August 11, 2012

On People: Monica Arciaga, Flight Attendant

Monica Barbara Arciaga, Flight Attendant
Flat-beds, champagne, touch screens and perfect smiles. We both know how fun international travel can be, especially with a talented flight crew onboard. But behind the glamour, red lipstick, and sharp uniforms, what does it really take to deliver the best in-flight service? We talk to globe-trotting Monica Arciaga, the talented and veteran crew member who's ready to welcome you to the Business Class cabin on Emirates Airlines.
Tell us something about yourself.
I was born and raised in Muntinlupa City, PH. Dad proudly served in the U.S. Navy while mom used to work as a flight stewardess for Saudia Airlines. I'm 23 years old and I've been flying for 4 years now. My life here in the sandpit has been really great so far. Dubai is a very cosmopolitan city and majority of the residents are expatriates. My decision to move here widened my horizons. It introduced me to different cultures with diverse backgrounds.It made me multilingual too! Lol! I'm also proud to say that I'm living independently here, without any support from my folks. Technically speaking, I am licensed to operate Boeing 777 and Airbus A380, the largest commercial aircraft in the skies. And while I'm enjoying my life here, I still miss home. I miss mom, her cooking. I miss my friends, the pollution and even the heavy traffic! 

Tell us a weird quirk of yours.
I'm the type who doesn't drink nor smoke. I don't go clubbing as well. From a cabin crew’s perspective, this is something odd or could even be weird since our job is known for having a very social environment. We get to fly with different people, go to different destinations and interact with different cultures. But during my layovers, I would rather go shopping alone or just stay and rest on my bed.

Where exactly are you now?
While writing this for my friend, Millie, I am in Dubai, UAE where all Emirates crew are based. But tomorrow, I’ll be flying to Sydney, one of my most-loved destinations. 

How did you start your career as a flight attendant?
I didn’t really follow mom’s footsteps. I just said to myself that I want to work to have my own money. 2 months prior to graduation, I was trying to look for a job online. I landed at Cebu Pacific’s website and saw for myself that the company was accepting applicants for the position of cabin crew. From there, things started to look pretty good for me. I was interviewed, screened and got accepted. My experiences with the company gave me an eye-opener about the real essence of the job. Yes, I had wonderful experiences with Cebu Pacific but like anybody else, I wanted to achieve more.
So when I finally reached 21 (the minimum age requirement), I started sending my application materials to quite a number of airline companies. Not a single company called me back for interview. I said to myself, “Dahil ba hindi ako sexy o di ko kasing poised ang isang Ruffa Gutierrez kaya ‘di ako natatanggap? Well… I have a good set of teeth! Ano ba ang gusto nila?!” There was this one time that I luckily passed the screening process but failed to advance through the panel interview. Major rejection. Buti pa sa game shows, may consolation prize pag natalo. Ako e umuwing luhaan. But I guess, I’m a fighter. So one time, I learned from a friend that Emirates Airlines will be holding an open day (recruitment day) in Manila. I told my (girl) best friend about it and we both applied together. We went for screening and passed. The next day, we did the group interview and passed as well. The following day, I did the final and one-on-one interview. After two or three days, I received a message from the agency that I have been selected for the position. Then the rest is history! I had been rejected big time. But that didn't stop me. I never let that feeling dwell in me.
How many countries have you been to?
32 cities in 20 countries 

Tell us about your typical day at work.
As a company policy, we sign-in 2 hours before the scheduled time of departure. But as for me, work begins when I wear our Emirates uniform and that signature red lipstick on because we have to look gorgeous as soon as we step out of our flats or hotel rooms. After signing in, duty crew will then proceed to a briefing room for the usual pre-flight briefing. (In order to operate a flight, one MUST answer correctly during the safe talk wherein a senior crew would ask a random question about safety, security and first aid… pass it or you get bumped off!)
 I’ve been working in Business Class for 8 months now and I tell you, it is a lot of hardwork. I couldn’t share the service step-by-step ‘cause that can take forever. Haha! But what we normally do is to welcome the passengers, give them their choice of meal, look after them in between meal services and bid them goodbye as they deplane. But that’s from a passenger’s point of view. From ours, before one could ever board the aircraft, we already perform some things necessary for the flight’s safety. For example, we check if all safety equipments are fully operational. We check if food is good and those kinds of things. And even after passengers have disembarked from the aircraft, we still do something similar to what I just mentioned. As for the most exciting part, it’s got to be hearing the gears touch down and breaks being applied. This only means one thing – rest. 

What’s the best thing about being a flight stewardess?
The best thing is basically everything about it. We get absolutely free accommodation here in Dubai. And that extends up to the water and electricity bills! Shuttle that brings us to and from work is provided as well. We normally stay in 4-star hotels (at times 5). We receive allowance for every 24 hours of layover. We get discounted tickets not only from our own company but also from other carriers as well. We get tax-free salary. And last but certainly not the least is that we get to see the world for free!

