Here’s the thing about airlines… I tend to take them for granted. I show up at the airport, whine about the length of the line at check-in, and then lump my heavy backpack through the airport. I get on the plane, roll my eyes at noisy passengers and those who still can’t find the right seat, despite the fact it’s 2016 (seriously!) The safety video comes on and, feeling like I know it word for word, I zone out.
Thing is, I have seriously been under-appreciating just what goes into being a flight attendant. There is a lot more to it than offering chicken or beef and I got the chance to learn a lot more about it on a behind-the-scenes tour of the Singapore Airlines Training Centre. You guys, it’s actually really cool! Honestly, I was a bit ‘how cool can it be?’ before I went, but as soon as I got there I was freaking out over all the amazing things they have there and just how much dang work goes into being a flight attendant for one of the world’s most loved airlines.
I guess the best way to describe it is to think about Singapore Airlines as a brand. To me it’s a luxury brand, you know you can trust it, the food will be amazing, they always offer great service and it’s a brand you aspire to fly with. Sometimes you’re broke and you have to fly a budget airline and while you console yourself with the fact you’re going to get to your destination anyway, deep down you know you’d rather be flying fancy.
If you think about it as a brand, you have to appreciate just how hard it is to build a brand that well-loved and respected. The name Singapore Airlines immediately conjures up images of a peaceful flight and as I learned at the training centre, the brand hinges on the training of the flight attendants. I use the term flight attendants, but there’s a lot more to it than that. At Singapore Airlines, a woman is known affectionately as The Singapore Girl and it’s a name that comes with a certain prestige and respect.
We got the chance to meet Jason, who has worked for Singapore Airlines for 39 years, with 26 of those being spent at the training centre. It’s here the new recruits are put through their paces. They undertake all kinds of crazy simulations, including ones where cabins are filled with smoke and they have to evacuate by stairs and inflatable slides (so cool!). There’s also a huge wave pool where, in full make-up and that famous Singapore Airlines outfit, they have to evacuate the plane into choppy water.
I didn’t expect to be impressed, but I was because it’s the amazing attention to detail and the huge amount of time and effort that goes into training that makes the Singapore Airlines flight experience so good. For example, there are grooming classes where a specialist Lancome makeup artist teaches the women how to apply the perfect makeup and perfect a french twist. Trainees also undertake deportment classes, where they’re shown how to walk with confidence and sit in culturally respective ways.
Trainees are taught how to remember the names of guests, especially those in first and business class so they can greet them by name each time. They’re also required to remember how guests take their tea and coffee and, of course, any special dietary requirements. They pride themselves on attention to detail and offering a holistically enjoyable experience, one that hinges on fantastic customer service and ensuring people leave happy.
Like I said, I’ve been naive to just how much time and effort goes into becoming a flight attendant and maintaining a brand like Singapore Airlines. As someone who’s trying to build a brand of their own, learning just what goes on behind the scenes there has given me a newfound respect for the amazing people who work there and what they offer travellers.
So, next time you get to fly with Singapore Airlines or any of the other well-loved and respected airlines, take a moment to notice just how hard the flight attendants are working. Take a second to think about the brand, what it means to you and why then look for those things during your flight. Once you notice them, it’s impossible not to have a whole lot of respect for the amazing people behind it all.
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