I thought it might be fun to share a kind of “day in the life” post about my role as cabin supervisor. Somehow it’s been more than a year since I did my training, and I was able to finish my 6 month probation period just in time before all flights got put on hold. So I thought I’d give you a bit of an idea of what my job entails now.
Let’s start with before the flight. The same as when I was working in any other cabin, I need to make sure my cabin bag is prepped and ready to go, which means making sure my waistcoat is clean and ironed, shoes are polished, and all other items are available. One additional step I have now is charging my company provided “KIS” tablet. This is an HP tablet which is given to the seniors (pursers and cabin supervisors) for use on the flights, you can check all of the passenger information as well as lots of details about each specific destination, all of our manuals and much more. Due to the pandemic, we are currently not using our waistcoats as we are provided with single use disposable gowns, as well as masks, gloves and a visor. Out of habit I still pack my waistcoat, just in case!
I have to arrive at headquarters 2,5 hours prior to the flight departure time – this is an additional 30 minutes for the supervisors and pursers. The rest of the crew arrive 2 hours before departure to start the briefing. In this time the purser, other CSV’s and I discuss the flight. This ranges from checking if there are any special passenger requests, any wheelchair customers (and if any of them might need the onboard cabin wheelchair), any station specifics (such as recycling and separating cans in some destinations) to seeing how many special meals we have. At this point we are also asked a “Safe Talk” question, which could be related to the aircraft type, security or medical. We have to answer one question correctly to be allowed to fly. We also make sure to check the validity of each others documents – passport and licenses. If the purser has not pre-assigned our work positions, this is when we choose them. This is always done by seniority, and despite now being a CSV for over a year, I’m generally the most junior, so tend to be in charge of economy. We do mostly swap on the return sector of the flight, so I have plenty of opportunities to work in business class as well. The purser is in charge of first class, so my days of serving caviar and 2008 Dom Perignon are over for now!
Once everyone else arrives, we split up into our respective cabins and repeat the same process with the rest of the crew – checking documents and asking a Safe Talk questions, as well as sharing flight information and setting expectations for the flight. Once we’ve finished our briefing, the pilots join us to share the flight time, as well as any other details we may need to know, such as expected turbulence.
Next up we all head downstairs to the bus bay, where our crew bus is waiting to take us to the aircraft. Once onboard, all of us head to our respective “station” – this means whichever door you are in charge of that day. These days, we also collect our disposable gowns and gloves! During the time prior to passengers boarding, we have to conduct a cleaning check, which I relay to the purser, as well as a security search if we are outside of Dubai. We also check all emergency equipment is in the correct place and is functioning correctly – things such as the fire extinguisher, portable oxygen bottles, and emergency medical kits.
Approximately 45 minutes prior to the departure time, passengers are allowed to board, and as the CSV it’s up to me to be at the door, checking boarding passes, greeting customers onboard and welcoming back our high valued Skywards members. Once the ground staff let us know that all passengers are onboard, I call my team in economy or business to let them know they can start with the pre-departure service. My KIS tablet needs to sync up with the purser’s and they will also pass on the PIL (passenger information list) which has any special requests noted, such as pre-ordered special meals or customers who have booked a wheelchair.
Once everyone is onboard, it’s time to get going! Boarding can be one of the most hectic parts of the flight, as generally people tend to come on with lots of luggage which needs to be put up into the hatrack, and sometimes there can be people who haven’t travelled much before and need assistance finding their seats. We wait for the captain’s command to arm our doors (this means engaging the slide raft – if there was an emergency and we needed to open the door, the slide raft would open up) and make sure the cabin and galleys are secure and ready for take off.
After take off, depending on the flight, we get ready for the service. This could be breakfast, lunch, dinner, or a variation of different snacks, depending on the time of departure and length of flight. One of the economy crew members is in charge of the galley, so I help everyone with setting up the carts for the service. We also make sure everyone is happy in the cabin at this time.
Once the meals are heated, we get started with delivering the service. As the supervisor, I need to have an overview of what’s going on in the cabin, so I also take a cart and serve customers, as well as chatting and getting to know our passengers. These days it’s not quite the same, as not only are we wearing our mask/gown/visor/gloves, passengers also have to wear a mask, and sometimes the aircraft noise can drown out a conversation! We also try to minimise contact as much as possible.
After the service, we dismantle the carts in the galley and get to have a little break ourselves. Usually at this point I’ll have some reports to write (which is where the KIS tablet comes in) – things such as a customer who requested a vegetarian meal which wasn’t loaded, or a TV which needed to be reset. I then usually pop to business or first class for a chat with the purser to let them know how everything is going, and make myself a coffee and a bite to eat. If there’s leftover food in business class after the service, the crew are allowed to eat it! We also have crew meals which are available for us.
For the remainder of the flight we are usually in the galley, answering any call bells, and taking it in turns to deliver drinks and snacks in the cabin, as well as checking that the toilets are kept clean. I try to pop into the flight deck at least once per flight to get to know the pilots – they don’t see too much of us crew otherwise! When I worked in first class I would spend much more time with the pilots as the first class cabin was right next to the cockpit so I’d be taking care of them, but now the economy cabin is right at the other end of the plane (it’s a long walk …).
Depending on the flight we might have another service, or if it’s a really long one (ULR = ultra long range, such as Australia or the US) we split into shifts and have a break in our bunks to sleep. Before long it’s time to prepare the cabin for landing, and I need to make sure all the expectations I set out from the briefing have been met. Since we haven’t been hiring for a while, most of the crew are pretty experienced and know their jobs well, which makes mine even easier.
After landing, we disarm the doors, and the passengers disembark. We do a quick check of the cabin, which includes making sure nobody has left any important items behind (forgotten items include: passports, mobile phones, duty free bags of expensive alcohol, laptops, DSLR cameras, suitcases, baby) as well as collecting the remaining blankets and headsets. Then it’s time to pack up our cabin bags and get out of there!
Once we’re through customs in the airport, we pick up our suitcases and get on the crew bus to the hotel. Or if the flight is a short one, we get the cleaners onboard and turnaround and do it all over again! Once we arrive at the hotel, we check in and head up to our rooms. I have to “close” the flight on my KIS tablet, and once this is done I can finally relax and get out and enjoy the layover! (Or not, if there’s a pandemic…)
I hope you enjoyed this little glimpse of my day at work, and I’m long awaiting the return of normal flights and layovers!