Having recently interviewed one of our very own multi-talented pilots on the vtravelled blog, we thought it was about time we got to know our Cabin Crew in a bit more depth.
It would be hard to find someone more representative of the Virgin Atlantic flying experience than seasoned pro, Jennifer Jones. After gaining an intensive International Business degree in both the UK and California, Jen went on to join the graduate management program of a well-known chain of hotels. But it wasn't long before she realised that life behind a desk was not for her!
While leafing through a glossy magazine one day, she found her calling - an ad which offered the exciting opportunity to lead an international lifestyle while working for.. ahem, the best airline in the world. It didn't take her long to get her application in, and the rest... well, the rest is below, so read on.
Head in the Clouds
In the first of our Crew Files series, we asked Jennifer to tell us about her favourite Virgin Atlantic destinations, share some of her best memories of working in the sky and give us a little peek into her onboard life...
Jennifer, you've been flying with us now for five years and have travelled all over the world. Let's start by asking if you remember your very first flight as a fully fledged crew member? Were there any particularly memorable moments?
My first flight was to Los Angeles. I was so excited, yet very nervous as I knew that no amount of training on the ground could completely prepare me for what it would really be like at 38,000 feet.
The flight time was just over 11 hours, although when we landed it didn't feel like it was that long at all. Everything went so quick. I was put on the flight with another crew member from my training course, and I remember feeling so amazed by all the other Cabin Crew onboard, as they actually knew what they were doing! But Virgin Crew are great at team work, and it wasn't long until I was taken under the 'crew wing' by those who knew exactly how I was feeling. After all, we've all had a 'first flight'.
I was asked to go into the flight deck and ask for 'a long stand' at one point. Unfortunately, yes, I fell for it, and the Captain & First Officer had me standing there for a good five minutes - part of the crew initiation I think!
When we arrived at our hotel I don't think I'd ever felt tiredness like it. All I wanted to do was go to sleep, but the rest of the crew had other ideas, and we all ended up going to Hollywood where we partied the night away at the famous Sky Bar on Sunset Blvd, rubbing shoulders with the likes of Cuba Gooding Jnr.
After all this time you must have got to know our destinations pretty well. Do you have a favourite and can you share any top tips with us?
My favourite Virgin Atlantic destination has to be Washington D.C. The flights can be really interesting; you never know who you're going to be serving at the Upper Class bar onboard! I've met so many fascinating people on this route.
When we arrive in D.C. there's so much to do. You could easily fill a week or more, but we only get 24 hours so we try to cram in as much as we possibly can. It's always fun to go shopping in Georgetown, where there's a mixture of well known brands and small boutiques alike. A short walk away is the Waterfront, an area of bars and restaurants, where you can sip a glass of wine and enjoy some freshly caught seafood while looking out at the fabulous views of the Potomac River.
We're lucky that our hotel is right across the street from a Metro station, so just a couple of stops away are the world famous Washington D.C. landmarks, including the Washington Monument where you can walk alongside the beautiful reflecting pool, and the Lincoln, Jefferson and Roosevelt Memorials.
There are also tons of exciting museums, like the National Air and Space Museum which is definitely worth a visit, especially if you're a fan of aircraft and flying. What's even better is that they're all free to enter! It's truly impossible to struggle to find things to do in this amazing city. The public transport system is great, the people are friendly and they carry a sense of great pride in where they live.
Tell us about some of the most memorable flights you've operated on?
I've been lucky enough to have operated on a few really special flights, including inaugral flights to Montego Bay, Jamaica and Accra, Ghana.
I've also taken the England Football Team to South Africa for the World Cup earlier this year (which was a major highlight!), the England Cricket Team to St Kitts, and a whole bunch of celebrities & press to New York on our 25th Anniversary flight last year.
You can be sure that wherever we're going and whatever we're celebrating, if Richard is onboard it's always a party - one which continues when we land!
And have you ever had any really amazing adventures in the places that we fly to?
I've had so many amazing experiences during my time at Virgin, it's hard to pinpoint just one. Recently on a trip to Johannesburg the 'Lion Man' was a passenger. He was a great guy and he offered to take a few of us on a safari, which was an absolutely once-in-a-lifetime experience.
He drove us around the park and we watched him as he played with the wild lions. None of us dared to join in! Later on we were able to play with the lion cubs, who were a lot less intimidating. It was a great day out, and not many people are able to say they've had a private personal safari with the Lion Man.
After the 25th Anniversary flight that I mentioned above, we were rewarded by a roof top party in New York when we arrived, mingling with Fatboy Slim, Samuel L. Jackson, and of course Richard and many more.
Another really wonderful experience while on a trip to Las Vegas was hiring a boat and sailing around Lake Mead. It's just a short drive from the crazy atmosphere of the Las Vegas strip and is so quiet and peaceful. Also, shopping on Rodeo Drive in LA is always an experience to remember, especially if I have my boyfriend's credit card with me!
Someone who flies for a living must have picked up plenty of trade secrets along the way - so tell us, what's your best jetlag cure? What do you never travel without? And how do you pack light?
I find that if you're on holiday for a week or longer, trying to adjust to the local time straight away really helps. Don't think about what time it is back in the UK, because you'll send yourself crazy. I advise changing your watch to the local time immediately, and if I struggle to get to sleep, I usually find a glass of wine helps! If you are only away for a couple of days though, it's often wise to stay on UK time if you can - that way you won't be too tired when you land back home.
I would never travel without my iPhone. I can check my emails when I'm abroad, Skype my boyfriend, and listen to my music when I'm in the gym. It's an accessory I'd be lost without. When you fly, your skin can become very dry and it's important to keep it hydrated so I always take a good moisturiser. Philosophy do some great ones and I also love Elizabeth Arden's Eight Hour Cream, which is great for your lips.
When it comes to packing, be ruthless if you need to travel light. When I first became a Cabin Crew member, I would pack everything but the kitchen sink, and only end up wearing two outfits. Over the years I've learned to only pack what I know I will actually need. After all, the only thing you really need is your passport! If you struggle to leave things behind, then buy a smaller suitcase - that will definitely solve the problem.
And finally, what advice would you give to anyone hoping to do what you do?
I think work hard and play hard is a good crew ethic to have. It can be an extremely demanding role at times and night flights can be tiring, but when you're lying on the beach in St Lucia, shopping until you drop in New York, standing at the top of Table Mountain in Cape Town or strolling down South Beach in Miami you have to pinch yourself to remember just how lucky you are!
For those who think they might want a life like Jen's and would like to become Cabin Crew with Virgin Atlantic, here's all you need to know.
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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.