Every time hearing of “flight attendant”, most people will immediately imagine men and women with eye-catching and perfect looks or their professional image and even consider flight attendant as a “high-paying easy job” with a career in pink. However, life has many different shades.

Besides a good look and an outstanding height are “inheritance”, a flight attendant also needs to cultivate many skills as well as overcome a series of challenges before officially becoming a member of the airline’s crew. Talking to Destination Review, Trinh Thuy Nhung, an air hostess of Bamboo Airways, said that since university time, she had tried hard to improve her English and got a TOEIC certificate to follow her high school dream. She also did a part-time job to support her family at the difficult time, and to cover the entrance costs in an airline.

“After failing in an entrance recruitment, despite being sad, I still didn’t falter just because of that. From failure, I am determined to try harder, learn from the mistakes, continue to improve and set a certain goal this time. For me, in addition to confidence and solid knowledge, the very first important impression to attract the judges is a neat and tidy appearance with a bright smile not only at work but also in real life. Because I want to deliver my energy and joy to everyone. The last thing I can share with juniors is to be confident and try your best so that no matter what the result is, it will be a great experience,” Thuy Nhung shared her story.

Destination Review also had a chance to get to know Le Vu Thao Vy, a stewardess from a major Korean airline and is also working at a private jet label in Vietnam. Vy revealed that in order to be in the flight team of “the land of kimchi”, she had to pass 5 rounds: 1 round for profile scanning, 2 testing rounds in Saigon, 1 round in Hanoi, and the final one in Korea. Candidates have to ensure good overall health, show their fluent English speaking and good swimming skills, have a calm manner, and handle situations cleverly, etc. Among hundreds of Vietnamese contestants, only 20 could officially take part in a 3-month flight safety training course to become the airline’s flight attendants.

“In those 3 months, I had to finish learning basic Korean communication, because 80% of the flights operated by the airline serve Koreans. That’s why using this language well is such a huge advantage. Being used to the ABC alphabet so approaching and studying hieroglyphics like Korean was a challenge to me. Everyday, I and other Vietnamese friends had to stay up until 1 or 2 am to learn this language,” said Thao Vy.

During the training time, all flight attendants have to learn every in-flight regulations, safety standards, and the medical knowledge such as first aid, artificial respiration, treatment of low blood pressure, convulsions, stroke, hypoglycemia, ect. as well as handle emergency situations. During the flight, the flight attendants need to pay attention and take more care of customers who look tired and need timely help.

On a flight Thuy Nhung served, there was an elderly passenger who was carried on his son’s back due to difficulty walking. During the flight, she carefully observed him because the higher the plane reached, the harder he could breathe. Nhung said: “When it was nearly landing, maybe the pressure change made him more tired, so his family needed to call an ambulance. After hearing that, I was even more worried because this was an unexpected request, and I knew he was very fatigued. I tried to keep calm and reassure the passengers, with the crew supporting as quickly as possible to get everything ready. The moment the door opened, I felt like I was on fire. The ambulance was waiting there, his son trembled and carried him on his back, then followed me to go down. Looking at it, I silently prayed for him.”

Besides 3-month training, every year, the airline will require its flight attendants to take knowledge reviews and do a test periodically. If they fail, they have to make it again, and if they still don’t pass, they must pay tuition fees to study again.

Appearing with a brilliant look, visiting many places or receiving an attractive thousand-dollar salary are the most obvious benefits of becoming a flight attendant. Simultaneously, the spiritual values ​​​​for themselves and the community are also what help them keep the flame in their hearts.

Thao Vy shared: “I really thank the Korean airline for building me a very good image that I have never ever thought of. Such a wonderful service industry in Korea helps me feel confident enough to serve and help VIP guests of a private jet brand starting from September 2020. I can become a new person, and upgrade myself. We need those moments in our lives to see that we are actually living, not just existing day after day.”

Working for an international airline, flying regularly on medium flights (over 5 hours) and long flights (over 8 hours), Thao Vy can also approach a lot of countries, and diverse cultures around the world as well as learn to be more independent, to protect herself in strange places. “I used to get pickpocketed in the U.K in the winter but fortunately, my wallet and phone were in my coat and the street was quite crowded so I didn’t face any danger or loss.”

