For readers who have been earnestly following our People in Aviation series, you would have known that last year, we managed to get an opportunity to interview a Qatar Airways flight attendant, Jee, and her travels onboard the Onyx flag carrier on our 2nd episode. As customary for large Middle-Eastern airlines, their cabin crews hail from different countries, including Thailand. Recently, we managed to get another opportunity to interview one of Jee's co-workers, 26 year old Thai national, Natsupa Chayatharraksa.
Natsupa, like her colleague Jee, is an active social media influencer, operating her main Instagram account @ormchaya, and a YouTube channel documenting her life in Doha as a Qatar Airways cabin crew. Like most of the airline crews were have interviewed before, our schedules did not match up and Natsupa had no scheduled long layovers in Singapore, so we had to make do with a virtual interview.
Tell us about yourself, and what inspired you to take on this job of a cabin crew member?
"Hi everyone, I'm Natsupa, and I'm 26. I have been working as a flight attendant/cabin crew member for two years, one in Thai Vietjet Air and my second year as a Qatar Airways cabin crew.
My inspiration to be a cabin crew member came when I was a young girl, when I had the opportunity to travel to Hong Kong. Unfortunately I cannot remember which airline it was, but I do remember being so enamored by the charm and grace of a particular cabin crew member (who coincidentally was Thai as well). She looked extremely gorgeous in her outfit and she spoke fluent English and Chinese aside from her native Thai language, and that left a deep and lasting impression on me, and inspired me to be like her one day."
We asked her how the experience in training to be a cabin crew was, as this was one aspect we did not cover in previous interviews. Natsupa gave a very candid response (and for future flight attendant hopefuls, do take note!), and went into detail on her experience from both airlines, and their major differences, highlighting the difference between a regional low cost carrier and full-fledged airlines.
"Comparing my experiences in both airlines , I found that the way they train the crew are quite different . Thai Vietjet air, in my opinion, was the hardest, partly because it was the very first airline that I joined. Being younger at the time, and with zero flight hours, the training course was challenging, and they are very strict about safety protocols and procedures. But of course, it's a testament to the sheer importance the airlines place in ensuring the safety of our passengers, so far nervous flyers, take heart that all of us (cabin crew) are well trained about safety to the highest degree. Despite the many challenges, the entire process was fun and exhilarating for me and it definitely was worth all the difficultIves when I finally earned my wings as a qualified cabin crew member!
When I joined Qatar Airways, it was my very first time working and training in such a big international organization. The people, the environment and the language are so new for me. The day before my first day of training I had butterflies in my stomach because I didn't know how the training there was going to be but when I completed the first day it was such a thrilling experience and I loved the vibes and energy of my fellow trainees! At Qatar Airways, again safety was placed at the utmost importance, and they had this activity called "Recap", where every morning a few of us were called out at random to summarize to the instructor what we had learnt since day 1. Additionally, the service aspect of the training was extremely detailed, and we have to remember everything in order to provide passengers with our 5 star service.
For both airlines however, there are common themes in which we train under, including first aid, crew resource management and personal grooming. While most people think crew resource management is a pilots' thing, it is mandatory amongst cabin crew staff as well, as we work together as a team, and especially more so in emergencies or unusual situations, and we train on how to interact with each other in a cohesive team, not just within the cabin crew, but also with the pilots in the flight deck."
Of course, we had to ask her what aircraft she has operated on, and Natsupa had a vast array of aircraft she had worked on. At Thai Vietjet, she operated on the Airbus A320 and A321, and at Qatar Airways, she operated on practically their entire modern fleet - the Airbus A320, A330-200 and -300, and the A350-900 and -1000, and on the Boeing 787-8, -9, and the 777-200ER/LR and the -300ER. When asked about her favourite:
"My favourite aircraft to fly out of all of them is the Airbus A350-900/1000, as the aircraft was brand new to the fleet at the time. It was spacious, has good climate control and better comfort, and it was one of my absolute favourite to operate on as Qatar Airways use them to fly to a huge variety of destinations, including the country you are from."
What destinations have you flown to? And what has been your favourite so far and why?
"When I worked with Thai Vietjet I flew only domestic flight in Thailand but in Qatar Airways, we fly to more than 100 destinations all around the world that which brought me to 6 continents and allowed me to travel to many cities across different countries, till sometimes I lose track of where I have visited. But out of the many cities I have visited, perhaps my personal favourite and also most memorable destination is Namibia, which is famous for its safaris and exotic deserts. One of my fellow crew members in Qatar Airways recommended me to get there if I ever get the chance, and looking at photographs taken by other crew members, it went to the top of my bucket list. You can imagine my joy and excitement when Qatar Airways rostered me on a trip to Windhoek, the capital city of Namibia! There, I got a chance to see real animals in front of me in their way of life and also visited the desert that was very exotic and amazing, If I was not a Qatar Airways crew, I could not have checked this bucket list for sure."
