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Redefining In-Flight Catering

Francis Louckx – Belgian-Canadian Corporate Flight Attendant

Francis LOUCKX corporate flight attendant

Today we have the honor of bringing you an interview with a seasoned corporate flight attendant who also serves as a butler. Francis Louckx has sixteen years of serving his elite clientele with the utmost care for performing a VVIP level of service both onboard private aircraft and super-mega yachts. Read along to learn more about Francis, is travels and experiences, and some of his tips for phenominal service.

Which aircraft have you flown on during your career?

  • BBJ
  • Embraer Legacy 500
  • Falcon 7X
  • Gulfstream 500
  • Mega-Yacht from 45 to 100m
  • Sailboat of 75m

Where did you receive flight attendant training?

International School Janssen in Brussels & SEBENA ex.  Belgian airline and Private Aviation business school in Cergy Pontoise – Paris.

When was your last recurrent?

February 2016

What is your base location?

Currently, I am based out of Paris, but my preference is Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Jeddah Saudi Arabia for private flight aviation and South of France for yachting industry (based in Antibes, Monaco, Sanremo and the Antilles).

How long have you been a flight attendant?

I started doing mess procedure in 1985, so I have 32 years’ experience. Then I opted to work in the yachting industry and private on Mega-Yacht currently I am Butler Assistant Director and private chauffeur for a CEO for 16 years.

How long as a corporate flight attendant?

16 years.

Do you have a military background?

No, but as if I had done it, I am strict, orderly, and disciplined as a leader.

Aside from your corporate flight attendant training, what other education do you have?

  • Bachelor’s degree in Interior Design and Decoration
  • Tourism training travel agent
  • One year training as a hospital nurse – nursing aide

Which languages are you fluent in?

My mother tongue is French, but I speak and write English and I have a basic knowledge of Italian.

Which business aviation conventions and trade shows do you attend?

Once the Paris Air Show Bourget.

What has been your most memorable flight?

When I traveled around the world with a Lebanese owner as Traveling Butler and Flight Attendant aboard the private jet – Gulfstream 500.

What types of cuisine to you prefer?

My favorite cuisine is European, gourmet and luxury product, such as caviar, foie gras, etc. Of course, Belgian cooking (chocolates and pralines accompanied by a small coffee) and fine French cooking are also on my list.

Foie gras.During an aperitif with foie gras of duck or goose, this prestigious dish invites itself on the table and is declined in all its forms to unveil its charms. The appetizers of an aperitif with foie gras promise a very pleasant flight. To discover the subtle differences between foie gras of duck and goose, the Duo of Foie Gras of Goose and Duck allows realizing all its desires. From the south-west or from Alsace, whole, or in terrine, the foie gras tastefully tastes appetizers with duck foie gras. The condiments are intended to sublimate toast appetizers with foie gras: salt flavored with white truffle, Sarawak pepper or onion confit with blackcurrant cream. All flavors are possible with foie gras. See my post on LinkedIn on how to serve foie gras on a jet.

But I adapt to all the cuisines of the world, I like to discover the new flavors of the Middle East: the Mezzos Lebanese, Turkish and Arabic cuisine. I like all culinary, worldwide.

The Oriental Cappuccino with camel milk, sprayed with gold leaf to your VVIP aboard the jet is an assured surprise; it delights lovers of gourmet luxury in many countries, as well as on the private jet and super-mega yacht. The largest consumer is India with about 12 tons of gold per culinary year. Gold leaves decorate traditional pastries, but also in granules for events like weddings and religious festivals. It is up to you to challenge yourself onboard, to impress your VVIP if you feel able to do it!

I know I do it! I have presented this during the flight attendant’s qualification exam for the butler flight attendants, and have the details on my post about serving Cappuccino Oriental on LinkedIn.

What are your favorite destinations, and why?

I appreciate all the countries of the Middle East for their generosity, kindness and, above all, the gigantism of their architecture and the luxury that inhabits the oriental culture fascinates me permanently.

I also like Africa and the Maghreb countries, treks in the deserts of the Algerian south because of the warm and friendly people with traditions where I am friends with a Tuareg family.