“In my first trip by plane, I saw a crew from this Korean airline flight attendants and wished to be one of them. However, before joining the current Korean airline, I used to work in a Vietnamese one, Vietjet Air. I also thank Vietjet very much for being a springboard for me to achieve my dream at the age of 17. Currently, due to Covid-19, I return to Vietnam and can’t get on a flight for one and a half years but I still get 60% of basic monthly salary. I’m very grateful for not having any financial problems during this difficult time. When everything is fine, I still want to keep working for this airline,” she said.

Thuy Nhung also affirmed that the job as a flight attendant has helped her complete herself and improve her hot-temper to be calmer and more professional. She now can confidently communicate with everyone without being shy or confused. She learnt a special lesson from her teacher that: “Once you’re on board, no bad feelings are allowed, no matter how sad it is.” Learning to control feelings is not that easy but Thuy Nhung did it to show not only herself but also the airline’s professional image. “I love my job, so I always put passengers at my heart, help them feel comfortable on flights, especially the elderly, pregnant women and children because I know how tired and uncomfortable it is if they are not used to flying.”

Along with advantages are disadvantages. Because of working in flights regularly, flight attendants’ health is hugely impacted, especially air hostesses who always wear tight dresses and high heels. Common diseases are spinal pain, disc herniation, hearing loss, sinusitis, high risk of cancer due to radiation, stomach pain due to improper eating, etc. Moreover, for flight attendants in international flights, time zone deviation is one of the great difficulties. Their biological clocks can hardly adapt to sudden changes in time or climate between destinations.

Thao Vy said: “I and other flight attendants usually feel sensitive before flying but we will be fine when the plane takes off. I’m quite lucky to have good adaptability. Right after landing, I will take time to sleep to revive and then explore the place I just arrived in the following day. The airline always arranges some days off for us after each flight.”

It is known that on average, on a normal day, each flight attendant will take part in a maximum of 4 flights with about 200 to 300 customers each. Therefore, they have to meet around 1,000 guests everyday. As representatives of the airline, flight attendants must always be bright, calm, well-groomed and professional with radiant smiles as well as an absolutely considerate and attentive attitude.

“Sometimes I can’t be myself but it’s just a fleeting sadness,” Thao Vy said. “I know how to appreciate the smallest and simplest things after many years working abroad. For example, just on board with a Vietnamese flight attendant or Vietnamese guest is enough to make me happy. I understood more the sweetness of the word “compatriots”.”

Thao Vy unveiled that she once served a Vietnamese family on a flight. After landing, the old lady there lingered and gave her a chocolate box. This made her extremely happy and treasure her guests even though they may only meet once in a lifetime.

One of the biggest regrets of flight attendants is often absent from many family gatherings such as Tet holiday or Christmas. Once on an evening flight, a passenger asked Thuy Nhung: “This trip is so late, won’t you be back in time with your parents for the Vu Lan festival?”. Thinking of her mother alone in the house, Thuy Nhung couldn’t help but shed tears, then had to temporarily forget her sadness and serve passengers with a smile. Thao Vy also felt very lonely many times while celebrating Tet holiday in a far away place. “That’s why everytime back to Vietnam, the first thing I do is visit my family and loved ones.”

It has been almost two years since the pandemic broke out all over the world and especially due to the peak in Vietnam in the last three months, airlines and flight attendants have to stop working. This is not only a great loss economically but also mentally for them. Both Thao Vy and Thuy Nhung miss flights and hope to see their guests again. “Before, sometimes I felt tired and wanted to take a short break from work but now I really miss it when staying at home for so long,” Thuy Nhung said. Thao Vy is very sad too. She said: “At first, I was extremely stressed because I was having the momentum to travel. I love my work so much but I had to stop. Just feels like a child having a good dream is woken up and can never dream of it again.”

However, being enthusiastic young people, the two girls have been trying hard to improve their knowledge, renew themselves, regenerate energy as well as take care of their appearance so that after the epidemic is under control, they can reach a new position, the airline’s assistant purser. “A flower is not only beautiful but also needs to give off a pleasant fragrance,” according to Thao Vy.

Above difficulties and challenges have added some deep colors to the “pink” picture that many people often imagine about flight attendant careers. Nevertheless, for Thuy Nhung and Thao Vy as well as many other flight attendants, pink color is still more prominent overall.

The flight attendant career looks so glamorous and offers a lot of good benefits, but it also requires an extremely difficult training process, with many safety and health risks. This job requires a person to be really capable, persistent and passionate to pursue it for a long time. Because a flight attendant is good from inside out.

#Not-So-Ordinary Jobs is a series unfolding indelible moments, the gain-loss and the joy-sadness of the people in tourism.

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