01 October 2019 04:36:24 IST

Life at 39,000 feet

In a chat over phone Neha Sharma, Vistara’s Lead Check, Cabin Crew, gives a rare look into the life of an air-hostess


How did you begin in the industry?

I was fascinated by planes and air hostesses from childhood. After graduation, I gave an interview. And then became a cabin crew. Now am in aviation and I cant think of a life without it. It’s now in the blood.

I started in 2005, with Air Deccan and was promoted as cabin crew in-charge. I also worked with Kingfisher Airlines. In Kingfisher, I was both a flight manager and as well as a check crew.

What is a check crew?

Check crew is the one who checks and supervises the work of other crew members.

So you are the leader of the group?

Leader of the group is in-flight manager. As a check crew, I can check on the leader as well. Check crews are approved by the DGCA (Director General of Civil Aviation).

After Kingfisher Airlines, you joined SpiceJet. As a crew member?

I never flew on SpiceJet as the company had Boeing aircraft and I was trained for Airbus (Deccan and Kingfisher used Airbus planes). So I was part of crew management for five years. I was supervising the crew members. Chennai was the second-largest base for SpiceJet, there were around 200 crew members. Then I got to know of Vistara. I joined Vistara as in-flight supervisor. And then became line check crew, which is same as check crew.

Does every flight have a lead crew and a check crew?

For every flight there is a lead crew, but not a check crew. A lead crew can be a check crew, but not for every flight. It’s only when a check has to be conducted in the flight that a line check crew comes in.

How is life as a crew member?

Early on I was excited by the idea of flying and life as a crew member — travelling by air, having pick-up and drop, staying in five-star hotels. It looks glamorous but has challenges and needs a lot of discipline.

We get a monthly roster. The schedule varies according to the flight. If we are doing a shorter sector — Delhi-Mumbai turnaround, or Delhi-Ahmedabad turnaround, then we reach home by 1200 hours or 1300 hours. It is much better than doing a 9-to-5 corporate job.

At the same time, we have the longer flights too. At times, they are challenging if you consider delays due to fog or diversions. If you have anything planned for the evening, such as attending a friend’s wedding, you miss out. This happens but your job requires this. Also, some people might find it difficult to wake up at two or three in the morning regularly. But our clock is different from the world’s. When others are awake, we are sleeping. But it’s fun.

We have a systematic rest period, regulated by the DGCA and the company ensures it. For instance, after doing a four-hour flight, the rest period should be at least 10 hours.

With such timings, how is the work-life balance?

We do get time with our family. And if you love your job, then it’s easier to manage. Everyday we meet different people and go to different places. Even our colleagues change every day as the team can differ. The job makes you come out of the comfort zone.We grow that way.

Is it true that you are trained to even deliver babies?

Yes, we are. It’s part of first-aid training. At every airline, a new recruit goes through training, examination and viva. In Vistara, when we were hired, we went through training for Airbus. Then there was training on subjects such as first-aid, aviation security and food management. We also have drills such as fire drills, slide drill and door management. After every training, you have a viva and then practical training.

Also, annually there are viva, examination and practical training. We also have a license, which has to be renewed, and need to ensure that it’s valid for all the trainings.

So you are trained to face any kind of situation...

Yes. Sometimes, there are expecting mothers, or patients on board. According to the situation, our role varies from being a fire fighter, or nurse to even mother or sister.

Can you give an instance?

In one of my colleagues flights there was this man who sat in a corner and was crying. My colleague noticed, talked to him and gave company through the flight, and even wiped his tears. In another instance, there was this customer who kept asking for something else to eat. We finally offered him our crew food, and he was glad.

The crew members generally look fit. Is there emphasis on grooming?

We need to maintain a good health. We go through medical examination annually. Factors like weight, BMI (body mass index) and skin are regularly checked. It’s not like other jobs where you just worry about work. But here we have to be presentable, well-groomed, polite and smiling.

That would be difficult when you have unruly passengers.

Most of the people basically want a good service and on-time arrival. There are some who can be difficult. For instance, there are people who keep calling you 10-15 times. But as cabin crew we have to be calm and composed. At times, it is funny. Depends on how you take it.

How do you prepare for a flight?

Before a flight, there is briefing on safety and first-aid. The briefing also depends on the sector that we are flying. If it’s a sector like Goa, then we know people are in a holiday mood and we ensure that during the flight the atmosphere is maintained. In Mumbai-Delhi flights, there are chances of meeting celebrities, corporate customers. Many of them prefer to be left alone, and we make sure that they are not disturbed. Then there are people who are travelling for the first time. We watch out for them. If someone has a birthday, we ensure there is a celebration with whatever that is available with us.