Being an air hostess is more than the looks and smiles, says Umurungi

Glamorous, smart and sophisticated- that’s the image most people get when they hear ‘air hostess’. Clad in classy suits, trained to be professionals in customer service, and of course, their most revered perk; globe-trotting from continent to the other; that’s the life an air hostess embraces.
Umurungi inside a RwandAir plane.
Umurungi inside a RwandAir plane.

Glamorous, smart and sophisticated- that’s the image most people get when they hear ‘air hostess’. Clad in classy suits, trained to be professionals in customer service, and of course, their most revered perk; globe-trotting from continent to the other; that’s the life an air hostess embraces. Mostly, they are thought of as perfect creatures - strikingly beautiful with the perfect posture, skin colour and size – or at least that is what most people think. Beyond this however, 27-year-old Teresa Umurungi, an air hostess with RwandAir unveils the mystery of her job.

A little background about yourself?

I studied finance and accounting at the Adventist University of Central Africa. I started working with RwandAir as an air hostess shortly before I graduated in May 2012.

How did you qualify to become an air hostess?

The criteria are quite simple; they always look for a graduate with a height range between 1.65 and 1.75m. The age is mostly from 21 to 30, one should be willing to take on challenges and have the ability and will to learn new things. They do mind about the physical appearance but it’s not the only thing that is considered.

I don’t know why most people think a person has to be so beautiful (to become an air hostess) but that’s not it, it may be an added advantage to have a good physical appearance but it’s not a must.

Most importantly, this job requires self-confidence; knowing how to talk to people and how to express yourself generally. It’s not about being skinny or looking like a super model. It’s all about being fit and flexible.

What would you say is the best thing about being an air hostess?

It’s awesome! Though it may be like any other job, there are good and bad days; there are challenges, so it’s like any other job.

It obviously comes with advantages, seeing that one travels the world; it’s a job that opens your mind to different perspectives. It’s something that takes you to places that you wouldn’t have gone to by yourself. The fact that you meet a lot of different people makes you learn a lot about diversity.

What are the challenges that come with the job?

Well, for the challenges, you know it’s a job which requires a lot of sacrifices; for example, others could be on holiday but you may be working, others could be resting at night but it may be your turn to work. You give up on things like weekends, anniversary celebrations, and social life; it also requires a strong command of discipline.

What’s the typical working day for a flight attendant like?

We always follow a schedule, we don’t work the whole day, one also has some days off though most of the time the schedule is tight and not fixed. It keeps on changing, one could work over weekend and the next time work throughout; though you don’t work beyond 12 hours a day.

How many destinations have you been to so far?

I have had the chance to visit twelve destinations.

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Umurungi (second left) with her colleagues. Courtesy photos

How do you balance your social life and work?

Obviously it’s not easy because we don’t have that much of a social life. When you become an air hostess, you need to adjust your life accordingly, your days off are kind of limited and, again, you need to use them for maximum resting time for you to be fit for the next flight.

You use your days off to rest so as to have energy for the next working day. When one is in a relationship, you need a very patient partner to be able to understand the situation.

What is your most memorable flight or destination?

There have been some areas that give you that feeling of being content. I remember the first time I flew to Libreville, Gabon, there was a song in French we used to sing when we were little kids saying “I want to go to Libreville, I want to go to Gabon to sing and dance”.

When I got there, I felt like I had discovered something I had forever longed for.

What is the weirdest demand or request you have had from a passenger?

None really. We sometimes exchange jokes with passengers, it’s a way of making them comfortable but we have rules and try to behave, passengers also respect that.

Of course you can have one or two passengers who can cross the line but we have been trained and therefore have a way of handling such situations

What advice do you have for young girls who have dreams of becoming air hostesses?

It’s a pretty good job, it’s interesting, its mind challenging and opening at the same time. You enjoy, get to travel a lot, meet new people and go to some places you wouldn’t go by yourself.

But again, and this goes to all people, not only those who want to become air hostesses, most of the people have the wrong idea of the job itself, it’s not all about being pretty and smiling, it requires you to be intelligent and have a strong sense of discipline, maintain yourself and always bound by professional etiquette.

It’s a job that opens you to the outside world so if you’re not careful enough you could fall into things that are outside of the job, but it’s really an interesting job.

editorial@newtimes.co.rw

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