Cabin crew have the all-important job of looking after plane passengers from the minute they board the plane. Sometimes this means getting fliers a second blanket, sometimes it means saving their lives. One former British Airways flight attendant opened up to Express.co.uk about the “hardest flight” of her career.
Hayley Bowles, now 40, became cabin crew back when she was 25 and loved her job with BA right up until she was made redundant last year as a result of the covid pandemic.
Now a Recreation and Well-Being Liaison at Nellsar’s Lukestone Care Centre in Maidstone, Hayley misses the joys of flying high but there’s one flight she’d never “want to do again.”
“There was a British Airways 777 that caught fire on the runway in Las Vegas,” the ex cabin crew member said, recalling a September 2015 incident that saw a Boeing plane spark alight while preparing for take-off on the runway at McCarran International Airport.
“I was actually on that aircraft that landed into Las Vegas before it took off and it caught on fire.
“That was quite shocking. I was sat there watching it on the news thinking, ‘I only landed three hours ago on that aircraft.'”
Thirteen people were injured in the engine fire out of 159 fliers.
Hayley and her team were responsible for flying the passengers home the next day.
“That was probably the hardest flight of my entire career,” she said, “because you think the day prior they’d all evacuated off that aircraft and then they were getting back on.”
Customer service skills are of vital importance for a good flight attendant and it’s moments such as these that test the most.
“That really pulled on all of my skills because not one passenger reacted the same,” explained Hayley.
“I had people that just didn’t speak, then there was another lady that came on and she had to run to the toilet screaming, ‘I can’t do this.'”
“One lady I went up to her she was like, ‘Argh don’t speak to me’ and I was like ‘Okay, you just need me to leave you alone’ and I just said to her husband, ‘Look, we’re here. If you need anything, just let us know’.”
Hayley continued: “And then the other lady who was in tears, I tried to make it personal with her and I said, ‘Look, I know what happened yesterday but I’ve got my children at home, we’re going to get home today and I’m not going to not get home.’
“So, you know, just knowing how to speak to people – what each of those passengers needed.
“Some needed me to leave them alone, some needed that reassurance, some needed to know my name and wanted to hold my hand.
“So that was quite an interesting flight actually… not one I’d want to do again.”
It’s this customer service skill set that has help Hayley with her new role in the Nellsar dementia nursing home.
“Ultimately, my job is to speak to the families,” she explained. “And my years of talking on board I think has really put me in good stead because of my ability to build up a rapport with somebody really quickly, and to read a person and to know what that person needs.”
While the new role doesn’t come with the glamour and perks of being a flight attendant Hayley describes it as “rewarding.”
“I honestly thought I could never find another job that would fulfil my job satisfaction, but actually this one does it in a very different way,” she said.