We meet the people who help you reach your destination
As many of us start to turn our thoughts (and our Google searches) towards summer escapes, spare a thought for the people who help us get to where we want to go – Dubai’s trusty army of cabin crew. Dubai airline Emirates flies to 123 destinations worldwide, with new routes being added constantly, while Dubai International Airport now hosts more than 150 airlines across its three terminals.
And according to the latest report from the Airports Council, it’s the seventh busiest airport in the world. Most telling, however, is that passenger numbers at DXB rose by 16.4 percent in 2011, more than at any other airport worldwide, and figures are set to rise again in 2012.
To celebrate Dubai’s status as a thriving global travel hub (plus the fact it’s home to a staggering 15,000 Emirates cabin crew), we take a peek at the life of a pilot and a first-class air hostess to reveal what life is like working the skies. Fasten your seatbelts.
The first-class attendant
Ma Phyo Zarchi Lin, 31, Burmese (above) 9.45pm It’s time to get ready for the flight. There are many ‘must-have’ items to pack in my suitcase, such as my favourite Japanese green tea, cookies, a lightweight umbrella, a pair of slippers and flat shoes (to be ready for any kind of weather – but I’ll add any other shoes or heels depending on where I’m heading). I also pack my skincare products, including facial masks and eye masks – essential for helping my skin rehydrate. This morning, I’m heading to Sydney – one of my favourite cities in Australia. I’m excited because I’ll have the chance to see one of my best friends, who lives there. Sydney has great food culture and, as a big foodie, there’s always something new to try. However, the two places I always visit are a Thai restaurant called Chat Thai, and a Chinese venue called Super Bowl. 11.25pm I always try to arrive at the airport early to go through the onboard manuals. There are a few manuals to refer to, including a service manual, operations info, details on our frequent flyer programme, information on the destination… There are also several aspects on our pre-boarding checklist, including a mandatory pre-flight security check, and we also need to check all the passenger seats and other areas of the cabin. I also do some quick grooming: I put on my red hat, arrange my scarf and get ready to greet customers and escort them to their first-class suites.
11.45pm On this particular flight I meet a couple who are celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary. It’s their first time in first class and they’re so excited. The rest of the crew and I make a bit of a fuss over them – we chat about their wedding 50 years ago. They hold hands the entire time. I find myself a little teary!
10.05pm We arrive in Sydney – it’s late and we head straight to the hotel. I’m excited about what tomorrow holds. Some of the other crew members also want to explore the city, and I give them tips on things to see. Often we’ll explore the destination together – it’s a great way to get to know them properly.
Captain Heather Wolf, 38, Canadian (picture 2) 9.00am By this time I’m up and have already done my morning exercise.
12.00pm At noon it’s time for a simple lunch. Today it’s sushi at one of my favourites, Haru in JBR.
2.30pm To ensure I’m rested for my trip tonight, I close the curtains and dim the lights, hoping to nod off for a couple of hours. It’s a bonus when I can, and today I’m lucky.
6.15pm No need for a suitcase: I’m operating a turnaround [‘round-trip’] flight to Mumbai, so I just have my briefcase as I await pick-up. Emirates’ route structure is diverse, with 123 destinations, so although a midnight Mumbai flight might not be at the top of my list, I know later in the month I’ll be off to Europe, the USA, Australia or the Far East.
6.20pm I’m on the bus and on my way. The journey to Emirates HQ normally takes 35 minutes so I review the flight plan, routing, current forecast and en-route weather, and ‘notams’ (notice to airmen) updates – a constantly updated ‘book’ of info concerning airspace and airports.
6.50pm I arrive at Emirates headquarters and make sure I leave nothing behind – especially my hat! I make my way through immigration and security before meeting up with the first officer in our briefing room, where we review the briefing package that Emirates’ dispatch has provided for us. We introduce ourselves and brief the crew on the flight details – where the jet is parked, flight time, flight level, forecast turbulence, destination weather – and it’s our chance to assess the group (and vice versa) and set a relaxed tone. I usually crack a joke, ask if they’re rested, what the passenger load is and so on. Emirates has about 15,000 cabin crew in total, a real mix of cultures and ethnicities. English is often a second language for most of them, so care has to be taken during the briefing to ensure everybody understands fully.
