Straddling a high-flying international career

Diploma in Airline Ticketing and Travel Management Courses Mumbai, India

Assuming that at one of the various campus interviews held at Blue Whale Academy, you are offered the job of a flight crew for a reputed foreign airline. And supposing you have taken it up, after very carefully scrutinising the offer letter and signing it as a gesture of acceptance, here’s all the dope on the prep you’d compulsorily need before taking off.

Since it’s an international airline, they will have stringent background checks. So make sure that the contacts you share as references on your CV/job application form (in all likelihood your college teachers assuming you are a fresh graduate) are informed well in advance and a convenient time slot booked for them when the HR might call them. No teacher likes being called during lectures and we’re sure yours is no exception too. Also, give them all the dope on your selection process and expectations so that they don’t appear thunderstruck when the HR calls.

Again, nowadays, all international airlines mandate swimming as a compulsory requirement for flight crew. Even if they didn’t ask you to swim at the interview, which wasn’t at the beach anyway, chances are there that as part of the induction, there’ll be a poolside/beach party for freshmen to meet and interact – a nice way to test how well you take to water. If you’ve lied through the interview, you’ll be caught unless you’ve learnt swimming in the interim period between the interview and actual joining, which mightn’t be possible for everyone. For it is widely speculated that fire signs like Leo take to water less easily than water signs like Cancer. So, remember, lying is never a good idea, least of all at an interview. So, if knowing how to swim is mandatory, go ahead and learn before you apply. At least don’t hide it. For all you know, if they like you otherwise, they might teach you swimming at the induction level before you actually start flying.

Then comes the very potent issue of dealing with transcontinental time zones. You’d do very well to remind yourself that your body is after all a machine with a mind of its own. A mind that very often tends to be mindless when disturbed or tampered with. One of the commonest issues international flight crews face is the issue of juggling multiple time zones. Thus, it is very important to train your mind and body by adopting holistic health practices complete with balanced diets, healthy habits and six to eight hours of sound uninterrupted and peaceful sleep. This is so because like the plane you shall shortly board to reach your work destination, and the many flights you will routinely board subsequently as your career progresses, your body too is a machine. As any doctor will tell you willingly, sleep is nothing but the body’s time to be grounded and refuelled so as to take on another day. It is a misconception that the body stops functioning during sleep. If that was the case, how’d you be breathing? That’s the circulatory system at work, for starters. Plus, there’s the digestive, nervous and all other systems that are in fact working along in tandem so as to recharge your batteries. A good night’s sleep, as Nature has told us very clearly through birds and bees, is very healthy and essential. What is it that they say about being early to bed or and early to rise awarding wisdom or something such?

In a similar fashion, your body needs to be sleep-trained by opting to sleep and wake up as per the country you are flying to. This can be very easily done by logging on to the internet and looking up local times at your destination city and adjusting your clocks accordingly. This is to be followed by trying to sleep at and wake up at the host city’s timings at least a fortnight prior to flying rather than plunge into it only after you land in your hotel suite jet-lagged and weary.

Also, familiarise yourself with your destination’s cultural milieu for some cultural shock absorption padding. This is to say, for instance, if your base city is the exotic Middle-Eastern city of Abu Dhabi, where all the girls headed for Sex and the City 2, please note that they work on Sundays and Fridays and Saturdays usually serve as weekly holidays unlike India. Also, you might opt for religion-specific holidays like choosing to work during Eid while opting for compensatory offs during Christmas and New Year holidays.

Also, researching the place’s quirks and eccentricities, food practices, laws, acceptable and non-acceptable public behaviour, dress codes, traffic rules, ethics and morals on the Internet is a good idea rather than fall flat on our face when we encounter spatial oddities first hand upon reaching the destination.
Again, avoid drinking pre-boarding or during the flight. Liquors are very dehydrating and you never want to start a career with a mid-air crisis! Plus a drink too many can put you off guard to reveal a side of your personality that can only be acceptable to your dearest relatives and friends.

