Thursday, April 16, 2015

Life as a Malaysia Airlines Cabin Crew

So you see them walking across the airport gracefully in their elegant kebayas, their black leather heels polished until it shines, their hair in a high chignon and their face all dolled up in a classy yet beautiful manner. They have their handbag on one arm and the other is dragging their trolley bag behind. You stare at them as they past, wishing and wondering for one second, how it would be like to be a Malaysia Airlines stewardess. 
Well, today I am here to give you a private and exclusive glance into the daily life as a cabin crew for MAS. Do note that I have been working with MAS for almost one year, and I only fly narrow-body, which is the Boeing 737 aircraft. Therefore, I cannot tell you how the roster of a wide-body crew is going to be like. But don’t worry because it is almost the same, it’s just that they have longer flights and a bigger aircraft. 

So after going through three months of solid training, you will graduate and leave the academy as a full-fledged cabin crew. You will be under 3 months of probation and you will have to return to the academy after 3 months to complete your proficiency test. New cabin crews are bonded to the airline for 2 years, failing which you choose to leave or you get terminated before the bond is over, you will have to pay a sum of 20k. 

I graduated from the academy in June 2013. I got my first roster and I was so excited. My first flight was a turnaround flight from Kota Kinabalu (BKI) to Pudong (Shanghai) and back. However, due to extreme weather conditions we had to divert and land in Hong Kong. Needless to say, I was jumping with joy when they announced we were going to have an unscheduled nightstop in Hong Kong. 

The next day we would fly to Pudong and back to BKI again. It was more than our assigned flying hours so we got to pax back to KUL which is our base. Paxing back means travelling back as a passenger. 

So basically this is how an average roster will be. In a month, you will have at least 5 turnaround flights. It could be a mix of long haul or short haul flights. You will have at least 5 nightstops as well, more to local compared to international. International nightstops will vary every month so within one year you would have got the chance to cover all the 737 destinations. 

The furthest we fly to is Narita, Japan and Perth and Darwin, Australia. We also have local nightstops such as BKI, KCH, PEN, KBR, JHB and KUA. Nightstops in Hong Kong, Kathmandu and Australia bring in a lot of money so if you get those often, you’re lucky.

We have a minimum of 8 days off per month and sometimes it could go to 12-13 days off. So your allowance will not be the same. It could be higher this month and lower next month. Your basic as a new recruit will be RM1200. 

Allowances consist of turnaround allowance, laundry allowance, meal allowance, nightstop allowance and much more.  So in a month you would probably get an average of RM3000-RM4000 just as allowances only. Of course, there will be SOCSO, insurance, EPF and all this payments so they will cut around rm500 there. We are entitled to 21 days of annual leave but that doesn’t mean we will get it each time we apply. It depends on your luck, reason of leave and seniority as well. 

Okay, let’s move on to reporting duty and standby duty. Let’s say you are rostered to do a KUL-HKG-KUL flight. Your departure time is at 8am. Your reporting time will be 1 ½ hours before, so it will be at 0630. Your pick up time is 1 ½ hours before reporting so it will be at 0500. So if you are someone who takes a very long time to get ready and apply make-up, you’d probably have to wake up at 0300. Yes, you are given transport to and fro KLIA but only if you stay within a 30km radius. If your transport has not arrived within 15 minutes of pickup time, you are expected to proceed to KLIA by yourself. 

If you drive, you can claim petrol and toll charges, and if you take public transport , you can claim the fare charges.Once you arrived at the MHCC which is the crew reporting centre, you will have to sign on, check your crew list, your gate number, aircraft type and so on. Then, you will proceed to the briefing room, where you will meet the rest of your crew and your leading steward/stewardess. You will be briefed on latest updates or changes, passenger profile and safety. 

Then, you will be given your working position. It does not necessarily depend on your rank, it depends on your leading. Most of the time, the stewards will be assigned to the galley and the stewardesses will be assigned to the cabin. Then, you will proceed to your assigned gate and enter your aircraft. You will do your safety checks, cabin checks and meal checks then report to your leading. 

