As one of the best-known airlines in the world, Emirates must provide high quality service to stay on top.
With a fleet of 220 aircraft currently in active service, the airline needs 16,000 highly trained crew members to keep operations running smoothly.
However, this elite team of slippery, fire-extinguishing emergency medical responders doesn’t just show up to the recruiting drive with those skills. It takes weeks of training, practice, exams and recurring checks to ensure they keep their jobs in heaven.
So what exactly does it take to be part of the Emirates family?
The National spent the day at Emirates Cabin Crew Training College to find out.
Safety and emergency procedures
The first layover for new recruits is a hands-on exercise where they learn how to operate the aircraft’s emergency doors and how to safely launch down the inflatable slide.
It is important to ensure that everyone on the course can handle these aspects of the job as without them they cannot graduate.
Ab initios, which means “from the beginning” in Latin and which Emirates calls its new cohort of trainees, are taught on the only Airbus A380 built specifically for training purposes in the world. Trainees practice evacuating from both lower and upper decks, as they should in real life. Ground clearance is exactly like on a real plane.
“This is the first step for Ab Initios as they begin their training with Emirates,” said Flavia Nicolae, Security Emergency Procedures Training Specialist.
“If they can get through the physical demands of evacuating an airplane and putting out a fire in the galley as well as the formal safety and emergency learning session, then they are ready to go on and complete the rest of their learning journey.”
Trained in groups of 15-20, trainees form a close bond with one another as they navigate their way to their first flight. Many remain close friends throughout their careers at the Emirates and it’s a friendship that thrives under pressure, hence the term ‘batchmate’.
Dressed in black from head to toe, the ab initios practice landing procedures on water. The slides that propelled them to safety in the final section now disconnect to form life rafts. Together, lifejackets inflated, the trainees learn to survive in the icy waters of the ocean.
Things stay realistic and the water they have to dive in is kept at 17°C. After going through the process to keep themselves and their group mates warm, they are allowed to swim to dry land and out of the pool.
“That’s my favorite part,” said a shivering rookie fresh out of the pool.
“After class sessions, it’s nice to get out and be a little more active.”
Other training sessions include extinguishing onboard fires, helping to find passengers when the cabin is filled with smoke, and handling medical emergencies, from heart attacks to childbirth.
Trainees must be familiar with safety and emergency procedures to continue with the course, but are likely to pass this section.
The exams have a pass mark of 80% and each person has four chances to pass the practical part. If this is not possible, they can retake the training and prepare again for the assessment. After that, they will have four more chances. However, if at this point they still cannot reach the level, their training is over.
Fortunately for ab initios, this rarely happens.
With the hustle and bustle of evacuation procedures over, it’s time to move on to the finer part of the job.
Emirates prides itself on providing a level of service only found among the best airlines in the world and its training reflects this.
Onboard retail services generate serious revenue for the company, so every cabin crew member is made aware of the qualities of everything sold on board. This means they smell perfumes and handle jewelry so that if a passenger wants to know more about a product, they are well equipped to help.
“We like to cater to the tastes and desires of our customers,” said Kim Ho Shong, a hospitality learning partner.
“That’s why we now offer a range of healthier snacks, as opposed to something like a chocolate bar.”
In a replica of the interior of an Airbus A380, we meet an already qualified crew in training to move to another cabin.
Exercising on each other, they cook food for first class passengers and offer a selection of drinks and snacks. They also taste the food themselves so they know exactly what experience passengers will have.
“It’s very important that our team knows what they’re serving and what kind of experience they’re giving the guest,” Mr. Ho said. “So while one half is trying to serve, the other half benefits from the customer experience.”
The famous red lipstick
Around the fifth week, the ab initios will arrive at the image station. This is a room with mirrored walls, spotless lighting and a range of skincare and beauty products on display.
Women see a selection of six approved hairstyles designed to suit all cultures and hair types, and men learn the importance of a good manicure.
A 60-page manual titled “Taking Center Stage” is filled with rules and advice on appearance, etiquette and conduct.
The focus is also on keeping the body fit and healthy – and the skin protected from the sun.
“Ab Initios has the tools to ensure it represents the brand to the best of its abilities,” said Sally Cayzer, Hospitality Learning Partner-Image & Uniform.
“During their training, we include topics such as nutrition, the importance of maintaining a good skincare routine while traveling the world, and makeup application techniques.”
To complete the look, Ms. Cayzer shows her colleague how to wear the internationally recognized red Emirates hat with white veil.
“The seven folds represent the seven emirates of the United Arab Emirates,” she says, deftly folding it in half twice and draping the veil in line with the V of the jacket. After tucking the tail of the fabric around the back of the neck and out of sight, the look is complete.
After all, when it comes to representing a multi-billion dollar brand, it’s important to look the part.
Updated: 06 September 2022, 06:09