Service Training Instructor Katie Bailey has been with us from the very beginning and never looked back. We find out exactly how she's spent the past three decades.
A new challenge
I was in a 9 to 5 job in London and, quite frankly, bored out of my brains. My manager knew this. Obviously wanting to put me out of my misery, he showed me an ad in the Evening Standard for a new airline starting up and needing cabin crew. After the humdrum of working life in London, a varied lifestyle, irregular hours and the challenge of doing something new really appealed to me.
I applied for the job and was asked to come to an interview at a hotel in Crawley. There were a huge number of people there for the interview and we were all taken into a large room and interviewed as a group. I then recall having to stand up and talk about myself for three minutes.
On my first operational flight, two of us hadn't had previous experience and our training hadn't helped too much, so both of us muddled through. Each stowage we opened seemed to have duty free items fall out of it. We took our first cart out into the aisle and looked at each other blankly wondering which direction to take it. We used to charge passengers £5 to rent a headset to watch one film, which as I recall was ‘Airplane’. It was all very hectic and chaotic but we laughed our way across the Atlantic.
The early days were certainly great fun. Richard Branson used to invite everyone to his home in Oxfordshire in the summer and have the most amazing parties. Not only were employees there but many icons of the music industry at the time. They were great days and I couldn’t believe that I, a young girl from a small village ‘up north’ was part of this. The first party I attended at Richard’s house - well, tents in the garden actually – I wore a white skirt and stilettos (they were fashionable at the time, honestly!) and it poured with rain turning the ground into a swamp and completely ruining my outfit. I recall chatting to Annie Lennox and Fergal Sharkey and getting very drunk. I had never experienced anything like it before!
I was a quiet, fairly shy and self-conscious girl back in 1984, but if there’s one thing joining Virgin Atlantic did for me it was to make me more confident. One of the requirements for cabin crew is the ability to chat to anyone and everyone – and that really brought me out of my shell. Now I’m a Service Training Instructor with around 15 years’ experience of crew training under my belt. Back in 1984 I would have turned to jelly standing up in front of all those passengers doing a safety demonstration – now public speaking is part of my daily life.
If you had to ask me what’s the most fascinating place I visited as a cabin crew member I would say Moscow. That might surprise you, but we used to stop there en route to Tokyo. As a Communist country at the time, Russia was a whole new experience. There have been so many memorable moments over the 30 years, but I’d like to share one with you. Around the time the ‘Full Monty’ film was out Robert Carlisle was on a return flight from LA. He was in Upper Class and had changed into a sleep suit. At the end of the flight he took his top off and attempted to pick his shirt up off the floor. Unfortunately, it had got caught up in the mechanism of his reclined J2000 seat. We spent ages trying to tease it out and as he was topless at this point I was quite enjoying myself! We ended up ripping it, but he was very good humoured about the whole thing.
It’s been fun being part of the Virgin story. I’ve worked with some great characters and it feels like you’re part of one of big family. If you’re thinking about joining our cabin crew, just do it – you’ll visit some fantastic places and meet some great people.
1984: Quiet, shy and introverted.
2014: Confident and outgoing – a seasoned party goer and public speaker.
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About the author: MaxineMaxine Sheppard
Maxine is the editor of the Virgin Atlantic blog. Travel and music are her joint first loves, and despite having written for Virgin for more years than she cares to remember she still loves nothing more than jumping on a plane in search of new sights and new sounds.