Countries inaccessible to mass tourism (forbidden country) like North Korea! That I visited with great interest. Asia in general, China, Tibet, Bhutan country – where people are the happiest in the world. Nepal, India, Iran – for outstanding architecture. Central Asia – I love all these countries too – their smiling people, and the simplicity of their lives, architecture, incredible food and the level of detail they put into decorating and presenting their dishes that are amazing!

The whole world is beautiful when you have the privilege of having an international profession that makes you travel and meet all nationalities, life is totally different, you have a much more open mind. I have traveled to more than 130 countries, all different from each other. I have traveled all over Canada in all of the seasons; this country is mine in second nationality. I have experienced the pleasures of the Canadian winter dog sled in the great Canadian north with the fantastic Inuit.

The great countries are in my heart, as well as South America. I particularly like Chile, Brazil, Argentina – all known for its wildlife and natural scenery. South Africa I enjoy the encounter with animals very much.

What is your favorite restaurant in Dubai?

The Al Mahara is a restaurant located in the Burj Al Arab. You will find exceptional quality seafood and other finely prepared dishes. The icing on the cake is the original setting: you will enjoy your meal while enjoying the view of a large aquarium, just as beautiful as the contents of your plate are good! The prices are high, given the good reputation and prestige of the place, but it is a unique opportunity to enjoy a real feast in the most expensive hotel in the world! Menu (starter, main course, dessert) from 80 €.

What are some things to do that you would suggest for a corporate flight attendant visiting Dubai for the first time?

Burj Al Arab – Located on an island in an impressive sailboat-like building, this luxury hotel is a 5-minute walk from Wild Wadi Water Park and 4 km from the Mall of the Emirates.

Featuring large bay windows overlooking the gulf or the city, the sumptuous suites come with a 24-carat gold iPad, free Wi-Fi, a flat-screen TV and an iPod dock. Egyptian-cotton sheets, designer toiletries, a hot tub and butler service are available. Superior suites include a snooker table, library, movie theater and private elevator.

Buffet breakfast, parking and entrances to the water park are free of charge. The hotel has 9 restaurants and bars, 4 swimming pools and a private beach. It also features a spa, a fitness center and a children’s club.

WARNING: It is impossible to enter without a reservation! Tip: if you do not have a room booked, book an excursion that visits the hotel, for 125 € you get a meal and tea time on the 24th floor and you are picked up by car to get there. The coffee is very expensive: over 50 €.

I love to try tea time in all the different palaces of Emirates felted and luxurious atmosphere, with impeccable service to the Orientale, as I like.

Any cultural tips for a corporate flight attendant visiting Dubai for the first time?

  1. Dubai has everything a metropolitan and modern city in the desert can offer. Not only you will find beautiful beaches, such as Jumeirah Beach, but the city can offer you ski slopes. Dubai has an exceptional metro network and an urban bus network at bus stops under air conditioning. For me, the best hotel I have found in the area is Hotel Atlantis, located on the palm island.
  2. The different tours to visit, such as Burj Khalifa, Burj al Arab and soon Burj Dubai – which will culminate at 1200m – amazing!
  3. As for the shops, Mall Dubai: located at the foot of the Burj Khalifa, of which it is an integral part of the real estate complex in Dubai. It has a perfect location within 5 minutes’ walk, always taxi front, very good breakfast, attentive and helpful staff. The largest shopping mall in the UAE with a commercial area for 1,200 shops, opened its doors November 4, 2008. A Souk devoted to the gold trade eventually brings together nearly 220 retailers. An 80,000 square-meter “fashion island” is home to 450 haute couture stores and the first Galleries’ Lafayette and Bloomingdale’s in the Middle East.
    • As attractions, the center includes: The Dubai Aquarium & Underwater Zoo, one of the largest aquariums in the world, where sharks, rays and a total of 85 different marine species swim among the 33,000 animals it contains. The aquarium holds the second-largest glass (32.88 m wide x 8.3 m high x 750 mm thick and weighing 245 614 kg) which can withstand the 10 million liters of water it supports; behind that of the world’s largest aquarium located on Hengqin Island (China).
    • An Olympic ice rink whose refrigeration uses vegetable technology capable of maintaining 1.5 “of ice, capable of holding up to 2,000 visitors with state-of-the-art equipment.
    • Waterfalls; A view of the highest tower in the world, the Burj Khalifa; Visiting the 124th
  4. Mall of the Emirates: especially famous for its artificial ski resort, Ski Dubai, whose air-conditioned slopes rise above the shopping center. One of the largest shopping centers in Dubai and the United Arab Emirates, with 223,000 m² of retail space. This is my favorite mall, where I find everything I need. Not too big! Accessible by metro and bus. Taxis are always available at the exit. It seems to me the most charming of Dubai. The shops, the paths, the environment, everything is top.
    • The biggest, with its giant aquarium, is the place where you will find a variety of international and local brands, more traditional Dubai Creek and Gold Souk, Gold Market Getaways in the Desert.

