Once you become an experienced cabin crew member and have a few years’ worth of flying behind you, you may want to move into the world of corporate flying and become a VIP Flight Attendant. If this is something you are interested in we have all the information you need.
1. Research the profession
While you may be familiar with what a flight attendant does, becoming a private flight attendant is a bit different. Before you decide whether this career path is for you, it might be a good idea to find out what it entails and what you are expected to do on a daily basis.
Private flight attendants are responsible for providing a 5-star customer service to the passengers of a private jet. Just like commercial flight attendants their main duties include:
- Attending pre-flight briefings
- Preparing passengers and aircraft for takeoff and landing, following specific procedures
- Planning, ordering and prepare in-flight catering
- Checking emergency equipment onboard the aircraft
- Carrying out pre-flight and post-flight aircraft duties
- Ensuring the safety and welfare of the passengers and crew in an emergency situation
- Delivering a high standard of customer service
The difference between private and commercial flight attendants is within the tasks that they are required to carry out. On top of other duties they are also required to do the following:
- Ordering catering and preparing a menu plan tailored to the VIP’s preference
- Dressing the cabin with floral arrangements, providing welcome canapés and drinks
- Preparing and presenting 5-star restaurant quality meals
- Be discreet and conscientious because work is confidential
- Cleaning the cabin and restocking all amenities
Essential skills and qualities
Every successful VIP Flight Attendant should possess the following skills and qualities:
- A can-do attitude and pleasant disposition
- Excellent personal presentation
- Cultural awareness
- Flexibility and diplomacy
- Strong work ethic
- Good interpersonal and communication skills
- Ability to work independently and under pressure
Working hours and conditions
The hours in the corporate sector are long, and you could work anything from 3 to 21 hours a day. You need to be very adaptable because many flights are last minute. Time off may be down-route or at base, but it is usually limited and dependent on the VIP’s schedule.
Some VIP Flight Attendants work on rotation, where they are scheduled 2 weeks on and 2 weeks off or a month on and a month off, but this arrangement is rare. Freelance VIP Flight Attendants do not work to a schedule and work on demand on a daily basis.
Salary varies depending on how much the jet owner is offering, where and how often you travel and at what times. Earnings are made up of basic and per diem (overnight allowance). Per Diem may be paid at base and down-route or down-route only and be variable according to destination.
Private flight attendants earn from 2 to 8 times more than commercial flight attendants. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, salary for flight attendants is roughly $48,500 annually. Private and corporate air stewardesses earnings are much higher at $57,000 or $60,000 for those who are bilingual. In the UK, salaries are between £30,000 and £45,000 per year.
Other benefits may include health and life insurance, uniform and laundry expenses as well as internet service. Accommodation and transport are provided down-route and sometimes also at base, depending on where the aircraft is primarily based. Contracts may be short-term from 6 months to one or two years.
2. Get the qualifications
VIP flight attendants are required to have a high school education and a minimum of 2 years working as cabin crew in a business class or first class cabin. A degree in hospitality management, languages, leisure and tourism management or travel can help, but it’s not compulsory.
If you are based in the UK, you can study towards a vocational qualification (NVQ or BTEC) and get awarded the title of the flight attendant by City & Guilds, Edexcel and Northern Council for Further Education (NCFE). You can also carry out some carry out some extra emergency training from popular course providers like Aircare FACTS training. If you are in the US, you will need to be registered with the Federal Aviation Administration.
Safety and medical training is not required for private aircraft with less than 18 seats and is optional depending on the aircraft operator. Culinary training or work experience in a 5-star environment is desirable, and languages count as an extra advantage with English, Mandarin and Russian being the most in demand.
To be fully eligible to work as a private flight attendant, you are required to pass a medical and be fully vaccinated. You may have to provide 2 copies of your passport and apply for the appropriate visas. References from previous corporate operators will also be required and proof of initial cabin crew training.
Be aware that requirements may vary depending on the preferences of the jet owner/ passenger. These may include additional language skills, specific age range and passport/visas. For example, a passenger or owner may specifically ask for female flight attendants aged between 25-35, of a specific nationality that speak English and Russian. Sadly having such strict requirements is very common in the industry and can lead to a certain amount of age and gender discrimination.
3. Land your first job
The owner may be a high flying tycoon, celebrity, politician or a VIP family. You may work on a state of the art Global Express, Gulfstream G650 or much older model. It is an unusual role because you are the chef/personal assistant/safety specialist/waitress and cleaner, but this is also what makes it exciting because there is never a dull moment in the job.
To find a job, you will need to visit the plane operator’s career website directly via email as advertised on a careers website or through personal recommendation. A complete job application will need to include a copy of your most recent and up-to-date CV, one full length and one head and shoulders photo.
Most cabin crew opportunities can be found in the Middle East or the US, but for your information here are some useful sites you can check out:
4. Develop your career
There is a lot of variety in the sector regarding career development, but it’s also a highly competitive field. While improving your skills and developing your experience, you can move up to an executive role as the plane’s Lead Flight Attendant, and 5 years after that even become considered for a Chief Flight Attendant or a VIP Crew Manager role.
On the face of it being a private flight attendant looks like one of the easiest and highest paying jobs in the world, but it is not easy, and not everybody is suited to this kind of role. What about you? Do you think this is the right career for you? Let us know in the comments section below…
This article was originally published in June 2014.