Also, true even at 40,000 feet above the ground – drink only after a heavy meal, never mix spirits and keep sipping water and nibbling on cheeses and nuts.
Drink if you absolutely must, or your future colleagues insist on raising a toast to you – but leave it at that. They aren’t allowed to drink on duty as it is. So mock raise a symbolic glass and clink it too, but try not to plunge into it with gusto. The flight crew isn’t your friend yet. And this could be staged under instructions from the higher ups. Plus, aren’t there cameras in-flight?

Plus, you’ll mostly be flying the carrier you’ll take up work for and there are in-flight attendants who are monitoring your every move and reporting it to the minutest details. Don’t get spooked but even drab details like your posture and body language, interaction with co-passengers, communication with the flight crew, choice of in-flight content, handling of in-flight materials like quilts and magazines, table manners, adherence to safety instructions and even toilet etiquette is being closely monitored.

So, start shopping for essentials – multi-socket adaptors, warm clothes et al – and start packing your bags. Always carry a book, essential toiletries and allowed weight only. Remember to not take a lot of fluids, never take inflammable or contraband stuff or liquor. Also, there are declaration and VISA formalities to be completed on arrival. Always be truthful in your responses as the city shall treat you the way you treat the city.
So, have a great flight!

PS: This is an unabashedly indicative list

In-flight roles you didn’t know existed!

In-flight roles you didn't know existed Mumbai, India

Presuming that after you’ve graduated from your prestigious Blue Whale Academy, you are offered the job of a cabin crew with a leading international airline, isn’t it worthwhile to ponder as to what’s it that you can expect while on the job? Well, to put it very mildly, every airline is different, so there’s always that bit of permutation & combination that you’ll have to do as you negotiate your own job. That said, by its very nature of being part of the holiday industry, there are certain universal criteria that one needs to adhere to. For instance, in general, you need to pay particular attention to

Grooming – You must be absolutely well-groomed and shining from head to toe! Yes, appearances do matter and since you are in a guest-facing role, you cannot afford to be sloppy at all. So dear ladies, please ensure that your skirts, blouses & other dresses are the right/recommended size & length, your eyebrows are well-done, you get regular pedicures & manicures done and your nail paint isn’t chipped & your lips aren’t chapped. As far as men are concerned, remember that suits only look good on men who stride about confidently rather than slouch. Also, get those ties matched to your suits & ensure that you never wear open/dirty footwear. Also, both genders must take regular breaks to groom themselves – use mouth wash, take a quick shower, dust shoes or simply hydrate your face with generous sprays of water. Again, as a thumb rule, never report late to work or report drunk – guests can make out the slur in your voice or the unsteadiness in your walk. So, if you’ve had a drink too many, call for sick leave & please get thoroughly rid of that hangover before you report to work!

Interaction – Since you are in a guest-facing role, no prizes for guessing that you’ll independently have to manage a lot of guests, a vast majority of whom will try your patience. But it’s important not to lose any of your patience for, you know, like the bosses have always told you, the guest is always right – more so if its a pregnant lady, a child or a person with special needs or that peculiar species of irate flyers – movie stars & politicians. In your interactions, be polite but firm – if they make unreasonable demands like going on to the tarmac to smoke during a lay over, or carrying in-flight warmers with them, simply say ‘You’re not permitted to do that’. Again, listen to what they’re saying very clearly before taking any action – if in doubt, ask again rather than mess up requests. Remember that the chances of a guest re-booking on your airline is directly proportional to how you make her feel now when she’s actually flying you

But all these apart, have you ever been under the impression, like most of the uninitiated masses, that the role of a cabin-crew member stops at just explaining the safety procedures, helping serve the guests, catering to their demands & helping them board & de-board the plane? If so, you couldn’t be farther from the truth! For, within the very precincts of an innocuous-looking Airbus or a Being, there is an entire paraphernalia of roles that require a high degree of specialisation to get done. Here’s a low-down on the other niche roles that in-flight crew members perform
Enhance passenger experience by giving their practical inputs to engineering teams for ergonomic seat designs which ultimately has the potential to be a product differentiator for the airline. Matters like leg-room, degree of reclining etc. are of utmost importance for such matters. This is more prominent for people who are travelling with babies as they generally prefer the front row which has more leg room and space for bay bassinets.

