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A Day in the Life of Inflight Services

Aircraft Management, Americas

Behind every flight is a million moving pieces. Our promise to each customer is a seamless, effortless and elegant experience and the only way to see this promise to fruition is to truly become the effort behind the effortless. A lot of what it takes to seamlessly pull off a successful flight goes behind the scenes, so we sat down with our own Cindi Hillock, Sr. Manager Inflight Services, who truly embodies what it means to be the effort behind effortless. 

Cindi, can you tell us a little about your role? What does a normal day look like for you?

Wow, where do I even begin? The title of my official role is Sr. Manager of Inflight Services. I often refer to it as being a headless chicken—running around and trying to be in 100 different places at once. I think that’s one of the rather intriguing parts of this job—you really don’t know what any day will bring. It’s a constant juggling act between daily ops, phone calls, recruiting, and organizing. One minute I could be on a client phone call discussing what they need on their aircraft and the next I could be answering contract crew questions regarding concur or working on a new account quoting MedAire products. I like to think that our role holds a significant amount of gravity as we really are a touchpoint for our clients, crewmembers and the business. We can be considered dot connectors. On a regular basis we speak to Captains, Maintenance Managers, the Scheduling Team, Staffing, and Client Aviation Directors. It’s imperative that we stay aligned with all points in the business in order to ensure service excellence. This could mean creating a budget for a new client while being mindful of the bottom line or ensuring that we are presenting the best Cabin Attendant to a new account looking to hire. It could also mean ordering Catering for those accounts who need additional support or procuring bedding for a last-minute Charter. This role requires mental agility—being able to pivot in 24 different ways and know where everything is. There’s a lot of patterns in private aviation and I think this is something you begin to pick up on as your experience develops. It will never get less crazy however the longer you stay in it, the faster you’ll know how to get things done and find the answers.

How do you personalize each trip for respective customers?

We have the opportunity to be keen observers. That’s precisely what we do—pay attention to the details so that we are able to curate each trip specific to our clients. Prior to building that relationship and observing minute details, we do a lot of fact finding and profiling. Our Cabin Attendants are assigned so we have the luxury of being around them enough to understand their needs. They learn the basics of survival first and then get to integrate other things based on what we know is within guidelines and boundaries of their account. As our Cabin Attendants begin to fly with our clients more often, they begin to notice certain habits, likes or dislikes. Do they push the carrots to the side? What did they take from the snack basket? Did they grab the blanket or read the papers? These small things are crucial to understanding the behaviors of our customers and are how we can truly make each experience memorable, personal, and unique. We want our customers to think, “wow, they noticed.”

“Knowing that we are making an impact regarding service excellence, safety and an overall sense of care is our target every single time. At the end of the day, that’s what we are doing – we are caring for these individuals.”

How do you source talent?

We source talent through a lot of collaboration. Working with multiple aircraft, crews, and clients, it’s integral to the success of Jet Aviation Flight Services that we stay in constant communication with one another and work together to find the best talent to staff our aircraft with. We work a lot with our Staffing team and use the software that Jet Aviation has invested in to search for valuable candidates. We look for who has registered in specific areas, gather resumes from referrals, look at recommendation boards, and utilize various vendors such as Flight Safety and NBAA to source from. Resumes come in from all over the place and we are intentionally open to speak with anyone as you never know who could carry the highest potential. We look at Staffing as a giant opportunity to network and create brand loyalty which is why we take so much time engaging. It’s important to us that our crews have an elevated and positive experience with us from onboarding to their first paycheck.

What are some key skills that a cabin attendant should be equipped with?

The number one thing we look for is strong people skills. This is a service industry which means we provide service to our customers rather than a just one product. This entails effective communication and a very humanistic approach. Our employees need to be strong communicators who are quick to respond and able to make our clients feel heard. They also need to have excellent time management. In this role it’s important to set yourself up knowing that there will be 20 things that don’t go as planned before you arrive to the FBO. Our team needs to be proactive in this respect. We exist in a reactive industry and it’s crucial to have foresight so that there’s never a “no” answer but rather a “I don’t have this, but I do have X, Y and Z” answer. We call this the art of deflection. Having a sense of urgency also falls under this umbrella. Time is always of the essence and our team needs to be able to make quick and executive decisions. Finally, it’s important that our crews are collaborators, team players, and customer service centric. We can train anyone to be a Cabin Attendant, as long as they possess these characteristics, because a lot of these characteristics are not teachable.

What do you find the most rewarding in your role?

It’s always the most rewarding to get feedback from a client or crewmember expressing their gratitude and appreciation. Being assured that we are getting our clients where they need to go and that we are the ones who have the opportunity to deliver them from point A to point B is incredibly satisfying. Knowing that we are making an impact regarding service excellence, safety and an overall sense of care is our target every single time. At the end of the day, that’s what we are doing—we are caring for these individuals. It’s also rewarding when we don’t hear anything at all. We always say that no news is good news! ??????

What is the most challenging?

I would say the most challenging part of this role is the overall pace of aviation. COVID has changed a lot of things and the world is constantly evolving. Keeping up with the patterns of world economics and the way people fly can certainly be strenuous however it’s essential in our line of work to continuously adapt and evolve with the different trends of the economy, aviation, our customers, and standards. 

How did your aviation career commence and how has your experience shaped your views and how you manage your team?

Honestly, it’s hard to even wrap my head around how I ended up here. I fell into aviation in my late twenties by happen chance when I met a Lead Captain while working at a bar. I got the opportunity to fly with him and immediately it was a sink or swim mentality. I had the privilege of traveling the world and quickly aviation became deeply fixed in my blood. At the time, there wasn’t a lot of engagement—aviation was a different beast back then. I took every opportunity I was given to learn, grow and succeed and because of that, I’ve been on innumerable accounts. I’m also a scientist at heart. I applied a lot of that to aviation as cooking in the galley is undoubtedly a science experiment. Coming from working in restaurants all my life, I understood time management well and coming from Hawaii, an incredibly service-centric place, I was passionate about service culture. I’ve always been persistent and have continuously had a lot of people backing, supporting and mentoring me. I’ve always been interested in the business segment so getting the opportunity to be on the ops side was very intriguing for me. Being able to apply my 17 plus years of flying has allowed me to help our crews understand more about the business and has continued to help me be that dot connector. I think there’s sometimes a missed opportunity to understand the why and the how of the business and I love being able to apply my background to help others understand those facets.

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