It is our goal that every Certified SkyAngel is successful in their career. If they are not successful we cannot be successful. To support the success of our SkyAngels on their first flight a SKYmentor is just a call, text, and email away from assisting them in providing an experience that will WOW their guests.