What are some in-flight catering challenges you have experienced?

Always have a professional appearance and the official dress code is a must, never forgetting that one represents the crew and the owners of the aircraft. Take care to learn about the tastes of your passengers. Some passengers may have a dish that would be a horror to have served if they are suffering from allergies or if they are on a lighter diet. It would be a shame if a guest could not eat what you serve. Do not go into any complicated recipe, if there is not a cook onboard.

  1. Do not innovate onboard either. Play the card of simplicity; your passengers will be grateful.
  2. Knowledge of your safety equipment on the airplane, as well as first aid and CPR training.
  3. Experience in providing high-end customer service, keeping excellent manners and posture and always acting as a true professional.
  4. Knowledge of food around the world, different types of diets and dietary restrictions.
  5. It is very important to know safe food handling and how to avoid cross-contamination.
  6. Advanced knowledge of wine and spirits is an asset.

I try always as much as possible to order by e-mail in major hotels, such as Martinez, Ritz, Carlton, Georges V in Paris, who know the clientele of jet private because I am more reassured with the hotels than the caterers – without wanting to blame the caterer that I respect! Sometimes I have no choice; I always request their specialty and a quote before or as soon as I arrive, in order to be ready for my next departure.

  • If I have time, I ask if I can go into the kitchen at the hotel to get to know the chef who sometimes suggests menus easier to serve onboard. So I can see the hygiene of the kitchen, what prices they offer me and be able to make corrections if necessary, as portions that differ from one continent to another.
  • In the United States and Canada, portions of caterers are huge portions, and I do not like to throw food away, while in other places, such as in Europe in France, the portions are much smaller and more worked. I might use more zakouski and aperitifs.
  • I always ask for the size of the container in grams, in order to get an idea of the quantity. In Germany, often there are sauces! It is important to order the type of container needed to heat the food onboard and always ask to separate the sauces from the sides.
  • I ask to pack everything separately; in Paris the chef makes a picture of the dish so I can straighten on the plate his work onboard.
  • If I do not know the passenger preferences, I always order the meat rare or medium-red, to finish cooking them onboard, so they will not be dried and overcooked.

If I have to place an order on the phone, I ask them to send the estimate to the hotel where I am, before confirming. Then I try to be at the FBO two hours or more before the flight in order to receive and check the logistics. If something was wrong, or the caterer would have forgotten to send any of the items, I can call the caterer if there is still time to deliver. They often forget.

In-flight catering can be difficult in airports where no catering is available and you do not know the area. This makes it difficult to find a good cook and where to store items. Sometimes, in difficult conditions of temperature and hygiene arise, often in southern tropical countries or in the paradisiac islands lost in the middle of the ocean.

Aboard a yacht is easier to manage, because the chef is onboard and often he is assigned to the owner. Therefore, the chef knows his food tastes and is the private chef of the family. Also, there is enough room to store cold item in refrigeration. On the jet, I always arrange with the chef of the highest-rated hotel in the place to prepare meals and keep cool until the time of flight.

How did you overcome the in-flight catering challenges?

The challenge is that sometimes there is really little time to solve problems, except with the jet or yacht of a private owner or when you have plenty of time to visit the kitchens, caterers and luxury hotel of the area. It takes an organization in advance that solves almost every problem. In addition to the smile and good humor, a bit of humor and good communication open many doors to discovery.