Next we moved on to the schedules of cabin crew members, who work tirelessly through the gruelling shifts and long hours to ensure our comfort in the aircraft we fly in. I asked Natsupa to describe how her work schedules generally revolves around from the start till the end of the trip.
"Before every trip, I always make sure that I have these 5 items with me in my suitcase: my phone (we joked about that no one travels without their phone these days...text, instagramming, photo-taking and calling has become too mainstream for us now), passport, mandatory documents including first aid certificates, credit cards and of course my lipstick for touch-ups to my make up.
The routines at Thai Vietjet and Qatar Airways are very similar, so I'm mainly going to talk about both in parallel. Normally the first thing we do is to enter the local office to sign-in your attendance for the shift, and conduct the pre-flight briefing together with the other members of the cabin crew for the flight. This also includes the checking of all mandatory documents, reviewing of all safety procedures, first aid knowledge and all note-worthy service items for the flight. Once we boarded to the aircraft, but before the passengers board, we have to do a pre-flight and security check to ensure that the aircraft and equipment are ready to use in each flight and prepare service equipment to be ready to use after take off for example count the number of meals or prepare the service carts. Then of course comes the boarding process, which is pretty standard across many airlines, and we make sure that all passengers have their seatbelts fastened prior to take off.
After take-off, is where the procedures for Qatar Airways and Thai Vietjet differ slightly. For Thai Vietjet, being a low cost airline flying mainly short-haul flight, our main service is selling food, beverages and merchandise onboard. For Qatar Airways, there are first, business and economy class, and each of them have different service standards we adhere to, as well as different meal types, portions and detail we have to take note of, but all of which ensure that we deliver a world-class rate service worthy of a 5-star airline like Qatar Airways."
After landing, We have to do a security search after all passengers disembark to ensure that there is no any foreign object or left behind item in the cabin and prepare the cabin to be ready for the next flight."
We next invited Natsupa to share her thoughts on the differences between working in a regional carrier like Thai Vietjet and Qatar Airways. As someone who had his share of changing jobs within the same industry, this question hits home personally, as I experienced such a different work style and dynamics, with new challenges and learning opportunities. Likewise, Natsupa had the same sentiment:
"Definitely different, when I worked with Thai Vietjet, which is a Thai airline, my colleagues as well as a majority of my customers are Thai, and hence we speak and work under the same culture and language. This is a stark contrast to working in Qatar Airways, there are many crew and passengers hailing from other countries, bringing with them their own individual cultures and languages, which is definitely more challenging. However, through this, I learnt how to adapt myself to this new dynamic environment in an international organization especially when I was only Thai on a particular flight. Working in Qatar Airways made me grow up and mature professionally, and I have come to learn a very broad array of soft skills and people skills, which are always very important in any workplace. Prior to becoming a cabin crew member, my dream was mainly just to join Thai Vietjet, and even though I did fulfil my dream in the end and thoroughly enjoyed my experiences in Thai Vietjet, I decided to look beyond the horizons to see the bigger world out there and gain more experiences, which I could not attain working in a regional low cost carrier. Hence I put myelf up to the challenge of applying to Qatar Airways, and I was lucky enough to be able to join their world class theme. Looking back, I never once regretted my decision to move to Qatar Airways, and I would not have come this far without all the experience I have gained."
As we closed off our discussion, we talked about Natsupa's personal hobbies outside her work as a cabin crew.
"I am a food lover and I love cooking, a skill that was very useful to me when I was living in Doha, allowing me to occasionally enjoy the tastes of home by cooking my favourite Thai cuisines. But sometimes I also like to search for any interesting restaurant or cafe to try something new. When I worked with Qatar Airways, it was a good chance for me to try the local cuisines or recommended cafes during my layovers which I really enjoyed. Moreover, I'm also a keen photographer, of course not as good as other, but I always carry a tripod with me in every layover so even if I have to travel alone, I can always take picture of myself on my travels."
And with that we conclude our 3rd episode of AirTalk! It was an amazing experience to have interviewed Natsupa on her life in both Thai VietJet and Qatar Airways, and on the behalf of Planes Portrait Aviation Media, we wish her the best in her career in the skies and many safe flights to come!