Another few weeks have literally flown by in my classroom and on-roster training for my CSA role (or Customer Service Agent) role here at my home base of Perth. We have been well versed in Dangerous Goods training, had an airside drive “tour” along the tarmacs where a Boeing 777-200 basically landed on top of us, multiple airport walk arounds and today, because I am a super nerd, I was able to take my brand new knowledge out onto the “Floor” (airport terminal) and practice using the Check in counters and equipment. This was after a couple of hours learning it yesterday. It sounds quite basic but it was actually surprisingly demanding, maybe because I am new and everything seems different and unusual and fun… either way the time passed quickly and everyone I checked in was super happy and chirpy, being patient with me while I trained. This may or may not have anything to do with their cabin of travel, *cough* J class.
So, it seems as though I am constantly repeating myself these days, and I wanted to give a bit of a general comparison (training wise, and from what I can tell so far) as to my work in Dubai vs Perth.
Image and Uniform/ Presentation requirements
Obviously, clothes are the most important part of the role! Not really, safety is ALWAYS number one in airlines, but really, it makes it much easier to get up at 2am when you know you are going to be wearing something a little more figure hugging than a modest skirt/ top combination that is the same colour as the desert landscape. Just saying. I don’t get to wear a hat in my current role, but seeing as the dresses/ skirts/ tops are pretty I am happy.
Approved nail polish colours for my old role were red, french, clear. Approved colours here are french, light and dark nude, light pink and clear. This is basically a whole rainbow! I am sure I will tire of pink eventually and revert back to my default red, but this is a welcome change
This is a big one for me. Like most women, my hair is kind of one of my pride and joys. I know that hair is not the be all and end all of life, and I have tried to be hair colours other than blonde, but they resulted in serious mental and emotional repercussions, including frightening myself waking up in the morning and seeing a brunette ponytail on MY pillow. In March, I joined the masses and chopped all of m hair off into a “lob” long bob, and now it is growing back faster than ever. So fast, that I can only wear one of two “approved” hairstyles. 1) pony tail at the base of the neck, with hair wrapped around the hair elastic, or 2) a bun that has been “free formed” without a donut as this looks more natural and Australian. No more 30 second french twist, braided buns, low chignons or perfect buns. Now it will take me even longer to do my hair, but it is all in the spirit of going “au naturale”
You know what they say about big fleets? Big planes! In Dubai I was cross trained to fly Airbus A380s, and Boeing 777-300 and 777-200s. There were also Airbus A330 and A340s, but I wasn’t trained for these. In economy these aircraft could carry 500 people for non Long Haul flights.
In Perth, we have some smaller Boeings 737-800 (with winglets!), 747-400s, 717s, Airbus A330s and a few even smaller Fokker 100s for regional flights. The larger aircraft can carry up to some 300 passengers, which is still a fair few! The challenge for me is to learn the configuration of these new aircrafts so that I can get the seating under control. Upgrade, anyone? 😉
Shift Work from Home
It is SO normal to be able to be picked up from work, or to come home from work and there is someone waiting up for you. I missed that! There is just something so wholesome about not coming home to an empty apartment at 1 in the morning. Although a full house means it is harder to sleep in after a night shift. There are pros and cons attached to everything. Also, I can DRIVE myself to work because I am in Australia, where I have a driver’s licence. I don’t think I would drive in Dubai even if my life depended on it. I have wonderfully brave, clever friends who navigate the UAE roads, but I am not one of them! It is nice to have my roadworthy freedom, though.
Buddy Training vs Supys
It’s comforting to be shown the by someone who knows what he’s doing! I am still very brand new, so having someone there watching over me to give me that boost of confidence is all that I need to keep my head out of the clouds (for once).
With my previous airline, a newbie is called a Supy (supernumerary crew) who is an extra crew member (that has a front row jump seat for takeoff and landing) that helps when she/he is needed or wants to. Usually these flights involve a lot of questions, a few pranks, lots of premium cabin goodies and a few sneaky pictures. This is lots of fun, but after your 2 supy flights (one per aircraft, mine were Bombay and Paris if you’d like to read about that here!) you are practically on your own. A great way to learn, but it takes a while to pick up. The buddy system at the moment is great for hands on experience without the pressure of making a crucial mistake whilst you are still learning.
What is a CSA?
Before I thought a CSA was a Cabin Services Assistant, who on an A380 with a shower spa, looks after the facility and checks the lavatories on board along with the crew. Now, I am a CSA which is A Customer Service Agent, that checks in passengers and bags, assists with boarding, will sometimes help coordinate arrivals and departures with other colleagues and generally be the first point of contact in the airport, a “host” if you will.
If being cabin crew is often seen as being a glorified waitress, or a “trolly pusher” as I was often called by many less-than-charming individuals, then my new role is a glorified “check out chick”. I operate the system, check in bags, fill up kiosks, organise mail, tickets, repairs, special services and make sure the “floor” is running smoothly. And I’m really enjoying it. I am happy to go to work again. I only said I’d fly as long as it made me happy, and when I stopped bouncing out of bed I started to reconsider my options. Now I’m here. It’s not for everyone, but I’m happy and proud to be a part of something bigger, of an Aviation family that offers great perks and a flexible lifestyle that means I can still enjoy the sun and time with loved ones. Just one of the many joys of shift work in this industry.
So there you have it. What’s going on with me. What’s going on with all of you? Good things, I hope 🙂
Safe and on-time departures,