What do Corporate Flight Attendants [Actually] Do?

To be a corporate flight attendant is to embark on a career journey where (almost) everything is part of your job description. One moment you are the chef, the next— an executive assistant. The following, a janitor. Tomorrow, the butler, bartender, or nanny. Oh, did I mention always a babysitter for the pilots (ha..joking!). In addition to the many roles that you manage— all wrapped into on short acronym, CFA— you somehow must also manage to be good at ‘everything.’

…say whaaat??!?! 

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So ungrateful. 😒

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Yes. Being a corporate flight attendant is a complex adventure that is expected to look effortless. Perfect. Like, “Oh that?!” you swoon. “It’s my pleasure. Really.” But really? The effort that it took you to accomplish that simple task was mind boggling. How hard can it be to order sushi, takeout, before 11am on a Tuesday? Well, um. That. As the saying goes, “If you know, you know.”

For those who have no actual clue of what a corporate flight attendant does, here are a some of the essential skillsets that are often displayed by those who succeed as private jet flight attendants.

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This list is written in no particular order, but based upon the info graph below. I will not claim this to be a comprehensive list. Every private jet flight attendant job is a bit different, so the requirements and skillsets will vary as well. Some positions require someone who is very skilled in culinary, while others excel with a medical or yachting background.

Regardless, I hope this offers insight into the diverse and dynamic life of a corporate flight attendant and you walk away with the knowledge that flight attendants are more than just a pretty face or glorified waitresses in the sky.  

Professional with Advanced Education — Trained Chef, Registered Nurse, Languages or other

One doesn’t need a college degree to be a flight attendant, but I have seen ‘College Degree’ listed as a requirement for many full-time flight attendant positions. I’ve also seen requirements for the applicants to be registered nurses or trained chefs. I recently met a corporate flight attendant who spoke over six languages— fluently! That wasn’t including the other languages she spoke almost fluently. 

Advanced education outside of aviation often sets a corporate flight attendant apart. Many enter aviation as an alternate choice to what they were pursuing previously. Their past experience is not wasted, as in Flight Attendant Life, the many skillsets necessary to succeed are built and benefit from a diverse, and often unique, background

“The many skillsets necessary to succeed [in private aviation] are built and benefit from a diverse, and often unique, background.”

-Kara Mulder; Founder, Flight Attendant Life

One of the things that I have been quite insecure about in my own corporate flight attendant career is my culinary skills, especially when I worked closely with @Wanderlust_flight. But what I learned through that experience is that one weak point will not make or break a flight attendant career. Also, I don’t need to be Lauren, or anyone else for that matter, to succeed. I don’t need to like cooking, food prep, or that aspect of the job as there is much more too the career than only food! Remember, you don’t have to be Miss Flightess to make a way for yourself, but let’s all just say, THANK THE GOOD LORD THAT SHE EXISTS. Your education does matter and not knowing or not liking something is not an excuse for improving yourself and your skills.

Mind Reader (Emotionally intelligent, Intuitive, Empathetic) 

Being a corporate flight attendant is synonymous with “reading minds.” Contrary to popular belief, mind reading is categorically impossible and why I find this job so damn frustrating at times. If only I could have predicted or guessed that they would want this or that or the other. Reading minds is probably one of the most challenging areas of a corporate flight attendant job. If you are an emotionally intelligent individual, with a good sense for people’s wants, needs, and emotions, you will excel in private aviation (But again, this cannot be the only thing you are good at). 

I would like to think that understanding people is something I am good at in this career. It takes practice, and I’ve found that my years as a commercial flight attendant, around hundreds of passengers and people a day, prepared me for the work interactions I have now. A corporate flight attendant must quickly assess a client’s emotional state. Understand if they want someone who is chatty or reserved. Exude a cabin presence and service style that makes the client feel like they have every need taken care while remaining almost invisible. A flight attendant has to understand that just like no day is the same, no client will be the same. So, the way he or she worked yesterday may or may not be effective today. Again, I think this intuition for people and situations is by far is one of the most difficult skills to master as a corporate flight attendant. People are simply strange beasts; full of surprises and unexpected emotions. I don’t believe the skill of “mind reading” can be taught and simply has to be developed through experience, both in work and life. If you aren’t a flight attendant and want to be, begin paying attention to people. Close attention. Their quirks and preferences; personality and presence. It’s an interesting study and the education of a lifetime. 