Coming to food, another differentiator that airlines, more than crew members, routinely ignore – it is common knowledge that the food that’s prepared for in-flight consumption isn’t exactly fresh but in-fact highly processed. And there’s precious little that you can do to help this situation – there are space constraints and other restrictions to be paid heed to. One alternative is to maybe suggest pre-preserved foods like biscuits but given irregular flight timings, it is highly unlikely that guests will have milk & cookies for lunch or dinner

Then, there’s another product differentiator – in-flight entertainment (IFE) or the movies & TV shows that play out on the screens fitted to the seat in front of you. They need the in-flight standards & practices compliance for the territory they’re operating in and general stuff like air-crash, hijack, blood & gore and generally anything anti-airline etc. that needs to be avoided. Also, in-flight media like magazines and accessories like headphones & remotes that need to be meticulously taken care of.

Then comes the uber experience of duty-free in-flight shopping. As a responsible airline staff, please be thorough with what’s available, what’s out-of-stock & what can be delivered, know credit card limits and never over promise. Remember, no one likes tall hollow claims and every good guest-facing executive will tell you that the motto should be ‘under promise & over deliver’

So, now that you’ve got the flow, please get about your doing your jobs better than you were until now!

Before accepting the campus offer…

Campus-Recruitment, Interviews & Offers

Once you’ve passed all the campus interviews with flying colours, you’re faced with the enviable task of choosing the best offer. And this necessarily isn’t the best in terms of money. As any experienced professional will readily tell you, your career contour is, if not totally, at least significantly, decided by the first job you take up.

Apart from the fact that a campus placement on your CV is a definite plus, as you shall subsequently find out in your future job searches, you need to justify why you chose the offer you eventually did. And later, why at all are you looking for a change if its such a sparkling profile as you make it sound?

So, always choose your first jobs very very cautiously, weighing all the pros and cons, heeding all the advice that comes your way very cautiously and researching as much as you can. In this regard, it is a good idea to speak to trusted current and past employees about the company’s work ethics and culture, albeit in a non-intrusive and conversational tone which doesn’t serve to put them off. Just in case you didn’t know, they might just carry tales to your potential HRs.

You’d also do very well to remember that offer letters come with an expiry date which is very clearly mentioned in the letter or e-mail. Do a backward calculation to see if it suits you. If it doesn’t, make your expectations clear rather than go back on your word once you’ve hit the ‘send’ button on the e-mail soliciting your approval or signed a copy of the offer letter in black and white.

Now comes the trickiest bit – salaries! Most companies, be they hospitality or aviation, have their own pay structures and entry level salaries and often offer the best they can at campuses. If you are unclear on this, a good way of going about it is asking your seniors who have taken up such offers so as to lay all doubts to rest. If you think you deserve better, politely but firmly ask the HR if the offer can be tweaked to a more mutually-suitable one.

And be patient while this is being done. Re-working offers often involves multiple levels and layers of approvals which might take time. In the meanwhile, it’s never a good idea to stalk the HR on social media or WhatsApp for an update. She’s on the job, and the job being hers, she knows it well and has her KRAs to match too. Rest assured, she’ll pass on the information whenever she has some. It is very well-known that one of the biggest challenges any HR team faces is reducing the on-boarding time or the time taken to get a person to join the organisation. This is especially true in case of experienced professionals who straddle hectic schedules. In your case, since it’s a campus, and it’s your first job, your enthusiasm will be judged by seeing how eager you are to join the organisation.

Also, don’t forget to account for the time you are likely to spend at the Goan vacation that was planned long ago with your besties. You’ll seldom be able to extract time off work for an outstation holiday post joining. So, its a good idea to let your hair down while you still aren’t answerable to bosses.

Again, don’t ask for too much time as the HR will most likely retract the offer and make it to the next person in the queue. Remember, no one is irreplaceable and asking for too much time as a fresher is really not advisable. With experienced candidates of course, it’s a different story as there are mandatory notice periods to be served and severance penalties and buy backs that come into play.

So, the bottom-line is, please read the offer letter carefully before you sign an acceptance. Get help if you need to. Just don’t be in a hurry but don’t slack around for too long too! Follow up by a courtesy call to the HR informing her of your acceptance and ask about the office timings. You don’t want to reach late on the first day, ideally ever.