Are you with someone right now?
Yes, he's currently based in Washington, DC for his graduate studies at Georgetown. We’ve been together for almost seven years now. And he has been really supportive of me. I remember, he’d wake up early to drive me to interviews and wait until the day is over. Before I step out of the car for a screening, he would do a final “quality control” check on my make-up and my suit. Minsan nga, siya pa mas natataranta kesa sakin, mas kabado pa siya kesa sa iinterviewhin. He would cry with me after a rejection. He would also take me out for dinner to celebrate good news. He is my partner and my best friend.
How do you manage your relationship when you’re always out of the country?
LDR is no easy thing and our mortal enemy is time differences. But thanks to Skype and BBM, we can catch-up whenever I’m on ground. I also try to bid for JFK (New York) once in a while, which is a 4-hour drive from D.C. And so far, so good. I guess it’s working for the both of us! 

Who or what inspires you and why?
The hardships that I have been through to get to where I am now.. I will never forget all the physical pain and emotional stress that I've been experiencing as a cabin crew. I know how hard it is to get a job and I am really thankful to Him that He granted my heart’s desire.
My dad left us last year. I dedicate this one for him. He was not that expressive before but I know he’s always been proud of me and that he will always be watching over me. 

What was the best thing that ever happened to you on the job?
I would say when I got my upgrade to Business Class. Promotions are fulfilling and it gives you a sense of accomplishment when you know you are climbing up the ladder! 

What is the memorable moment you have had on board?
Memorable, for us (cabin crew), doesn’t always mean “all happy days.” I’ve never celebrated my birthday in flight nor had a photo-op with a Hollywood celebrity. But the most unforgettable scenario I’ve had was when we had to restrain a schizophrenic guy who almost started a fire on board. It was crazy seeing the man knocked down and hand-cuffed for the entire duration of the flight. Parang eksena sa pelikula. 
What message do you have for people aspiring to be a flight attendant?
First of all, any applicant doesn’t need some kind of a Flight Attendant course to become one. Airline companies may have different procedures for safety, emergency and service. That’s why a trainee can spend as much as 2 months in training college, memorizing the cabin crew emergency manual from cover to cover and verbatim. Educational requirement is usually at least high school graduate. But I’ve also met and flown with some colleagues who are actually lawyers, nurses, psychologists, architects and a lot of that!
Next, flying experience could be a plus factor when applying.
During the group interview stage of the application, recruiters pay less attention to the answer's contents. Instead, it is important for one to properly project herself under pressure. Simply put, they will hire an applicant because of her overall personality!
Another thing, the job can be too demanding so make sure to deal with stress pretty well. There will always be unsatisfied customers, slacker colleagues, busy flights, delays, fatigue, jet lag and a lot of that. So it's really important to know how to handle certain situations.
It also helps to to think and stay positive. And that a crew is fit both in mind and in body – we don’t want an incapacitated crew during evacuation!
Last but definitely not the least, SMILE.

Please check out this video to know more about crew life and the recruitment process! Thanks!

Emirates Airlines Cab
Listening to: Flourescent Adolescent by Arctic Monkeys
        Loving: Game of Thrones Graphic Novel
             =(: sick 


  1. Very interesting! I've always wanted to a cabin crew, and I always thought I'm fit for the position (haha) but alas, I'm enjoying my stay in the actuarial field.

    1. Thanks!I'm happy you found your field. Actuarial/s are really "priced" in the insurance industry :)

  2. Hi we were batch mates in elementary if you could still remember? I would just like to relay this message to you if you do have contact with Monica. She was actually a great friend of mine way back then. I'm really happy on what she have achieved and hopefully you could relay this message to her. Thank you Millie :)

    1. Hello Sofia! Or Mafi? I think Mafi ata yung nickname mo dati? heheheh! Of course I still remember you! heheheh Thank you for your comment and yes, I will relay this message! Ingat! :D

  3. Nice story of yours! Ive experienced a lot of rejections also, i only spent 3 months in my first job and until now wala pa ring work. Now i am aspiring to be a flight attendant though my yung height ko di pa umabot sa 5'3ft.. Im only 5'2 and 3/4. :( di rin ako sexy and pretty, smiling face lang ipagmamalaki ko. Kahit 5'3 pa minimum sa cebu pacific i will try pa rin, coz im a fighter too.. :)

  4. Baka po may mairerecommend kayong iba pang airline na pwede ako? Thanks and God bless!
    I would like to dedicate this song sainyo, :) super sakto sainyo

  5. Hi po! I'm aspiring to be a flight attendant of emirates one day. But i heard that they are not hiring filipinas nowadays. Is there a truth to that news? Even if magtry pa po ako sa other countries where they have their open days? Thank you in advance po for your response :)

  6. FA wanna be here too! So sad I only end up reading blogs and visiting Emirates updates but sadly no OD/AD here in the Philippines. Any advice/updates? That would mean a lot. Thank you. God bless!

  7. so inspiring, :)
    this is my dream job and i will do my best also to reach it. :)


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