We recently spoke to Juliana Oliveira, who originates from Brazil. She is a Senior Cabin Crew Member and has worked for various airlines such as Vueling Airlines, FreeBird Airlines, and Ryanair.
Where did your aviation journey start for you?
I joined aviation, quite at an early age. My father was working for Varig, the flag carrier airline from Brazil back in 80’s/90’s and I grew with the sparkle of airplanes, flying and people. I remember going to the airport with my father and just staying there, behind the check-in counter and talk with people, practicing the languages, learning how aviation worked.
Forward to 1991, my family and I moved to Portugal and aviation became a silent dream. For many years, aviation became part of the past, and I grew up believing I would not come back. As life kept happening, I finished my bachelor's degree, and after my parent’s divorce, I thought it was time to give aviation “a try” and see where it could lead me. After 3 years of applying and receiving the no as an answer, I kept working, and in August 2012, I got my first yes to join my first airline. To accept the job, it was required to move away from Portugal, and leave my house and my mother. I was lucky and my first base was in a beautiful city called Girona, near Barcelona in Spain.
The first year was hard. I knew aviation but I was not updated, and I had to adapt to a new language, and new rhythm, and become a front-line worker instead the daughter of the front-line worker. I was sure I was in the right job for me. Not because of my father, but because of the feeling I carried with me up to today. It completed my heart and made me the person I love, but it did not exclude the difficulties that came along. Dealing with my mental health, colleagues I had expectations of, and my salary. One of the reasons I decided to join aviation again was also to provide better conditions for my family.
I had the idea that aviation would bring a better financial life and I was not aware that could take time. With that being said, my thirst for growth became more evident and I increased my knowledge by not only reading, attending new courses, and searching for opportunities to improve myself and to get further, a new step had to be taken and I had to move again. After paying attention to the company’s opportunities, I decided that to grow, I had to leave Spain and my next country became The Netherlands.
As I moved, the opportunity to become a Senior Cabin Crew came and I took the chance. I not only wanted to provide a better life for my family, but I wanted my name to be known and therefore, progress. To become a Senior Cabin Crew, it depends on each airline's regulations. With me, I had to be working for at least one year as a Junior Cabin Crew and wait for the vacancies to be opened, according to the needs of the airline and the bases that the airline has.
After that, a course must be completed, and an exam must be passed with minimum 90% approval. Depending on the number of questions, the margin to get the answers wrong is low. Sometimes only one mistake is allowed. When successfully completing the course, the next step is familiarization flights. Those flights are flights where, mainly, the future Senior Cabin Crew can not only practice their new role but observe the leading instructor. On the last day of the familiarization flights, there is what is called a check flight. The check flight is when the leading instructor only observes, and the new Senior Cabin Crew will perform all the tasks and be evaluated.
What does a cabin crew member do on a day-to-day basis?
As a Senior Cabin Crew, my job is to remain alert, lead the crew, and create a good working environment. My day starts with arriving earlier at the crew room/gate and start preparing the documents. The documents can either be digital or paper and include details of the flight, verifying passport, cabin crew license and cabin crew medical license. I do not only check my own but also the crew I will be working for that day. I then create a space to talk about procedures and regulations and ask questions regarding them. We together talk about potential abnormal situations and how to solve them.
When flight crew (pilots) join us, we add the weather information, flight times, number of passengers, and any relevant information that is important for the flight. This part of the day is called a briefing. After the briefing, the next step is to enter the aircraft (if we haven’t done it yet) and verify each piece of equipment, at each location. From expiration date to its functionality, to the quantity.
Before boarding, it is important to have the cabin fully checked. When all is checked, confirmed, and working in proper conditions, I will confirm it to the captain and boarding will start. Boarding is a very delicate part of the day as attention must be doubled on each passenger, organization must be in practice and every passenger must be seated before closing the doors.
When boarding is done, passengers are seated, I will close the door, a safety demonstration will be performed and all the cabin crew will take their seats for the takeoff. After takeoff, inflight service will start. Me, as a Senior Cabin Crew, I conduct the flow of service, delegate tasks to each cabin crew, remain in frequent contact with the flight crew, and on any abnormalities, I make sure I write on the logbook and inform maintenance by the end of the day.
What is the biggest challenge and what advice would you pass on to aspiring cabin crew professionals?
The biggest challenge of being a Senior Cabin Crew is the level of alertness and the ability to create a good work environment. Each individual is different and it is important to be aware of each person and how they work and how as a leader we can reach them and help them to achieve their best potential.
When you decide to become a cabin crew, these are the tips I would give to you: Know it is not how social media portrays - Learn, know, and feel your why. Why do you want to be a cabin crew? - Understand it is as easy as it is a demanding job but you can do it. Being a cabin crew is more than a stroll at the park or just a traveling lifestyle, it is a beautiful journey with excitement, self-love, and learning.