After boarding the passengers, there will be safety briefing which could be live demo or video depending on your aircraft, and then its take off. After take off, meals are loaded into the carts and its time to serve the passengers. If you get a full complement of crew, your service will finish fast, if not you will have to do extra work to make up time. Once your service is over, you have your meals, do some random cabin walks, attend to passengers needs and before you know it, it will be time to land.  

If you are having a nightstop, then you will leave the aircraft and proceed to your hotel. If you are doing a turnaround flight, it is the same procedure as above.

This is an average day’s work. Sometimes you get a one sector flight i.e KUL-BKI. Then you have a nightstop there. Sometimes its two sectors i.e KUL-BKI. BKI-KUL. And sometimes, its three sectors i.e KUL-SIN-KUL. KUL-BKI. The first two sectors will be juice sectors as we are not allowed to have more than two meal sectors. 

Finally, we might also get four sectors and this four sectors could be all juice sectors or two meal two juice sectors or two juice one meal  one pax or two meal one juice one pax. It all depends on your roster and duty hours. 
Most crew prefer doing four juice sectors compared to two long haul meal sectors as it is very tiring especially if it is a midnight flight. As for routes, the challenging ones are always the India and China routes. Passengers are demanding and most of them get restless when it’s a 4 hour flight. 

But those routes also bring in good money so you will probably need at least one of two of those in your roster. Your off days are random. Sometimes after one day of working you will get two off days. Sometimes its 6 days of continuous flights and you will get one day off. Those patterns are very tiring and when you’re new it is likely you will suffer from fatigue and migraines. 

Now, onto standby flights. In a month you may or may not be rostered for standby flights. There are two kinds of standby flights which are airport standby and home standby. For airport standby you will have to proceed to the airport , sign on and wait there until CDC calls you up for a flight. Sometimes you get called up sometimes you don’t. Your given standby time is 3 hours. 

For home standby however, you have to stay home and keep your phone with you at all times, and expect a call from CDC. Your given standby time ranges from 6-10 hours. If you are not contactable during this period of time, it is a serious misconduct.

The good news is, there is such thing called mutual flights. Mutual flights means exchanging your flight with someone else’s flight or day off. All you have to do is fill in a form with you and your friend’s flight details and the office will email you whether your mutual is approved or not. But there is a limit to mutual flights which is 6 per year, so use it wisely. 

As for reporting sick and emergency leave, it is procedure where if you take MC you have to inform office at least 4 hours before your reporting time. Or else, you will be called to the office for last minute MC. It is worse if you don’t inform at all and when you don’t turn up for your flight, then it will be stated as MIA. 

For emergency leave, you need to produce valid documents and solid reasons for it to be granted such as accident, court cases, family members admitted in the hospital etc. You are entitled 21 days of MC so be very careful and take care of your health to avoid falling sick.

Working for a 5 star airline has its benefits as well. For medical, you are fully covered in all terms and you will be given a medical book where there will be a list of panel clinics and hospitals to get your free treatment. One of it is the most expensive, Prince Court Hospital, KL.

You get staff discount on everything in the airport including food and drinks, perfume, apparel, tickets etc. Speaking of tickets, you are entitled to free tickets to one destination per year with your family. Staff discount on all flight tickets apply up to 75%. We stay in the best hotels most of which is 5 star and some hotels like Hilton Kuching give you free laundry and some hotels like Hyatt Regency Bombay give you free buffet breakfast. 

Basically, working as a cabin crew is more like a vacation everytime you get layovers or days off in different countries.

Sounds exciting? Feel like applying to be a cabin crew? Well, what are you waiting for? Malaysia Airlines is conducting walk-in interviews every month at various places all over Malaysia. 

Check out any latest updates and vacancies at and join us and be part of the world’s best cabin crew. Thank you for reading.

To read more of Life as a cabin crew, please click here

Above article written by my PAID guest writer. If you are interested to contribute your experience to FlyGosh, please check out Get PAID to be a guest writer for

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