In Conversation with Amit, In-flight Executive, Jet Airways

(These are my notes from my conversation with Amit, In-Flight Executive of Jet Airways en route from London to Mumbai, – August 29, 2007)

Amit has been working with Jet for about 3 years now. He started working in the domestic sector first, and then took up the international flights about an year back.

He was a part of the cabin crew initially, and is now an in-flight executive. Critical difference, I figured, was in the level of responsibilities. IFEs lead flights. Amit, here, was responsible for handling the entire Economy class of passengers (my guess is that this responsibility can be a handful).

Choice of Career – Amit mentioned that he was keen on being a part of the hospitality sector pretty much from the beginning itself. Entered the line of Hotel Management from Bandra itself (after his Class XIIth), he was a chef (4th in line from the head chef) at JW Marriott. A lot of people in the hotels do realize after a while the slowness in growth. I know it because my own cousin quit JW Marriott to join a cruise where the growth, excitement, money- everything is higher. Back to Amit – his view is that in the hospitality industry, airlines is where the highest growth is. Net net- he took up this job, and is probably one of the younger IFEs at Jet Airways.

About alternatives to being a IFE/Cabin Crew Member – Mentioned that there are a lot of alternative careers available if you decide to quit this amount of flying. People take specialized courses once in a while in areas such as HR, marketing, etc and move to specialized roles. He mentioned examples of people moving not only into Airlines, but mainline IT firms as well. His point of view is that the experience of handling a flight and the number of people that we interact with is so high, that it gears them up for handling a lot of stressful people situations as well. Even otherwise, when these guys are not flying, they are involved in a lot of training etc.

About the traveling – Amit mentioned that the travel is not so harassing as it seems simply because they get comfortable breaks between flights unlike us corporate travellers, where the travel part is just the begining of the pain. They dont have to carry any work home. Pang of jealosy, I did feel! 😉

On asking him about the places he had been to, he mentioned that all the sectors where Jet is flying right now, he has had a chance to go – Toronto, NY, London, Brussels, Singapore, etc. Jet is starting a UAE sector as well. However, he mentioned that after a while the amount of traveling you do within the location goes down – Same location every time, how much can you spend, are the kind of questions you ask yourself.

About Jet’s performance –

Jet is apparently strongly emerging as a strong competitor to many airlines, as evidenced by the Singapore Airlines comment where the opening line mentioned Jet explicitly as the biggest threat. Now, we all know that Singapore Airlines is considered to be one of the best airlines in the business.

He was all praises for the new crafts Jet has introduced, in terms of comfort, ambience, the shades used, etc. He insisted that those flights give you less of the tardy feeling of having been aboard a flight for so many hours. He encourages you all to try them at least once.

Another passenger onboard who is part of the international marketing team for Hiranandani Builders was all praises for the marketing efforts of Jet. Cited the case of a recent marketing event in Toronto where Jet had invited about 500 prominent people from business and Economics kinda areas and gave them an experience of the new crafts by even having seats/layouts the way it would be on the flights.

About important people on flights –

Interesting tidbits here. It came out during our conversations around how Jet is becoming a preferred airline on many circuits and is giving tough competition to mature players. The flight I had taken had Juhi Chawla on board (now I know that she isn’t that big a celebrity anymore, but that does not mean that she is pretty and famous and all that and all that and things like that). He mentioned that because you have to handle so many other activities for these important travelers (like film stars, politicians, cricket players, etc.) you automatically start understanding their travel habits, etc. And if they are frequent travelers, they also start recognizing faces and people who are taking care of their travel needs. Net result, it becomes something far more valuable than just a traveler-facilitator relationship. Interesting, isn’t it? I have seen people bragging about knowing important people so many times. But its quite interesting that for them, usually, a business class is about important people and they end up meeting/knowing a lot of interesting people, and probably the high and drama of meeting them tapers off after a while.

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Now, you might be wondering after reading this long post whether I am advertising Jet Airways, or the career of an in-flight executive. Neither. I just find it very interesting to understand people from different walks of life. Being on a flight with fewer passengers just helps get a chance to interact more. Its like having a conversation with the Mumbai cabbie about how he makes his living, the auto driver about his expensive music system when he is saving every penny for survival, or the musician or advertising professional who discovers his creative penchant very late in life.

