The truth about being a flight attendant

I spend a lot of time in planes, and therefore a lot of time thinking about planes. And not just the planes, not even just the pilots, but the crew who are always smiling and handing me drinks.

What's their job like? Is it fun working in the skies? Or is it hard work?

So I decided to find out. I recently had a chat to Jenna McNaught, a 24-year-old who's worked as a cabin crew member for Emirates for the last three years or so. Turns out it's not all fun and games.

What's the right thing to call you guys? Is it flight attendant? Hostie? Trolley dolly?

We usually use the term "cabin crew". That's fine.

How did you get into the job?

I applied online, at the Emirates Group careers website. Then I went to an open day in Brisbane, did a few rounds of group activities, some little tests, and then I got the position. There's about five different rounds I had to go through. We did group activities, a reach test to ensure you're a certain height, and they see how you interact with other people. Then they sent me over to Dubai and set me up with a house.

What's your favourite stopover destination?

I love the beach destinations. I love Nice, and Mauritius, the Seychelles. We stay right on the beach in the Seychelles and Mauritius, it's amazing. They're really nice hotels.


What does the cabin crew get up to on a stopover?

I try to get out and do things. In Mauritius last time our whole cabin crew, about 16 of us, hired a catamaran for the day and went snorkelling, walked in a rainforest... It was a really good day. We generally try to do things together.

What's the weirdest request you've had from a passenger?

I had one guy ask for a "whiskey on the rocks with no ice". I had to try not to laugh. I'm like, "Do you want ice or without?" You just have to be polite and not laugh in those situations.

How do you deal with jet-lag?

It's good to have a regular gym or sporting regimen, because then you can tire yourself out a bit. That helps, and eating healthy is a big thing as well. When we first joined with Emirates we did a little nutrition thing, and talked about coping with jet-lag. Exercise was always a big thing. It's also good to have some milk before you go to sleep because it's got melatonin in it.

What's the biggest misconception about your job?

We're very hardworking for most of the flight – people sometimes think that we're just sitting down in the back most of the time. But we're literally going the whole time. On a long-haul flight we might get a little bit of a break to sleep in the bunks, but the rest of the time we're working. On a Sydney to Dubai flight, we would probably get around a two-and-a-half-hour break, and would be working for the rest of the flight.

What's the best and worst airport you've been to?

If you want to go duty free shopping, Dubai is pretty spectacular. We've got our own terminal for Emirates, and it's huge. Massive. We don't really go to any dodgy airports, but I guess some of the smaller ones in Africa just don't have much there. Places like Accra and Nairobi. They just don't have as much to offer as other airports.

You live in Dubai – what's good to do there?

I love shopping, and Dubai has great shopping. My favourite spot is Dubai Mall, which has got 1200 shops. There's also some nice restaurants in Dubai, so we usually go out for dinner.

Cabin crew on planes always seem to look calm, even in heavy turbulence. Do you ever worry about safety?

I think it's because our training is so in-depth. We have live simulators in Dubai, which is exactly like a plane. So they give you [emergency] scenarios in there and you have to react to them. You'll have to do firefighting ... we even have a firefighting room where we have to put out live fires. I guess it makes you more relaxed when you have to deal with it in real life. We practice evacuations, going down the slides, rejected take-offs and landings ... it makes you more relaxed.

Are you guys trained to deal with drunk passengers?

We do learn how to deal with those types of passengers. It happens on the odd occasion, people like to have a couple of drinks. But we have procedures and they do work.

Finally, do you ever watch Air Crash Investigations?

Yeah I do! It doesn't bother me. I've never really had a bad flight, our flights are always really smooth. So it doesn't really scare me, I find it really interesting.

And now, over to you, readers - would you ever want to work as cabin crew? Which airline has the best hosties? Post your comments below.