By Beth 12 Dec 2022 7 min read

My Journey to becoming Cabin Crew with Virgin Atlantic

We recently spoke with Jason Pestel, a 52- year old Flight Service Manager for Virgin Atlantic. Jason tells us his favorite memory from being Cabin Crew, the life lessons he has learned from his 23-year career, and more.


What made you decide to become Cabin Crew and what career path did I take? 

The pivotal moment for me was when I was 20. I had been working in a bank for just over 4 years. A very safe and highly regarded job at the time, and one that offered me money, security, and potentially a very promising career in the banking sector. However (much to my parent’s dismay) I decided to follow my heart and embark on a backpacking adventure that took me around the world for a year and a half. From that moment, for me, everything changed. 

In total honesty, at that age, I didn’t have a clue what I wanted to do. I just knew what I didn’t want. I loved travelling but hadn’t yet thought about becoming cabin crew. When I returned home from my travels, I studied for my A-levels and went to university to study Social Policy at Leeds university as a mature student. 

Travel, however, was still in my blood and after graduating, I started work as a tour guide on coaches, taking groups of people away for weekend breaks to Dublin, Amsterdam and Paris. 

These trips were like the perfect preparation for being crew. Dealing with all sorts of scenarios and quickly finding solutions to problems that ranged from coaches breaking down to getting lost in Amsterdam with 72 passengers onboard! This was just before the age of the mobile phone and google maps. My A-Z book of Holland was all I had at the time!

It wasn’t long before I really started to dream about taking to the skies and applying to the airlines. I can still remember that day so clearly. 


What was the recruitment process to become Cabin Crew like?

Despite all my obvious nerves at the time, it was a lot of fun. The assessment day was in Bath and I remember attending, telling myself to just be myself and enjoy it. 

One of the group activities that really stands out was being split into groups and having to sing a song as a team with words that we were given. I would dread to see a video clip of that now. Not exactly easy listening!

I made it all the way through the process but got a letter through the post a week later to say that I was unsuccessful and to try again in 6 months. I remember feeling devastated at the time but I was determined to try again. Six months later I tried again, and this time made it through. 


What was the training process like? Was it easier or harder than was expected?

At the time I didn’t know what to expect. I knew it would be tough and braced myself for a rollercoaster ride. It certainly didn’t disappoint. 

We were assigned to be training group 287, which consisted of 15 girls and 2 boys. We bonded straight away and had so much fun over the course of the 6 weeks. 

It was tough however as there was so much to learn and the format only gave you a limited number of attempts to pass each exam. With a minimum pass mark of 88% for each test there wasn’t much scope for error. The standard was set to a very high standard and the pressure to keep up and passing each time was real. 

One moment I recall was the day we had all received our first flying rosters. It was an exciting moment as the destination of our first flight was revealed. It should have been a happy time but I remember one of the girls failing all her attempts to pass an exam. She was actually the only one of us who had a flight to Barbados as her first sector and was so excited. Unfortunately, the standard is so high that if you failed all 3 attempts you are off the course, and that’s exactly what happened to her. 


Has your career as Cabin Crew been as you expected it to be?

The truth is, it’s hard at that point to know exactly what lay ahead. I did hope however for adventures, excitement and a life that was unpredictable and vibrant. I got exactly that and so much more.

When I actually sit back and think about all the people that I have met, all the places I have seen and all the scenarios I have experienced, it’s pretty mind blowing. 


What does Cabin Crew mean to you?

I’ve always felt so grateful for the opportunities that I have been given and the incredible friendships that have been forged as a result. For me it’s never been just a job, it’s a complete lifestyle and I actually don’t think that there is another career quite like it.  


Do I have a favourite memory from your career as Cabin Crew?

I have so many incredible memories. One of my all time favourites was the day that I met, not just a colleague, but someone who turned out to be one of my very best friends. 

It was the very first day of our training course, and a certain someone was missing. 15 minutes later, a very blonde girl and charismatic girl, bounced apologetically into the room wearing a very trendy (at the time) leopard-skin jacket. ‘I’m so sorry’ she said, as she bundled her way to her seat. I had no idea back then of the impact that one person would have on my life and all the fun, laughter and tears that we would share together over the course of the next 20 plus years. 


Have you learned any life lessons from your career as Cabin Crew? How has being Cabin Crew impacted you as a person?

This is such a good question. I have learned so many lessons from my career as Cabin Crew. 

Every flight brings something new to the table and you have to be prepared and open to deal with anything. Whilst the majority of flights pass without incident, there is usually always something or someone that you have to deal with or find a solution for. 

Learning to work as a team, to appreciate and value your colleagues, one of my biggest life lessons is how my friends (who are flying colleagues) have supported me through life, no matter what, and for that, I am always grateful. 

You learn such a level of resilience and to become adept at dealing with adversity, no matter how big or small and this is such a valuable life skill. An absolute must-have tool in your own personal toolkit for life.