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Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Ex SIA stewardess now flying for a Western airline

Hi Boh Tong,

Greetings! I've been following your blog for a number of years now (how many times have you read this opening line, right?), and I've finally worked up the courage to write you. :)

Your blog brings back many memories from years past, when I used to fly with SIA. While I definitely didn't fly for as long as you did, I also remember the long layovers or 'night stops' as we call it, and can't help thinking how different things were back then.

My name is xxxxx  and I presently reside in the United States in the state of Florida. I moved here 4 and a half years ago, and while I love it here, I have definitely missed Singapore! Having been an 'air girl' once, I decided to return to the airline industry and am currently employed with xxxxxx Airlines. Boy, is it different in xxx or what?!

Your blog posts about SIA cabin crew helped me recall how tough it was to be one. With SIA's exacting standards on customer service, strong emphasis on weight and looks and comprehensive initial training, I will say that it is a very much respected company in this part of the world. Fellow xx flight attendants often gasp whenever I tell them I used to be a 'SIA Girl', and they want to know all about it! One F/A even asked me if I considered xx a 'downgrade' lol...I guess there are pros and cons.

I scoured most of your blog to see if there were others in my shoes, as in, ex-SIA cabin crew who are now flying with a Western carrier, and I couldn't find any. So I thought I'd offer you this perspective, I hope you don't mind? Let me list it out to make the read less tedious. ;)

1. New Hire: Juniors are known as New Hires and seniority, as you know, is EVERYTHING in the airline industry. As New Hires, we get the worst lines (schedules) and remain on Reserve (similar to standby, only worse) for as long as we are not senior enough to hold our own lines.

2. Bases: XX  has many bases throughout the US. Due to the sheer size of the country, a lot of F/As do not live where they are based. I for one, don't. So we commute to work by flight or by other means. I drive from home to base, and my drive takes me 4 hrs. Yup, you read it right. So I have to rent a place close to base, and often don't go home for weeks at a time because of the commute and work demands. By the way, I am Miami-based.

3. Reserve: Aah, that word all New Hires dread. Our Reserve schedules last 1 whole month. Standby to us means we have to literally wait at the airport in full uniform and luggage to be called out to flight whenever we're needed. Standby sessions last 6 hours, and Reserve blocks can last up to 6 days a time, 24 hrs a day. We get the option to bid for 12 hr sessions too, but that also means we get pushed to the top of the list to be called out.

As a New Hire, our Reserve schedules are 1 month on, 1 month off. Eg, I'm on Reserve in Oct, Nov is my line month, Dec is my Reserve month etc. for the first 3 years then, it's 3 months off and 1 month on. Our upcoming new union contract is going to have all New Hires on Reserve every single month until they gain 1 yr then it's 1 on/1 off till 3 yrs. Confused yet?

In other words, Crew Scheduling owns us. : /

4. Airports: All bases except HQ which is in Dallas-Ft Worth Texas, requires F/As to work out of 3 airports. How you get there is your own problem, except for Reserve month when they will arrange transportation only out of 1 of the airports. And the airports are FAR apart from one another. I'm talking close to 1 hr's drive away far.

5. Salary: The starting pay is a joke. I make approximately USD 1300 - 2000 a month and that's if I fly high time on Domestic flights (more than 85 flight hrs a month), and pick up flights on my days off. We also have to pay for our uniforms, amongst other things.

6. Basic Training: Initial training is held at Dallas-Ft. Worth TX and is 8 and a half weeks long, and we are NOT paid for it. Except for those living there, all trainees have to share a small hotel room with a classmate that the airline picked out for you and you are not allowed to change room mates no matter how bad it gets. And we are not considered employees until the day after graduation.

7. Schedules: We get our schedules or rosters through a complicated bidding process, which I had to attend a class to understand.

That's all I will inundate you with for today. I guess my point here is that while I understand how hard it is to be a cabin crew with SIA, there are those out there who have it worse. LOL. I've grown used to my job, but if I could turn back time, I might not have done this!

