The Corporate Flight Attendant

Deciding to make a living at 30,000 feet in the air while serving corporate executives food and beverages isn’t a career choice made lightly. The life of a corporate flight attendant has its ups and downs between take off and landing, as well as after the plane has parked and shutdown for the evening. The following are a few noteworthy pieces from one of our partners, Susan C. Friedenberg – President & CEO of Corporate Flight Attendant Training & Global Consulting.

In-Flight Service – Professionalism – Egress Training
In the winter of 2011, a business jet preparing to depart a London airport was deiced shortly before its 4:00 am departure. Having been “egress-trained”, he was schooled in emergency procedures and the use of lifesaving equipment to quickly and safely evacuate passengers, upon boarding the aircraft, the flight attendant pre-checked all of his emergency equipment, including the smoke hoods and life vests stowed in the “doghouse” under each seat.
Fortunately, the company permitted him to sit in the cabin in an aft-facing seat adjacent to the over wing exit, a recognized “best practice” for business jet flight attendants. As the aircraft climbed to 3,000 feet, the cabin filled with dense black smoke. The attendant could just make out that the pilots had donned their oxygen masks. Immediately, he went into emergency mode, putting his flashlight between his teeth to free his hands while getting the smoke hoods out from under the seats and onto himself and the three passengers. The pilots were able to land safely less than two minutes later, at which time they learned that the aircraft’s Auxiliary Power Unit (APU) had been saturated with deicing fluid which turned to deadly smoke as the APU heated up. Had that quick-thinking flight attendant not been in the back – or if he’d not had the proper training – the ground crew very likely would have found four dead upon landing.
Today’s corporate flight attendant is charged with much more than simply serving beverages and a meal service. He or she is, in every sense of the word, the first responder in the cabin in the event of any emergency, medical or otherwise.
The professional corporate flight attendant -
In the early, post-World War II days of business aviation, aviation managers and chief pilots often used flight mechanics in the back of larger cabin aircraft for cabin service. The advent of the jet age spawned a new generation of aircraft now flying 500 MPH eight miles above the ground. These jets offered more complex and customized interiors, and more of a need for high tech and elaborate passenger amenities due to the aircraft’s range. The galley equipment became more elaborate and extensive, as did the high-tech electronic communication and in-flight entertainment systems. The third crew member – known by the 1980s as a “corporate flight attendant,” now handled specialized & a safe food service, as well as serving as a trained safety device in the cabin.
What to look for when you hire a corporate flight attendant –
Business aviation is a world and environment of total flexibility. So whether you hire one or more dedicated flight attendants for your own aircraft, or use a contract flight attendant, you will want someone who can adapt quickly and graciously to your often-changing schedule and evolving needs. That said, it is incumbent upon you to be sure that the individual(s) you hire are “corporate specific” trained and maintain their yearly recurrent training in three primary areas:
• Emergency procedures: first aid and CPR/AED and procedures for a decompression and planned or unplanned evacuations.
• Culinary arts: designing and preparing a menu (assessing the credentials of any caterer globally) that meets your preferences and dietary needs whether food allergies or religious restrictions, as well as those of your guests.
• Food safety: those who handle the catering have a legal, ethical, and economic responsibility for keeping the food safe to eat and keeping it temperature safe on the aircraft. In addition to the safety of the passengers, a physically compromised pilot due to food poisoning jeopardizes the trip.
In addition to superior training and experience, and the aforementioned ability to be flexible in all situations, a professional flight attendant should possess the following qualities: creativity and “out of the box” thinking; personal integrity and accountability, including absolute discretion and confidentiality; excellent time management skills; and the ability to take directions from multiple sources, including the CEO, his/her corporate and personal family, the aviation manager, the chief pilot, the dispatcher/scheduler, the chief flight attendant, and the maintenance staff, among others.
Hiring a Contract Flight Attendant –
When the need to hire a contract flight attendant arises, please understand that contract flying is the most difficult, challenging, and rewarding type of flying. The professional contract flight attendant – while eager to serve you well and do his or her job to the highest standard of excellence – is unfamiliar with your specific preferences, needs, and requirements. He or she interacts daily with those from many different cultures, corporate personalities and on a wide variety of aircraft from various aircraft manufacturers. Each aircraft has its own separate and unique features. Each plane has its own distinct galley set-up, different onboard amenities, aircraft-specific emergency exits, emergency equipment and configurations. Some of the galleys may or may not be “flight attendant friendly.” Unlike your own dedicated, full-time flight attendant who is accustomed to the same environment each time he or she flies, and who is keenly attuned to your passenger profile, the contract flight attendant is always acclimating and adjusting to a new work environment. They are always reinventing themselves.
In addition, each flight department has different standard operating procedures (SOPs) and philosophies to which the flight attendant must adhere, and each has a subtly different role for their third crew member. The contract corporate flight attendant must adjust all of the time, while recognizing his or her role as a paid guest on your aircraft.
The corporate flight attendant – whether an employee or contractor – is there to serve you. You are your company’s best asset or your family’s very important person/loved one, so please remember: Safety always comes first!

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