Fancy experience outweighs tough training

The Young Reporter (2000, September), 33(01), pp. 10.
Author: Rita Tsang. Editor: Liu Tung Yan.
Permanent URL - https://sys01.lib.hkbu.edu.hk/bujspa/purl.php?&did=bujspa0014764

Rita Tsang

A 22-year-old girl, Miss Karen Tsang, took a fancy to the elegance of being a flight attendant since she was just a primary student: “The job enables me to travel throughout the world. I enjoy getting a wider exposure in different countries.” Karen said.

Being a flight attendant is always a promising career in many young girls’ mind. Despite the keen competition for flight attendant selection, Karen had excelled thousands of interviewees after going through three interviews this spring. Before accomplishing her childhood dream, Karen had taken seven entire weeks on induction training in the headquarters.

The training covers a wide range of courses including airplane familiarization, routine procedure, cocktail mixing, airport code, grooming and interpersonal skills.

Despite the toughness, Karen found it worth of trying. She said: “Everything was brand new to me.”

“Not to mention the routine service work on the airplane,” Karen added, “the training highlights mainly the safety aspects on the airplaine [i.e. airplane]. We have to know entirely about the location of emergency equipment such as extinguisher, cockpit door key, first aid kit, survival pack, portable gaseous oxygen, oxygen manual release tool, emergency radio beacon and so on.”

Apart from knowing the exact location, the trainees must learn the proper operation process and the duration of the equipment.

“We have to exercise emergency procedure in evacuating an airplane both in exercises and on papers.” Karen explained.

The booming in the aviation industry in the last two decades has added extra skill and intense workload to flight attendants. Karen experienced it through the continuing comprehensive and challenged training.

Karen said once all the trainees came to meet fire during the course, they had to leave the cabin in 3 minutes. They brought along protective breathing equipment while putting out fire in an 800-square-feet pitch-dark cabin. “Our mission was either to save a bear doll or to escape,” Karen explained as she remembered this hair-raising experience.

Most people believe that the flight attendants are merely high-class waitresses serving meals and beverages to passengers. However, the training told Karen that the experience was far more demanding.

In an emergency landing training, a slide raft of three-storey height was opened. Karen’s legs shook with fear: “When I slided down from the top to the ground, panic gripped me. My heart was beating rapidly and my breath became difficult.

“I triumphed when I had slipped at once,” Karen grinned. She understood in case of real accidents, she and other attendants had to remain calm and confident to instruct passengers leaving the cabin safely and promptly.

When it comes to first aid, the trainees were taught to deal with common medical emergencies. “I studied laboriously about medical terms, symptoms, treatment and also cardio-pulmonary resuscitation (CPR) ,” Karen said.

“After the tough training, Karen was near to start her carrer. Before getting on board, every flight attendant has to spruce up for the journey - wears properly, looks smart and distinctive so as to provide consistent image of the company. “Grooming is vital for a flight attendant. Nail polish must be worn at all times on either long or short nails. Colors such as black, blue, yellow and gold with or without glitters are not allowed. No earrings for male staff are allowed.” Karen added.

She said staff are not permitted to consume any alcoholic beverage or smoke in public when wearing uniform. “Make-up is compulsory for us and we have to tie up our hair with ribbon or scrunches. Besides, we are not allowed to fall asleep in public transport or carry non-company’s bags whilst wearing company uniforms.” She explained.

All flight attendants could not take even simple presents like waches or cartoon character idols from the passengers.

When Karen started flying officially, she was a bit nerve-strung about her performance and outlook, but soon she got used to it and started enjoying the work.

Karen also took a great interest in different people she meets on board. She said: “Germans like beer profoundly and the Filipinos enjoy having Coke Cola. We usually reserve extra bottles in the storeroom.”

Some passengers know little about English, Karen then uses gesture to communicate with them.

“Working in the sky is not cushy,” said Karen, “we have to squeeze through narrow aisles to serve customers.” She suffered from occasional back pain and sometimes opening cans of beverages easily breaks her fingernails.

Edited by Liu Tung Yan

  • Fancy Experience Karen Tsang wears smile on accomplishing her dream of being a flight attendent