As you embark on a new journey – one which you’ll put most of your waking life into – we wish you all the very best

How to be a successful guest relations executive

Guest Relations Manager Roles and Responsibilities

India has two unique and distinctive traditions of religiously following the sacrosanct phrases, ‘Atithi Devo Bhava‘ and ‘Vasudaivam Kutumbakam‘. Both are Sanskrit phrases which are essentially very similar in meaning – while the former means ‘guests are divine’, the latter can be loosely translated as ‘the whole wide world is indeed my extended family’!

As a guest relations executive at any of the sprawling three, five and seven star hotels that criss-cross the entire length and breadth of our great and vast country, you’ll do very well to adapt the above two phrases as your personal motto while dealing with guests and clients in your day-to-day lives.

This is so because guest relations is predominantly a people-facing job that requires a lot in terms of communication skills, soft skills and yes, the most-often neglected people skills that the two Sanskrit phrases which were evoked at the very outset of our conversation sought to invoke!

The first phrase – ‘Atithi Devo Bhava’ – might ring a bell instantly as it is constantly being played out on our television sets as the hugely popular television commercial campaign of Indian tourism endorsed by Bollywood heavyweight Aamir Khan!

Let’s delve into some mythology now. Legend has it that Lord Krishna’s impoverished childhood friend Sudama’s wife, fed up with the family’s unending poverty kept goading him to seek help from Krishna. But, he refused to budge. Ultimately, after a lot more goading and pestering, Sudama went to meet Krishna, now the grand King of Dwarka. Krishna received him as befits a dear childhood friend, with rare state honours and ordered a grand feast and gave elaborate instructions for his pleasant stay too. However, even when it was time to leave, the self-righteous Sudama couldn’t bring himself to ask anything from Krishna. Krishna, however, presented him a little bundle of rice that’d keep him full throughout the journey.

Once Sudama left Dwarka, he decided to keep the bundle of rice for his family and instead manage on wild berries and fruits. As he was entering the narrow lane that led to his house, he was stunned to see a palatial palace looking out from the very place where his humble house had hitherto stood. Almost simultaneously, his wife and children ran out to greet him amid peals of laughter and thankful gazes. Moreover, He was surprised to see them dressed in clothes that were well beyond their means. It so turned out that Krishna had already guessed the purport of his friend’s visit and immediately went about ameliorating their sufferings. What was even more surprising was that Sudama felt that his bag had suddenly grown heavier and as he reached for the bundle of rice so that he could hand it out to his wife, he was stunned to find that the entire clothes bag had nothing but gold coins. Without so much as a word uttered, a friend had done his deed by helping another friend in need!

The point of the above story is that you need to go out of your way to make guests feel comfortable given that as first-time guests at your hotel, they are in an alien setting and among people they don’t know yet. This is truer in case of patrons (or guests who patronise your hotel) as you’ll be expected to know their quirks, follies & foibles like the back of your hand. In both cases, it is a very good idea to take & maintain notes about the guest to give them such personalised service that they award that birthday party contract that your boss has been pestering you for so long. Maintain a separate MS Excel spreadsheet and the physically taken notes too and be doubly sure to cross check details like anniversaries & birthdays. Also, if your hotel is pet and child family, please remember that all dogs aren’t named Tommy & all boys do not play football!

As regards the second phrase, ‘Vasudaivam Kutumbakam’, it goes on to induce the very essential quality of treating people as you would your family members. Just like we all have our roles to play in our unique families and have demands from family members to cater to, remember that guests of a myriad hues will pour out into the lobby and not everyone will be good to you. Please allow for the fact that everyone has their bad days, their tipsy days and their flirty days. Be calm & composed when dealing with all of them. And remember, personalisation is the key here too. If Ms Bannerjee likes her vodka with coconut water, offer her that, rather than decide on a tall glass of iced tea. If she’s paying for the service, she’s got the right to have her way.

So, all you guest relations rockstars, please remember to adopt the above two Sanskrit phrases so that you can be the girl Mr Batra looks for every time he flies down on business from Los Angeles to Mumbai!