I started working as a cabin attendant in 2002. Just for a year, I thought at that time. 14 years on, I have to admit that this way of life is slightly addictive. This is my personal top 10 why I like this job so much.
1. Every working day is different
There are times when I’ll get up at 04.30 for a return flight to Paris, and other times when I’ll board a flight at 21.30 for a trip to the other side of the world.
Even after 14 years with KLM, I still work with people I’ve never met before. Sometimes we enjoy each other’s company so much, we start requesting flights together. The work schedules on board can be rather routine and regimented, but the job itself is never boring, because the crews keep changing, as do the destinations and passengers, and the atmosphere on day and night-time flights is also very different.
2. Setting your own schedule
I do have a say in the destinations I fly to, and how long I’ll be away from home. The requests system for cabin crew is great, allowing me to give my preferences by simply selecting a flight number and date. The system immediately tells you your chances of being assigned to that flight and how many open slots there are for your rank.
It goes without saying that I also have to work during public holidays, like Christmas or Easter. But if I really want to have a specific day off, I can use one my two “superjokers” to make sure I get the flight I want. It makes it easy to plan work schedules around birthdays, holidays and the festive season.
3. Never having to worry about what to wear
I never have to worry about what I’ll be wearing to work. Got to love uniforms! But there are choices to be made. Should I wear the skirt or trousers? Waistcoat or no waistcoat? My uniform options include: 2 blazers, 1 waistcoat, 1 jersey (it can get chilly during the nightshift), 1 pair of trousers, 2 different skirts (1 straight, 1 flared), 2 scarves, and a nice long winter coat. My favourite garment is the waistcoat, which I wear quite often, usually in combination with the flared skirt.
4. Visiting family and friends abroad
If we’re assigned to intercontinental flights, we get at least 24 hours off at the destination, sometimes more. We also sometimes have layovers on European flights, giving us an afternoon and an evening off. That means I can regularly sit down for dinner with my cousin in Stockholm. My best friend lives in New York, and I’ve visited friends and relatives in Tokyo, Cape Town, Shanghai, London and Abu Dhabi. Flying allows me to maintain and strengthen these ties.
5. Sharing the wealth
Whenever I fly to Johannesburg or Nairobi, I take along lots of clothes and toys, which I give to various charities and orphanages there. I’m glad that I can contribute to these worthy causes, and it’s a privilege to make my donations personally.
I also really enjoyed taking part in the Bushcamp organised by Wings of Support, during which we spent four days camping at Lake Naivasha in Kenya with underprivileged kids. Such a great experience and lots of fun too.
6. Seeing the world from above
While I’m serving passengers on board, I sometimes glance out of the window and see the rolling cloud cover, majestic mountain tops, and (almost always) the sun. The views are spectacular! More than once, I’ve had the pleasure of flying over the heart of London as the sun was setting. I’ve seen the Great Wall of China from the air, the Mississippi River, the Strip in Las Vegas, Mount Fuji, and the Alps.
One of the things I still find amazing is that, within a day, I can close my door in Amsterdam and open a hotel door in a completely different part of the world. It’s like magic. Once we’ve checked in, we’re free to go our own way, as long as there aren’t any safety restrictions on site. After 12 years of flying, I already have my favourite coffee bars and beauty salons in many different cities. Last year I rented a car with a colleague and we drove out to Las Vegas from Los Angeles. To me it was the best ”work” trip of 2015.
8. Time for a special hobby
To me, the tango is the most beautiful dance. I’m really fortunate that I can take lessons in Buenos Aires, where tango was born. Every time I go there, I take along my tango shoes, which I bought in San Telmo, and take a couple of private lessons at the Tango Piola in Palermo.
9. Getting to know lovable, loving and lovely people
If I’m on a 12-hour flight, I enjoy getting to know passengers in my work area. I’m still in touch with 85-year-old Vida and with people like Rachael, who I actually met via my KLM blog. She suffered from fear of flying and told me that my blog helped set her mind at ease, knowing that cabin attendants have to complete safety training every year. When she and her husband came Amsterdam for a weekend, we got together for coffee and cake in the Vondelpark. Rachael gave me a guardian angel, which I always take along on my travels.
10. Seeing the most beautiful places on earth
I sometimes have to pinch myself when I’m lying on a beach bed, drinking from a fresh coconut, watching the sun set slowly into the sea. At such times, I will share our running gag: “Just another day at the office.”
If you’d like more regular updates on my flying life, why not follow me on Instagram (@dareshegoes) and Facebook. We may even run into each other on board… love to see you there!