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London Travelogue – Part 1

I landed in London on Monday morning. It was 8:30AM or so by the time I came out of the airport. A slight chill (~15 Deg. Celsius) in the air, few vehicles on the street (Monday was a bank holiday in London), I realized that I was liking the city. Despite my horrible immigration experience, where 4 people were handling immigrations for 6 simultaneous flights, I was, fairly soon, thrown into a city with some beautiful buildings, narrow paved streets and people walking around in all kinds of dresses (formal and informal). What took me in the most is the architecture.

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The hotel I was staying at – Radisson Mountbatten, can be called an average hotel, the likes of which you find quite a lot in places like NY – nice and good, small rooms, basic functionality kinds. Not the expansive rooms that Indian hotels have, but comfortable and functional. The hotel is in the heart of the Central London – a few blocks from Trafalgar square, Leicester Square, very close to Covent Garden, Theater Lane, China Town, etc. A couple of miles off is the London Eye, Westminister Abbey. The office was a couple of small blocks away. Office being on the 10th floor of a Central London building, there are some excellent views available from the meeting room windows.

That far was the background. Now, let me tell you what I did.

Morning: After refreshing myself a bit, I went out with Bee and Ranjeetha. They had come to pick me from the hotel. We went to their place first, grabbed some breakfast, and then moved out. We want to Kent to meet Crap, and found that he had taken a break to vegetate in his room. And vegetate he did with a huge 43′ HDTV, a fully integreated home theater system with DVD player, VHS tape player, speakers etc and a complete collection of Star Trek- The Next Generation video tapes. We bull-ed around for some time. Discussed random things, before checking out his newly acquired prized possession- a Toyota Sports Car – 220BHP, 2000 CC, red color, car for just 1000 pounds. It was a steal, I say! Considering he would break even on this investment in just 2 months, and he gets to be a proud owner of a sports car!

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Lunch: After this nice meet-do we started towards Greenwich where I saw people trying to control kites that were as big as parasailing balloons. Nice.. Moved to have lunch at a nice Italian Lunch at Bella Vista (not that I would recommend this restaurant to a lot of people, but it was a decent change from the Indian Italian I am used to). Came back to Bee’s place to see India almost losing the match to England (they did lose the match eventually). Finally, I was dropped back at the Leicester Square station by Bee and Ranju.

I was supposed to call Alex now, who had been waiting for me all day long. I had somehow managed to get a slip so far. But not for long. While trying to find his hotel, I passed Trafalgar square three times and saw and enjoyed almost everything that is there to be enjoyed. Its a nice place to spend an evening just chit-chatting and looking at the victorian architecture surrounding the place.

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Evening: After locating Alex, we grabbed a cuppa at Starbucks, chatted about different things, and how Partner was in love with the city of London because there was so much activity, so many colorful people and I am sure there would have been several other reasons (yeah.. the description of all the women he liked) if I had shown even marginal interest in knowing what the reasons were! Just as I fear on such occasions, our conversation quickly moved to official stuff and I reminded myself that the workaholic me hasn’t thought about the next day. So, we got back to business, went back to his hotel, and started working on the two decks that we were supposed to be working on. Finished that by around 9PM and came out for Dinner.

Dinner : When in Rome, do the Romans. I wanted to have an “English” Dinner. The first three places that we went to, had their kitchen closed at 9PM, Monday being a holiday in London. Finally, we went to a Garfunkel’s. Now, Garfunkel is like the English cross between McDonald’s and TGIF. I dont know if TGIF is also an English chain though. It serves standard fare, has outlets in every third corner of London, serves breakfast, lunch and dinner along with nice Alcohol. I went about the business with a nice order of Chicken Kiev and Diet Coke. Partner ordered something to suit his palette. And I realized something that I had been thinking about all through the day. English people are Europeans! They take 25 minutes+ to serve your order. And the whole dinner/lunch affair is usually upwards of an hour. Everything is done at a leisurely pace. Nice! MKOP.

Good night! : I came back to my room at around 11 in the night, drained of energy and a sagging mind (it was 3:30AM IST! What do you think??). Still unable to sleep, I think I got about 2-3 hours of sleep till about 6AM. And the last note here, is that you guys should definitely listen to the “Jana Gana Mana” album by A R Rahman. Awesome!! Its difficult to channel so much creativity together. Over 20-25 great artists giving voice and soul to the national anthem in their own way. Simply mindblowing stuff.

 

Update: Click on the image thumbnails to enlarge the pics

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