Friday, February 18, 2011

The Moment You’ve All Been Waiting For!

“So, what is it that you do exactly?”

If you know me then you have probably asked this question, and you probably left our conversation more confused than you started.  It’s because it’s almost impossible for me to explain in an amount of time that I think people will stay interested, and because much of what I do is required to remain confidential.

I will start by explaining that even though we are all called flight attendants, there are different types of flight attendant jobs.  Right now I am in transition.  I am going from 3 years of pushing a cart down an aisle to preparing and serving food that is plated on china.  Flight attendants who do this type of work are called “Corporate Flight Attendants” or “Executive Flight Attendants”.  It is a very difficult and detail oriented job.  I am being trained by flight attendants who have been doing this for 15-20+ years.  It’s a very fast-paced job that requires extensive planning and the ability to think and adapt quickly to any obstacle thrown at you without your passengers ever being aware of any of it. 

I’ll explain the process of dinner as best as I can.  First, the flight attendant prepares as much as she can before the passenger’s arrival.  This includes putting doilies on plates, preparing the hot towels, putting butter that’s shaped like roses in individual dishes, cutting lemons and limes for glasses, folding napkins, preparing bread baskets, and anything else that can possibly done ahead of time. Then once she is airborne, the meal service begins.  The flight attendant offers the menu that has she has prepared, takes the passengers order and the begins preparing the meal.  She starts by putting everything that must be heated into the oven.  (I forgot to mention that she orders food from caterers who cook the food to 70% and then deliver it in oven tins.  The flight attendant finishes cooking the food.)  Once everything has been started she sets out the place setting:


(picture from

She then heats wash clothes with hot water and offers a hot towel to the passenger.  She then begins dinner.  She fixes the bread basket and plates the appetizer.  While she is serving the bread and appetizer the  soup is heating.  She picks up the appetizer plate, fixes the soup and then serves it.  While the passenger is eating she fixes the salad.  She picks up the soup and then delivers the salad.  All this time the entre has been heating.  While the passenger is eating the salad the flight attendant is preheating the entre plates and making sure that all the food is ready to be plated.  Once the passenger has finished eating the salad the flight attendant picks up the salad plate and plates the entre.  The plates look something like this:

(picture from

The hardest part of the meal is making sure that the entre is still very hot when it is served to the passenger.  No one likes cold food.  Oh, and did I mention that through all of this the flight attendant is making sure that drinks stay full?  Once the passenger has finished the main course, the flight attendant picks up his plate and clears his place setting so that only the drinks remain.  She offers dessert and then fixes it accordingly.  She then picks up the dessert plate and finishes cleaning up everything on the table.  She then cleans the galley and fixes the pilots’ dinners.  

Now that you know a little bit about being an Executive Flight Attendant I will further explain my job.  I am called a “Contract Flight Attendant”.  This means that I don’t work for one specific company, I work for myself.  Companies who need a flight attendant can call, and if I am available on the days they need, then I will work the trip they need filled. 

The types of aircraft that require this type of flight attendant are luxury jets.  Here are some examples from Google Images.  These are not pictures I have taken and they do not belong to the companies for whom I fly:

(picture from

  Conference table from galley, which is in back of this aircraft

(picture above from

Conference table and credenza from front of aircraft. You can see galley (kitchen) behind seats.

(picture above from


(picture above from

Passenger seats – dining table folded out on left, sofa on right

(picture above from

As a flight attendant on these aircraft, you are a fire fighter, a medic, a chef and a server.  The trip starts with what is called a “trip sheet”.  The trip sheet tells you where you are going, what time you are departing, how long is the flight, what time you are landing, passenger names, crew members, etc.  It is every detail you need to know about your trip.  Once the flight attendant has her trip sheet she then decides, based on time of departure, which meal or type of snack she will serve.  She will make decisions about what to serve passed on passenger preference worksheets.  Here is an example: Passenger Prefference Example

Once the flight attendant gets the passenger profiles and decides what meals she will serve she then plans the menus and order the catering.  For example, if I had a day trip (there and back in one day) I would most likely serve breakfast on the way there and dinner on the way back.  Based on this passengers preferences I would come up with menus something like this:

Breakfast Menu Example

Dinner Menu Example 

Once I make the menus I write my catering orders.  This catering order is for 3 passengers for the breakfast flight out of the first city.

Catering Example 1 

Dinner catering order for the return trip – 5 passengers:

Catering Example 2

The flight attendant will also have a grocery list.  She will go to the grocery store the day before the trip, and then to the aircraft to get it ready.  She will have to stock the aircraft with anything she thinks she will need that is not already on board.  For example, I use dish towels as pot holders, but I also need them to dry dishes after I wash them, so I make sure that there are plenty of dish towels on board. 

This is about everything that I can think to explain.  The only thing lacking is the unexpected that comes with most trips.  Sometimes schedules change while you are already on a trip and you have to put together new menus and contact new caters and cancel other orders all very quickly.  Sometimes passengers get held up and all of a sudden you have to make lunch out of what you had for breakfast. 

Executive flight attendants are creative and quick problem solvers.  They are very detail oriented and excellent planners who are not so type A that they can’t adapt quickly to anything you throw at them.  They are professional and well kept, and if they are exhausted from a 20 hour work day you will never know it.  They are amazing creatures.  I’m still learning, but I hope that someday the same things can be said of me.  



  1. Wow, this is so interesting! I had no idea so much was involved. I am very impressed - that sounds like a challenging line of work. Thanks for sharing!

  2. Sure makes free sodas and peanuts feel not so special;) Maybe someday we'll be able to fly VIP!

  3. Makes fixing chicken nuggets, macarroni, green beans, peaches, and kool-aid for 8 kids everyday sound easy! Ha!!


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...