7.15pm The pilots and cabin crew proceed to the bus, before the purser [a senior flight attendant] makes sure everybody is present.
7.30pm We arrive at the aircraft, one hour before departure time. I review the technical log with the first officer; while he begins programming the flight management computer, I do an exterior inspection of the aircraft. This usually takes about ten minutes.
7.40pm I take the left seat – the captain’s position – and begin my pre-flight procedures. I’ve recently been promoted from the first officer position and still have to pinch myself to make sure I’m not dreaming.
7.50pm I check that all data entered into the flight management computer is correct.
8.00pm Fuel is on: I double-check the numbers and send the fueller on his way.
8.05pm I’m flying the first sector of the trip, so I brief the first officer on expected taxi routing, actions to take in the event of a malfunction during take-off, our routing and expected altitudes immediately after take-off, weather, terrain or obstructions, and anything else that is relevant. This is a two-way briefing and I expect the first officer to make additions to the briefing, if necessary.
8.15pm I request air traffic control airways clearance and make sure it’s the same as on our flight plan.
8.20pm I make a public announcement to the passengers before we start moving.
8.30pm The doors close: I request start-up and push-back clearance. Assuming a normal, event-free flight, we expect to land back in Dubai approximately seven and a half hours later – the world has become very small.
4.00am Back on terra firma, feeling slightly worse for wear. I complete the shutdown, make sure the necessary signatures have been made, and board the same crew bus back to Emirates headquarters. Even after a short trip like this, I’ve missed Dubai and can’t wait to get home. It’s taken a lot of hard work to get here, even more to stay here, but, as my husband says, ‘It’s better than working for a living.’
How do I become…
A pilot Emirates Aviation College runs a pilot training programme licensed by JAA (‘Joint Aviation Authorities’)in collaboration with Jeppeson, open to those aged 17 to 30, who have passed high school. The only setback? The Dhs545,000 fee. If you’re successful, there is also the opportunity to enrol for one of the college’s one-year top-up degree programmes for a BSc (Hons) in aviation. Starting salary from Dhs41,240 a month. Emirates Aviation College, Garhoud, firstname.lastname@example.org (04 218 9122).
Cabin crew Applicants must be 21 years old or over. Other requirements include a minimum arm reach of 212cm on tiptoes (in order to reach emergency equipment on all aircraft types), to have completed high-school education, and be fluent in written and spoken English. For more info on how to apply, see www.emiratesgroupcareers.com. On Saturday June 23, there’s an open day at Emirates Aviation College. Attendees will be able to learn about the college’s pilot training programme and all the course options it provides. www.emiratesaviationcollege.com.
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Jack Jun 18, 2012 07:58 pm
Sadly I agree with this most likely being a media statement. Many abnormalities with this..
Firstly the crew would only see the passengers nothing less than 0130 as they auto board -45 to departure. 2345 would mean they are boarding 2hr30min before departure (Assuming this is EK414 at 0215)...
Secondly - Why would the Captain be taking a "bus" to work??
Jun 14, 2012 09:31 am
i would have to agree with the previous comment. this article makes me start to wonder how many other articles on time out are sponsored.
Vel Jun 14, 2012 08:52 am
Its a great article about airline's captain. I always admire them.
Thanks to timeoutdubai for sharing.
Beverley Soued Jun 14, 2012 07:02 am
Oh my I couldn't agree more, as nice as it sounds the elderly couple are a rarity and really hard physical work and mental agility is the order of the day, of course there are many perks but it is definitely not an easy job.
I flew for nearly twenty years and loved every minute of it .
Jun 13, 2012 07:47 am
As Crew myself,this article reads like a company issued media statement. Nowhere does it mention the kind of human situations we deal with.Very seldom is it an old happy married couple.
I love my job and enjoy the travel but the real trying times are the terrible hours,lack of sleep,constant tiredness and the unhappy people.
Only a crew knows the feeling.