Thank you for reading my loooong email Boh Tong. Just someone else out there in this world who is trying to reach out to you and say you're doing such a great job at helping others.

Best regards.


Anonymous said...

SIA crew stop complaining and be ungrateful!

Anonymous said...

It is tough working for other airlines. SIA is still good to work for.

Anonymous said...

There are the PRO & CON in which ever airlines you work.

Tne benefits in Western Airlines are much better.
Companion Pass is one of them.
Travel in BC at a special price.
If the staff is travelling together will be in FC.

Bottom line is you must enjoy your job.
They are all the SAME!

Anonymous said...

During the 80s, the CC of Western Airlines had to pay for their uniforms. Priority in airlines in the USA is on safety. Their standard of inflight service is not as good compared to their rivals in Asia. Singapore based crew enjoy the benefit of home sweet home with friends and family around. There was a time when CC of Delta Airways were attached to SIA. They were put up at hotels and joined us on flights, made their announcements and also perticipated in the service. Many expressed their admiration on our airline. One steward even remarked that the safety proficiency of our crew could put Delta to shame. He had attended a SEP recurrent drill and was really amazed.


The ex-SQ FSS did not sound like she was complaining as commented by the first Anonymous blogger. Sounded like she was sharing her observations. To work in an American airline, one must be able to be an all rounder, broad minded, able to blend with all colleagues, develop a sociable profile and yout vocal chords are vital.

Anonymous said...

Dont think SQ is better just becos based in SIN.

SQ do what they do based on cost nothing to do with being considerate, caring for staff, crew.
If can, they will get staff to pay for their own uniforms too.

Anonymous said...

SQ has never made its crew pay for uniforms. Allowances are payable for TPT, LMA, IFA, Acting in higher grade, Incentives for NO or LOW MC, inflight meal allowance,LAUNDRY....on top of Basic salary. The shares scheme made a good number of staff millionaires. To cut a long story short, the basic salary is pittance, but the overall package is good.

Anonymous said...

Hi there,

I'm the one who wrote the email to BT, and was surprised and almost grateful anyone even read it! So thank you all.

There was one comment which discussed Delta crew flying with SIA at one time, and I remember that! :) Once I had a Delta purser fly with us on our flight; she was a lovely lady who said she had been flying for about 17 years, and also had the same thing to say about SIA. About how impressed she was with our safety standards, grooming and service.

Our uniforms cost us over USD 700.00 right out of training, and they are deducted from payroll every month. We get new pieces using a point system depending on seniority, and New Hires don't get the full points to get new pieces for the first year, so we have to top them up with our own money or wait. :)

Vacation time for New Hires after 1 yr of service is...drum roll...2 days!! If we want to, we can take unpaid leave, but we need the money lol. Sick time is 18 hrs for the first year.

Talking about travel perks, yes one commenter had it right. We get to fly in FC & BC at a very low cost. All F/As no matter how senior they are, only get to fly standby, and we literally wait at the boarding gate for our passes if they are available, so it is quite common to see crew sprinting onto the plane at the last minute ha ha!
The domestic passengers in the US get upgraded all the time, so FC & BC is almost always full. But yes, we still get to travel in the premium cabins wherever available. Which isn't bad.

The Companion passes that one person brought up is true. As long as your friends/relatives dress accordingly and behave well, they get to travel on standby, although on very low priority. This year alone I saw 3 employees have their entire pass privileges revoked because the F/A serving them complained about their behavior (How dare he/she press the call button??). So, while great, it puts you in a very vulnerable position.

I just did my recurrent (SEP) this month, and it took 2 days. Yes, they are extremely safety-oriented and it is a good thing.

Ultimately you're right; the airline industry is the same everywhere. It would take forever and a day to discuss the differences. It is a very different culture here; many F/As here leave their hair down, wear tattoos (although not visible), don't bother with makeup and I've even seen some yell at passengers because they were in a bad mood. But there are also a lot of great ones here. Ones who have changed my perspective on life.

As they say, same difference. But I will stand by my belief that it is still more profitable to work with SIA, if one had to say, choose.