A flight attendant has to understand that just like no day is the same, no client will be the same. So, the way he or she worked yesterday may or may not be effective today.

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Project Manager

The best corporate flight attendants have mastered the skill of project management and coordinating complex and ever-changing plans. Think of the job as an orchestra conductor, putting all the beautiful pieces together in the exact moments necessary. Project management as a corporate flight attendant includes being adept at communication; both written and verbal. Coordinating between multiple professionals including, but not limited, to the principal’s Executive Assistant, brokers, dispatchers, client, pilots, FBOs, caterers, house managers, handlers, lead flight attendants, etc etc etc. Keep in mind that everyone might need to be “kept in the loop,” and also keep in mind that sometimes they won’t. A corporate flight attendant should be savvy enough to know when to reach out to these particular individuals and when not to. Once again, no operation is ever the same, so the level of coordination and communication will vary from trip to trip.

In my corporate flight attendant career, I find that my success in ‘project management’ was built out of my marketing background and working remotely in business. Remote work leans a great deal on communication and my business career taught me the value of direct and timely contact. Communication is a necessity in building trust with your clients, colleagues, and companies. After trust is established, I can tone back on telling my pilots when I will be at the airport or letting them know I got something covered. I think overall though, the more you communicate, the better. Don’t assume anything. A corporate flight attendant gets better at this aspect of the job through experience. 

The best corporate flight attendants have mastered the skill of project management and coordinating complex and ever-changing plans.

Flightattendantlife.com

Attention-to-Detail

Good corporate flight attendants PAY ATTENTION. I’ve had pilots argue with me that you can’t teach “attention-to-detail,” but I disagree. I disagree because I think I’ve developed this skill to a greater degree throughout the years. You can learn attention to detail if you are curious, and you are curious if you care. If you don’t care, you shouldn’t be a corporate flight attendant. 

Good corporate flight attendants
PAY ATTENTION.

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Attention to detail is the EASIEST skill to implement in a corporate flight attendant and surprisingly what I hear most clients, pilots, and lead flight attendants complain about from people who have worked for them. Pay attention to the crumb on the floor. Pay attention to the silver railing at the boarding stairs and if it has finger prints on it. Pay attention to the headliner of the cabin and if it needs to be brushed. Pay attention to what the client is reading, what gum he or she chews, what watch they are wearing. Pay attention to the pilot’s demeanor. Pay attention if was Sweet n’ low or Splenda. Pay attention to what they say without words. Pay attention. Pay attention. Pay attention. AND then write it down!

Agent

As a corporate flight attendant, you are your own booking manager, talent scout, and advocate. You have to hustle for the trips, during the trips, and after trips. You have to get interviews, send out availability, and follow up for future work opportunities. You are the manager of your career as well as responsible for the implementation of your success. Never ever discount the importance of this part of your career. You can be amazing with the client, but if you don’t advocate for yourself when you aren’t flying, no one will know you exist. The best corporate flight attendants are religious about keeping in contact with their network and sending out availability (for contract). As a full-time flight attendant, you will have to agent your salary and negotiate for benefits. You must advocate for yourself (This really is such a job within itself).

As a corporate flight attendant, you are your own booking manager, talent scout, and advocate.

flightattendantlife.com

Admin Assistant

Being a corporate flight attendant is not just about the layovers. Seriously people. There is so much more to this job that sitting on a beach Turks & Caicos. That happens too, but there is also a massive amount of paperwork that comes with the job. Expense reports, invoices, inventory lists, stocking and supplying the jet and hangar on non-fly days, etc etc. etc. Behind the scenes of Flight Attendant Life is actually quite boring and mundane. 

Being a corporate flight attendant is not just about the layovers.

Kara Mulder; Founder, flightattendantlife.com

Server, Bartender, Waitress, Dishwasher, Bellhop

The corporate flight attendant is “all the things. On a flight, it seems like all the things happen all at once. If I rattle off typical tasks that corporate flight attendants do, it won’t sound like rocket science (cause it’s not). Shop for groceries. Organize. Order aircraft supplies. Pick up flowers. Wash dishes. Serve food. Make beds. Make guests feel welcome. Work in a very small space with people interrupting you every two minutes. Add the pilots in your way. Subtract no sleep. It’s not rocket science, but it really is a Tetris game. Fitting it all together, and then accomplishing the job with poise? It sounds like anyone could do it, but try doing it all at once like you are a pro at everything…gosh. It is a challenge. (Also, I want to mention that many full-time flight attendants also must work at personal villas or serve at dinner parties. Many corporate flight attendants do more than only work on the jet). 

