Meet Kaytlin: Emirates Air Hostess

Ever wondered what it would be like to be an air hostess? I have. You might say Kaytlin, a high school-mate of mine from Auckland, is living the dream. Getting paid to travel the world? Yes please. While many of us at some point in our adolescence claim that an air hostess is our profession of choice, few turn this dream into a reality.

With constant envy-inducing updates from Kaytlin via my Facebook feed, it really does seem to be as glamorous as I always imagined – seeing the sites of the world, visiting a different country every week... even trying to organise a time to chat to Kaytlin proved tricky as she just casually “had a flight to Mauritius in the morning.” (!!) Then there’s that beautiful red lipstick and uniform the Emirates girls wear *sigh*. I talked to Kaytlin to find out if it really was as amazing as it seems, and just what the life of an Emirates air hostess looks like. FYI – you may get pangs of jealousy reading this!

How/when did you become an air hostess – did you study at University?

I didn’t actually go to university. I took a leap year after school, and that’s when I realised travelling was what I wanted to make a career out of. I officially became an air hostess in November 2010, aged 19, first with Australasian airline Jetstar, then with Emirates, who I've been with for three a half years now.

Did you always want to do this as job, or did you want to do something else? What drew you to the profession?

Ever since I could remember, I loved being on planes and flying to exciting new places; I loved the whole experience of it all. Originally, I actually wanted to become a psychologist but I just couldn’t scratch the idea of strutting through an airport pulling my cabin bag behind me.

So, is it really as glamorous as it seems? Are you actually able to spend a decent amount of time in any of the places you fly to?

We usually only stay 24 hours in the places we fly to, but you always end up travelling to the same places a few times, so I just tick some stuff off the list each time. As for being glamorous, I would say that for the most part it is, but there’s also another side to it; the exhaustion, the cleaning up after people, the passengers who like to take out their issues on us.

How much spare time to do you have to yourself, and what do you do with it?

As well as the 24 hours we have on layovers, I get at least 8 days off a month. If I’m at home I go to the gym, sleep (a lot!) and usually try to catch up with friends for a night out or a day by the pool sipping cocktails and gossiping. If I’m on a layover somewhere, I try to explore the city and make the most of the fact that I am being paid to travel to a different country (and go to the gym!). Most of the time, the rest of the crew and I try to go out and have dinner and drinks with each other at some stage during our stay.

What are the main challenges that come with the role? Can you tell any particularly entertaining or memorable story of a difficult passenger?

Sleeping and staying awake is definitely the main challenge. Sometimes I’m awake for 30 hours; sometimes I start work at 11pm then the next day at 3am – it’s a real juggling act, and I usually plan when I will sleep two days in advance i.e. I plan my Sunday sleep on the Friday before. I can’t think of any passenger stories off the top of my head – I know there are loads though! Passengers always go crazy over the smallest of things, like running out of the meal choice. Hello?! If I’ve run out chicken, there’s nothing I can do... Blame the people up front who also wanted it, there’s no supermarket up here! I also had a middle aged man in business class get upset because we don’t have Pyjamas. *shaking head*

How does one avoid jetlag when currently jet-setting as you do?

One doesn’t! Jetlag is constant and never-ending. I slept for 19 hours once.

What is the best part of what you do? Any particular perk of the job?

The best part: I get paid to travel the world, to explore new cultures and meet new people. And when I’m not working, I get cheap flights!

How many countries do you average per month?

It depends on the roster, but typically 5-8.

What does a typical day involve for you – if there is such a thing as a typical day?!

Wake up. Shower. Makeup/hair. Finish packing the last of my things. Go downstairs and catch the shuttle to work. Arrive at work and attend a pre-flight briefing consisting of uniform checks, document checks, and a question asked by the head flight attendant to check our knowledge of safety, medical and security. Head to the plane to carry out safety and security checks and prepare for customers. Board the passengers. Take off – carry our meal services – land. Say goodbye to customers. Strut past everyone in the customs line. Take a coach to the hotel and voila!

What are your hopes for the future? Do you think this is something you will do for all of your working life?

Some people only stay for a few years, but I plan to follow a career with flying. I just couldn’t go back to anything else now, it’s addictive!

Tell me about making friendships on the job – is it easy, hard?

Every flight we fly with completely different crew, so you are meeting new people all the time; sometimes you love them, sometimes you don’t! It’s ok though because you may never see them again! I’m so used to being best friends with someone new for 3 days then the flight is over and I start all over again.

What is it like being based in Dubai?

I love Dubai; it’s like being on holiday all the time! All I do is shop, party and sit in the sun. My favourite things about it include ladies nights on Tuesdays – ladies get free drinks all night (win) and Friday brunch, where everyone gets dressed up in the middle of the day (the weekends are Friday and Saturday here, and the working week is Sunday to Thursday) and we go to hotels to have “brunch” which is really just a all-you-can-drink from 12-4.

Sounds amazing. Do you ever get homesick for New Zealand?

Sometimes... I miss nature and fresh food!

If you could sum up your life as an airhostess in five words, what would they be?

Experiencing life, culture and people.

So basically, yes it is as great as it sounds. I suddenly have urge to quit the office job and embark on a career as an air hostesss...

Drool-worthy picture locations, for reference, are:

1. Sheikh Zayed Grand Mousqe Abu Dhabi

2. Phu Nhuan, Vietnam

3. Rio di Janeiro, Brazil

4. New York City

5. Tokyo, Japan

6 and 7. Dubai, United Arab Emirates

8. Copenhagen, Denmark

9. Mexico

(And trust me, this is only a taste of what I see on Facebook!)