When we arrived at Jetset house we weren’t entirely sure of what the day would contain. We were really hoping that we would have the chance to go down the aeroplane slide and maybe even do a fire drill, but overall we were just expecting a really exciting day. That the crew training would be challenging, or even frightening, was probably as far away from our minds as it would be on a day at Disney Land. So when we happily wiggled ourselves into our blue training overalls to join the crew, we were both blissfully unaware of what an eye opener we were about to experience…
To start, we were offered to go down the aeroplane slide. This was the moment we had been waiting for and in the excitement we almost tripped over our own feet trying to make it to the top of the “wing”. We put on our shoe protectors and made our way to the landing from which we were going to slide… And then we looked down. Surely something was wrong, there is no way the slide was actually meant to be this high and steep, right? But our trainer Michele laughed at us and said that this was just what the slide looks like and suddenly the excitement that had been building all day began turning into nerves. Lynsey (was made to by Maja) went first and with her arms wrapped tightly around herself she sat down on the ledge and slowly shuffled forward. Our trainer, Michele, was waiting bellow to catch us as we flew down the slide just to be sure the speed didn’t make us “run or fly into the wall”. Lynsey leant forward and was immediately shooting down the slide. It only takes a few seconds but those seconds are enough to give you butterflies in your stomach. Maja went next and, after some encouragement, also made her way down. After that first slightly frightening ride the excitement immediately came back and we managed to convince Michele to let us go down another three times each, it was brilliant.
Following the slides we had the chance to calm down a little and try our hands on some more practical, day to day tasks that the crew does. Neither of us had ever though much about the activities that actually go on in an aircraft and the skills that crew needs to know in order to do their job effectively and, more importantly, safely. Amongst other things we had a lesson in opening and closing the doors to the various aeroplanes, which is much harder and heavier than it looks. After a bit of struggling (especially on Maja’s part) we managed to get it shut. The door lesson was actually one of the key learning points that we took away from the day as we are now fully educated in opening the emergency door at aircrafts (Maja has already used this skill to bargain her way to a free upgrade to an extra legroom seat on her holiday last week). Then we got to take part in a few more serious tasks such as learning about the different emergency equipment onboard which was very interesting. Again, it was a complete eye opener in terms of understanding how much the crew needs to be prepared for whilst in the air. When the crew was going through their training on how to manage a disruptive passenger Maja was somehow roped into playing the part of the villain and soon found herself handcuffed and restrained, unable to move a muscle. Whilst this was obviously a lot of fun and caused a lot of laughter (especially from Lynsey), it is important to remember that these situations actually occur and crew have to constantly be mentally and physically ready to handle it. Again, this is not something that either of us had considered before and is definitely something that has encouraged a lot of respect from us both.
Then came the smoke filled cabin and scenarios training. The smoke filled cabin is just what it sounds like, a cabin gets filled with smoke to replicate an onboard fire and crew has to go in dressed in gas masks and equipped with a fire extinguisher to try and locate the fire (which are fake in this case) and extinguish it. We went in as a pair and were shocked at how realistic it actually was. After a few minutes of fumbling around in the dark (whilst Lynsey was effectively pointing the extinguisher at her own face instead of the fire) we found the two fires and put them out, but it wasn’t without gaining a whole new level of appreciation for the mental readiness that is required by crew.
Scenarios was probably the one activity that we hadn’t really put any thought to throughout the day, but it turned out to be the scariest and most memorable event of the day. This is where crew does role play to enact various exercises such as bomb threats onboard, hijackings, emergency landings etc. We were acting as passengers along with 20 other crew members and were sitting in our seats when suddenly the pilot shouted “brace, brace” through the speakers and the entire cabin went black. Instantly the crew was yelling for everyone to get down and we crunched up in our seats. It was pitch black and it felt like it went on for ages, honestly now it was genuinely frightening. At one point Lynsey even looked over to say “Oh my god – I am actually quite scared!” We then “landed” in the water and everyone was screaming to get the life jackets out. Now, for everyone else in the training course this was a standard exercise that they had before so they calmly put on their jackets and got out of the plane, but as first timers we were both going crazy. Neither of us knew where our jackets were stored, and when we finally found them our stress meant we had completely forgotten how to put them on. Luckily for us we were surrounded by some pretty experienced people who got us into our life vests and we were able to “jump and swim”.
So what did we learn from our crew training day? For starters, never ever underestimate your crew. There is a popular conception that cabin crew is all about service and delivering coffee and meals. Yes, that is obviously a very important part of what they do and the customer will always be at the heart of their actions. But remember, whilst the crew might occasionally be your tea lady up in the air, they are also your doctor, your police officer, your firefighter, your janitor, your carer, and your safety blanket. Don’t underestimate cabin crew!
Maja and Lynsey (UK&I Commercial Graduates)