Personal Shopper

Many a corporate flight attendants’ jobs doesn’t end when they have landed at a destination, and the plane is buttoned up. Corporate Flight Attendants may have to act as a travel assistant for the principal, when on the road, or run errands and do personal shopping as part of their job. I know flight attendants who have had to shop for a girlfriend’s coat and then drive two hours or more to drop it off at the bosses’ office. Many full-time flight attendants don’t get days off and are essentially on call for responsibilities somewhat unrelated to their jet responsibilities. In addition to that, there are hangar days to organize and purchase supplies, department meetings, manual updates or safety trainings. Remember when negotiating for a full-time job, be clear on what is included and if more than only flying is part of the job. These responsibilities should be compensated accordingly. 

Maid, Nanny, Executive Assistant, Pet Sitter

I’ve worked flights where I am the nanny to the kids. I’ve watched pets during flights and between flights. I clean the airplane (like most corporate flight attendants must). Many full-time jobs also require that the flight attendant act as an executive assistant or travel assistant. The career of a corporate flight attendant has many roles. A corporate flight attendant doesn’t often get to say, “Oh…that’s not my job.” 

The career path of a corporate flight attendant has many roles.

flightattendantlife.com

Safety Professional

It’s ingrained in a commercial flight attendant to say, “We are here for your safety.” A corporate flight attendant is also trained in emergency and basic medical, but did you know that legally, individuals who work on private jets are not actually FAA certified flight attendants? The more appropriate term is ‘Cabin Attendant.’ It’s a wording formality, but important to mention. Regardless, a level of professionalism and knowledge is required in relation to safety in the cabin and emergency equipment. 

Unicorn

And this is what you can’t teach a corporate flight attendant. You can’t turn someone into a Unicorn. You can see the unicorn corporate flight attendants by their attitudes and energy. They display a willingness to do humble work and to work hard. They are almost captivating. They’ve somehow blended everything that is opposite. Laidback, yet OCD. Personable, yet analytical. Detailed and spontaneous. There is a je ne sais quoi to them. Tennille, from The Tennille Life, has it. She walks into a room, and you are immediately mesmerized by her presence. She then makes you feel like the most important person in the room.

@Intheairwithcurlyhair, @FlightTastings, @Flightess, @ScottDArnold, @GriffinCBruehl has it— all in their own unicorn way. They are each not one thing, but so many things. Ultimately though, they are always themselves. Remember that. To be a good corporate flight attendant you must be good at many things, but you don’t have to try to be her or him or them. Be you. Learn grow. Improve.

You can teach someone to be a flight attendant, but you can’t turn someone into a Unicorn.

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It’s crazy for me to think about how much is involved in being an excellent corporate flight attendant. I didn’t even mention the tech savvy side and knowing how to manage media and cabin systems on the aircraft. Also, contract corporate flight attendants bounce from aircraft to aircraft, crew to crew, and client to client. Not much stays the same. That adds an element of challenge. One must be incredibly adaptable and quick-thinking to make the flights go smoothly. Honestly, it’s challenging being contractor. You’re always the “new girl.” That said, you will notice how your experience over the years sets you apart. There really is no better way to get experience in private aviation than being a contract corporate flight attendant.

To tie a corporate flight attendant’s job to one skillset is almost impossible. For my own sanity, I remind myself that I’m not saving the world or this really isn’t rocket science. If I put three ice cubes instead of four in their glass or I run out of cream cheese, well— maybe I should pay attention a little better next time. Maybe I will lose work, but is everyone safe? Did anyone get hurt. More importantly, “Did I do my absolute best?” If I did my absolute best, with where I am at, with what I have, and in the situation presented, that’s all I can ask of myself. That is enough. Corporate flight attendants, if you do anything in your job, please do this one thing— Believe that you are enough. You are always enough.  

About the Author Kara

Curious. Bubbly. Creative. Curating a life I don't need an escape from and inspiring you to do the same.

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