The day-to-day challenges of a Corporate Flight Attendant (CFA) are many and varied. They demand a consistently calm, confident, and adaptable management approach, with a leadership style which creates a positive onboard experience for aircraft owners, guests, and all the operating crew.
CFAs (Corporate Flight Attendants) are responsible for every aspect of cabin management within each operation, including safety, security, interior standards, stock control, and catering requirements for all passengers and operating crew. All whilst ensuring client confidentiality and providing a luxury travel experience with the highest professional standards.
According to Emma Waltham, Empire’s CFA team member, most onboard guests arrive with very high expectations of their journey, and she relishes the challenge and the opportunity to create a lasting impression, reflecting the Empire Aviation brand.
Emma began her flying career 16 years ago when she joined a global carrier and spent four years working in First Class Commercial Aviation. It was a perfect grounding for a move into private aviation, and she joined Empire in 2010. Since then, she has built a unique depth of experience as a corporate flight attendant across a wide variety of business jet types.
Emma shares her experience and insights into this most demanding role. “My introduction to the aviation industry began 16 years ago when I made the transition from the UK to the UAE as a newly-recruited in-flight member of a global commercial carrier. The educational Safety and Service Programme by a world-leading operator is extensive. This foundation of rigorous industry training fundamentally prepared me for the daily cultural dynamics and high professional standards, which I continue to apply within my role as Lead Corporate Flight Attendant.”
Emma’s years of commercial experience, managing the passenger profile of Business and First Class guests, instilled a vast understanding of the rich cultural diversity in the UAE and Gulf region. In addition to cultural awareness, she also developed crucial experience in handling the expectations of high-profile guests, which often included members of royal families, Heads of State, public figures, and business executives.
This experience fully equipped her with the tools required to excel in her professional role with Empire. “Within the professional expectations, I believe personal flair and consistency are critically important in providing a memorable luxury travel experience for the guest whilst representing the Empire brand to the highest standards. This is what will ultimately promote return custom. It is especially important to treat each new guest onboard as though it were their first private aviation experience. First impressions are the most crucial and equal to the ambience experienced when you enter the lobby of a luxury hotel. Consistent standards should always be set when welcoming guests onboard.”
Emma highlights examples of flair in the onboard experience such as personal touches, including experience ‘accents’ and elements of surprise like birthday cards, cake or flowers to mark a birthday or a hand-written card from the operating crew for children (“it never fails to please”). It could also include guests’ personal favourites, such as chocolates, specific toiletries, music, movies or reading material.
“Going the extra mile often requires additional preparation time and effort in researching passenger profiles. However, exceeding client expectations almost always pays off, which should always be the professional objective.”
Emma’s role also includes anticipating guest needs and problem-solving when the need arises. “Whilst recently researching a high-profile guest, I discovered the lead passenger’s dog, which would also be travelling with us, had strict vegan dietary requirements. I spent several hours personally visiting every pet store in the city, attempting to source vegan dog treats. This resulted in the client being both surprised and delighted in having these items readily available on-board without request.
“When catering for another passenger, who confided that the trip was due to a very serious family emergency at home, I was able to work with the Captain In-Charge, who obtained special permission for the client to contact his family via our onboard satellite phone during the journey. Thankfully, the passenger contacted us later to confirm a happy outcome and to express gratitude for being able to contact his family at a critical time.”
For Emma, no two days are the same, and maintaining professional standards heavily depends on her passion for her job as a corporate flight attendant. After almost 12 years, she is now privileged to be able to share her knowledge and guidance when being involved in training new members of Empire’s onboard team. “The importance of a bespoke travel experience has never been more so than during the last two years and is a reminder that our industry is constantly growing, developing, and adapting to clients’ changing needs,” she says.