Today we are excited to bring you a one-on-one interview with Sophia Hollo, a corporate flight attendant who is based out of Athens, Vienna and Budapest. Read on to learn more about Sophia, her experiences in aviation and her favorite destinations – Barcelona and Dubai.
Which aircraft have you flown on during your career?
Challenger 300, 850, Lineage 1000, Legacy, 737 Business Jet, 737 Classic, B-737 NG, B-747 Jumbo, A320 and MD80.
Where did you receive flight attendant training?
I received my commercial training in Slovakia and Greece. I then received my corporate flight attendant training in Malta, Austria and Vilnius.
When was your last recurrent?
June 2015 for B-737.
How long have you been a flight attendant?
In total, I have been a flight attendant for 10 years, with over seven years in commercial aviation and almost three in corporate aviation.
Have you received any awards / industry scholarships? Career highlights?
I haven’t received any awards or scholarship in aviation, just during my university years. I consider myself enough lucky to have the chance to work with different passengers. I’ve worked with everyone from celebrities, musicians, politicians and royal families from the Middle East. I have been senior cabin crew on a BBJ, but I also love working alone on a single crew aircraft. Probably, the most joyful part of the work is when you can serve on an aircraft like the Lineage 1000 that is absolutely unique and has a really exclusive interior. Therefore, you must provide exclusive service, as well.
Aside from your corporate flight attendant training, what other education do you have?
I have a protocol manager diploma and a BA in business communication.
Which languages are you fluent in?
English, German, Greek and Hungarian.
What has been your most memorable flight?
We had a honeymoon couple flying out of the Middle East and I had to prepare and decorate the cabin accordingly. We spread flowers and petals all around the cabin, including a heart from petals. Purchased some electronic candles and managed to make a real Arabic-style romantic atmosphere, with some alcohol-free Champagne, of course. The couple was really touched when they saw the plane. It was a really pleasant flight.
What type of cuisine do you prefer?
I like Arabic cuisine, as I have experience working with many guests from the Gulf countries. But when it comes to catering flights, of course my preferences depend on the passengers and their culture. I always try my best to mix their traditional cuisine with an international one, so I can offer a better selection of food.
What are your favorite destinations, and why?
I love Athens and Budapest, as those cities are my home. I also enjoy New York because it’s a truly cosmopolitan and impressive city; but my main favorites are Barcelona and the luxurious Dubai.
What are your favorite restaurants in Barcelona and Dubai?
In Barcelona, I would like to highlight a small family restaurant in the old town, called “La Cucina de la Mama.” This restaurant only has five small tables, but all the pastas are homemade and salads are freshly chopped. On a seven-day trip in Barcelona, we ate dinner there five times because of how great the food was. Even my gourmet captain was amazed.
In Dubai, I love the La Parilla Restaurant at the top of the Jumeirah Beach Hotel. It’s a luxurious fine-dining Latin restaurant, with an extraordinary view on the Burj Al Arab. You must try them for Friday brunch!
What are some things to do that you would suggest for a corporate flight attendant visiting Barcelona and Dubai for the first time?
In Barcelona, definitely the center of the city, the La Rambla, the Gothic Quarter, the Sagrada Familia, the Park Guel, the Museum Nacional d’Art de Catalunya and the surrounding park, and the beach. It’s actually a city that never sleeps. Barcelona is just fantastic and there is always something to explore. Also, you can enjoy the several Catalonian tapas bars in the narrow streets of Barcelona just as much the sparkling night life with several cozy bar or famous big clubs.
In Dubai, of course, the Burj Khalifa and the Business Bay with the “Dancing Fountain,” the Emirates Mall and the Dubai Mall (you can find easily some special request items in any of the malls that could save you time and effort looking around). The Dubai Marina, Burj Al Arab, the Palm Dubai and the Atlantis Hotel on the Palm. Dubai is a really impressive city! I was amazed first time saw it and I am still amazed every time I return. You can try local Arabic food and can visit several famous restaurants, as well.
Any cultural tips for a corporate flight attendant visiting Barcelona and Dubai for the first time?
In Barcelona, there are lots of places to visit (like Sagrada Familia and the Guel Garden) and many famous museum (like the Picasso Museum). However, due to the large number of tourists, you should consider purchasing your tickets online. Otherwise, it might happen that, at the sights, the tickets are already sold out for the day. For food, visit one of the tapas bars, where you can try several local specialties with a glass of nice wine. Public transportation is very easy and cheap, so are taxis. Many people speak English beside Spanish, so you shouldn’t face any issues with communication. Be aware that for many sights, you need to be properly dressed (no mini skirt / mini shorts for ladies, or shorts for gentlemen).
Dubai looks cosmopolitan. However, you need to be aware of the cultural differences. It’s a sparkling city where you can find the most beautiful dresses when you go out, yet you need to mind the length of your skirt and the style of your shirts and dresses. You can have alcoholic drinks only in certain places and hotels. Local people are really friendly, but you definitely must respect their culture. Not taking any photos of ladies or gentlemen unless you have their permission. Taxis are very cheap, and you can find them anywhere on the road. They using a taxi meter, so there is no need to bargain before taking a taxi. Always have a scarf or a small jumper with you, since air-conditioned places might be quite cold.
What are some in-flight catering challenges you have experienced?
How did you overcome them?
I never had any extreme challenges regarding catering, just the usual cases of what I believe all of us meet during our careers.
Once, we had no idea when a flight was going to take place – if in two hours or even next day, but passenger requested small snacks. So, had to contact all the caterers in the area who could provide catering with last-minute notice. I found one, and they took the order on standby. The flight was within 1.5 hours, but the caterer did a perfect job and managed to deliver almost everything I needed. Of course, there were no extra special items in this case.
One other challenge was when we were at a tropical destination and the caterer couldn’t deliver any dry ice. In addition, the catering items were not in a chiller, as it was not available on the whole island, and passengers wanted to have some special food. We had to select the best-looking part of the catering and, with some creative garnish, still make a perfect-looking yummy dish.
What made you decide to become a corporate flight attendant?
I know it sounds cliché, but since I was a very little kid (about 4 years old) I wanted to be a flight attendant. Then, when I fulfilled that dream, the new dream was to fly on a 747 Jumbo, which is what I always saw at the Amsterdam airport. After flying on the 747, I achieved everything I wanted as an airline flight attendant. Then the new challenge was to get into the corporate / VIP flying!
It’s a big challenge every day, as every passenger is different, and you always must give your very best and an exceptional, personalized service. But, must say I love every minute of it!
What do you feel are essential skills for a successful corporate flight attendant?
Attention on details (realizing what a passenger wants before they even ask), perfect communication skills, creativity, flexibility, knowledge of different cultures, tolerance, and a pleasant appearance.
What advice would you give someone looking to become a corporate flight attendant?
Never give up sending your CV. One day someone will be looking for someone just like you! Learn as much as you can, do a lot of research, take some service training if you have a chance, and watch a lot of Master Chef (as my previous cabin manager said).
What email address should be used to contact you?
This article is part of a series of interviews we are conducting with corporate cabin crew members; individuals who are not employed by Air Culinaire Worldwide. 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 firstname.lastname@example.org.