What's it like to work as an air hostess for an international airline?
What job in Ireland would send you to the Maldives for 30 hours?
Lauren Reilly (second from left) and friends have fun in the sun in Abu Dhabi
Working Abroad Q&A: Each week, Irish Times Abroad meets an Irish person working in an interesting job overseas. This week we speak to Lauren Reilly about what it’s like working for an airline in the Middle East. “Every day is a new adventure.”
Where are you from and where did you study and train?
I’m from Dublin and I studied Contemporary Culture and Society in DCU.
When did you leave Ireland?
November 10th, 2016, was a day I was excited for and dreaded equally. The day I packed up everything and moved to Abu Dhabi, a city I had never even been to before. Was I mad? I said goodbye to my family and off I went.
I had never been on a plane so huge in my life. At least I had company; a friend from home and an entirely new one. It was the start of a great adventure.
What is your working day like?
I work as cabin crew for an international airline. In my job no two days are the same. Each day can differ depending on the crew, the destination, the aircraft you’re flying on and the passengers. The majority of the time you’re flying with a new set of crew you’ve never met before, all from different parts of the world. Anything can happen on board and you have to be prepared for the unexpected. I’ve met some interesting characters to say the least.
The days can be long and sometimes quite exhausting, for example, a 14-hour flight to Brisbane ends up being an 18-hour day. But on ultra long-haul flights like this one, we get a few hours rest. When we reach our destination we can have some time to explore.
What are the challenges?
I suppose the main challenges that we face are language barriers and cultural differences. A lot of the time the passengers onboard don’t speak English, so your body language is very important when it comes to safety and service.
It’s important not to be easily offended in this job. Something we might consider rude in our culture, might be normal to someone else’s. You get people grabbing you or poking you as you walk by to get your attention, or a pet peeve of mine is when somebody clicks their fingers at me. This job has definitely taught me to be patient.
Fatigue is another factor that you need to learn how manage. It can be tough travelling through different time zones all the time. I know, poor me right?
What languages do you have to know ?
You don’t have to know any other languages but it certainly helps if you do.
Do you think working abroad has offered you greater opportunities?
Definitely. In the last year and a half I have seen places I had only dreamt of, and I feel so lucky. What job in Ireland would send you to the Maldives for 30 hours? I’ve had the chance to see so many amazing places that I would probably never have had the chance to see if I stayed in Ireland. Not to mention all of the unique and wonderful people I’ve met along the way.
Do you go back to Ireland?
Yes. Some might say I have the best of both worlds. I’ve been told I’m not a real emigrant, only a fake one because I’m home so much. Working for an airline means that I can get home easily and cheaply. I try to go home at least once a month. Usually I get about four days off in a row at some stage during the month which allows me to do this. Also if I get to work on the Dublin flight, I get a 24 hour layover at home. I only live 20 minutes from the airport and I love that I can just go home and sleep in my own bed.
I’ve learned a lot about the world, different cultures, religions, people. I’m still learning every day
What has working in international air travel taught you?
So much. I’ve learned a lot about the world, different cultures, religions, people. I’m still learning every day. My first-ever flight was to Jakarta, a place I had never even heard of before. I had to Google where it was. I’ve learned things that no book can teach you, that’s for sure.
Are there any other Irish people in your business/social circles?
Yes. I have lots of Irish friends in my social circle. There’s quite a big Irish community in Abu Dhabi which makes it much easier being away from home.
What about life in outside work?
The great thing about flying is that we get lots of days off. There’s almost always someone to hang out with. I have two lovely flatmates, one is Welsh and the other is Scottish. There is so much to do in Abu Dhabi like Friday brunches, beach clubs, theme parks, water sports, shopping. Dubai is only an hour’s drive away. There’s always something to do. Although at this time of year it’s pretty much too hot for outdoor activities. Sunbathing in 40 degree heat isn’t fun for anyone.
Where do you see your future?
It’s funny, moving so far away from home and seeing so many different places has taught me that I only want to settle in Ireland. I’m a real homebird at heart. I’m loving my job at the minute and I don’t think I’m ready to come home just yet. Who knows, a year in Australia could even be on the cards? Although I somehow doubt I’d be able to keep up my monthly visits home. Perhaps then I’d be considered a “real” emigrant.
If you work in an interesting career overseas and would like to share your experience with Irish Times Abroad, email firstname.lastname@example.org with a little information about you and what you do.