What made you decide to become a corporate flight attendant?

Hospitality is in me since my youngest age, it is a part of me and my character, no matter what job I occupy. Hospitality means human interaction, and this process is always by continuing to do things and create bonds with people sharing the same tastes of life. As the stewardess and her male counterpart, the steward, are responsible for caring for passengers from the moment they board a plane or yacht (or even a train) and until they arrive at their destination. During the flight or cruise, they mainly deal with the comfort and safety of the travelers. Constantly serving customers and under the responsibility of the pilot-in-command,

My Philosophy of the VVIP Sky Butler- Flight Attendant:

“Once I became a butler, I will always stay a butler in life; this is my base.”

For the passengers and for myself, I believe that having a strong commitment to serving high-end clientele improves the rate of growth. Being a VIP Butler & Professional Attendant Flight, I cannot turn off the butler button even when I’m leaving my duty to move around the world. This means I always look at the well-being of passengers, before anything else. I act professionally, very courteous, attentive to details, the desire to help others and to please everyone, as discreet as possible, I am also an ambassador of the individual or company that hires me. The Butler Flight Attendant is the essential link in any successful flight, depending on the comfort and well-being, but especially the safety of each passenger onboard the aircraft.

What more can be said. I have always liked to be of service since the age of 22 when I came back from Canada to live in Europe. I discovered and observed this job during the flight and I always said that I wanted to become a flight attendant or butler. Unfortunately for me, at that time in 1980, this trade was especially occupied by the female crew. Yes, and currently I realize that it has not changed very much with a few exceptions. The privilege remains with the female staff and is a phenomenon that I cannot understand while a male staff can also provide the same level of service.

So, I turned to yachting on private mega-yachts where I learned the high-end and refined service of a wealthy clientele and royals. Serving in roles as Butler, Sky Butler or Traveling Butler remains a very elegant way of travel when a customer likes high-end refinement. I like this profession when it is done with class, elegance and – above all – with professionalism that is not always respected. Serving in a restaurant, hotel, boat, yacht or jet plane is always serving a passenger. So why so much selection between male and female crew cabin crew?

What advice would you give someone looking to become a corporate flight attendant?

  1. You must provide a safe environment for customers and cabin crew onboard through safe work practices and sufficient knowledge, acquired in yachting industry or private and civil aviation.
  2. You must be reachable during the days of service and show evident record of satisfactory attendance in order to avoid any disruption of flight operations. At the request of the company, you must be ready in cases where there is short-notice of a flight.
  3. You shall perform onboard service, in accordance with the processes and service standards on a jet as on a yacht, to maintain the highest level of customer service
  4. You must maintain onboard equipment in terms of quality and quantity, especially when the aircraft is away from the base, in order to reduce the costs associated with breakage and loss
  5. You must understand and anticipate offering the highest level of service to all clients by addressing all their requests in a timely manner while maintaining integrity, confidentiality and professionalism at all times.
  6. You must understand the value of high-end exceptional customer service, safety and aspects of life as a member of the cabin crew that you represent, even in an unplanned operation.
  7. You must be able to support the employer’s ability to work under pressure and be flexible, and understand the complex business requirements of the company.
  8. You must always display confidence and immaculate decorum, adhering to the private jet standards, and maintain grooming at all times when at work.

What email address should be used to contact you?

I am looking for a new job for a new, stable and progressive career That will allow me to continue traveling around the world while working with a permanent and full-time contract. I am available for an immediate commitment.

If you are looking for an experienced aviation agent or a mega-yacht, contact me at louckx.f@gmail.com of look me up on LinkedIn. I have many articles posted on LinkedIn about how to serve.

I’m available for new job opportunity as:

VVIP Royal Sky Butler Flight Attendant on BBJ-ACJ and on super mega-yacht, based worldwide.

“Whenever you will be honored, you will be driven to greater success.”

Francis Louckx

This article is part of a series of interviews we are conducting with corporate cabin crew members. If you would like to be considered for an interview, which is posted on our blog and all of our social media accounts, please contact socialmedia@airculinaire.com.

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