This week we have the pleasure of spotlighting Farshid Chinwalla, a corporate flight attendant based out of Mumbai, India. Read on to learn more about him, his experiences and his recommendations for locations across the globe.
Which aircraft have you flown on during your career?
- Boeing 737 – 400, 700, 800, 900, 900ER
- Airbus 330-200
- Hawker 800-XP
- Airbus ACJ-319
- Global Express – XRS, 5000, 6000 VISION
- Embrayer – ERJ-135
Where did you receive flight attendant training?
November – 2006 after joining Jet Airways India Pvt. Ltd
When was your last recurrent?
March – 2017
What is your base location(s) and ICAO(s)?
Mumbai – Maharashtra, India. We follow DGCA rules and regulations
How long have you been a flight attendant?
Little over 10 years, as we speak.
How long as a commercial FA?
5 years and 6 months
How long as a corporate FA?
Have you received any awards / industry scholarships? Career highlights?
My first recognition / award / accomplishment was received when I was given a 100% productivity award for never reporting sick in my previous airline Jet Airways India Pvt Ltd. I was felicitated in front of a new batch of cabin crew, on their graduation day as a mentor for being 100% productive to the airline. This was definitely my moment of pride.
The second time I felt I had reached a small milestone, was when I was given a long-standing commitment award by both the airlines I’ve flown for, Jet Airways India Pvt. Ltd. as well as the current corporate airline, Reliance Commercial Dealer’s Ltd.
Aside from your corporate flight attendant training, what other education do you have?
I am a graduate in the arts field. However, academics were never really my interests, over and above I was never ever keen to join a “desk job,” simply because I can’t sit in one place. Also, the idea of going to work every day at that stipulated time is something I was never really up for.
Hence, I did IATA Foundation course from Goury Dixit IAFD Institution Mumbai and the certificate awarded to me is from Montreal, Canada. This was my indirect first step into the field of travel and tourism and secured a distinction.
Apart from this, I have attended a crash course by the renowned finishing school lady Ms. Sabira Merchant – for fine dining and wine service etiquette. This was to enhance my onboard service skills once I had joined the corporate flight attendant field.
Since I was mainly serving in business class as a commercial flight attendant on long routes, I have had the opportunity to visit quite a few vineyards and undertake the wine sampling, serving and preservation courses, not to mention that visiting whisky and beer breweries individually have helped me enrich my knowledge on these beverages as well.
Which languages are you fluent in?
Gujarati being my mother tongue is one of the languages I’m fluent in, apart from the most obvious required language for conversation being English, followed by Hindi and Marathi because of the country I hail from.
Which business aviation conventions and tradeshows do you attend?
Sadly none, as India, doesn’t participate in any of them, neither hosts them. Truly I would like to go for such conventions, in case I get an invitation well in advance so as to not disrupt my flight schedule.
What has been your most memorable flight?
Since I really love my job, there are many such flights that come to mind, but the one that tops the list is the flight from Chennai to Brussels onward to Toronto and back. The reason being, not only did we as crew have a great time off flight, but even on-board with the passengers there was so much of enjoyment and good comfort level among us that it never felt like we are doing a job. Every sector, passengers on our flight have enlightened one aspect about us and that was unity and warmth that was displayed towards the passengers and even among each crew member. This was truly an awesome feedback to have received.
What types of cuisine do you prefer?
Well, I’m a Parsi – Zoroastrian by religion, so any non-vegetarian cuisine is ok to me. However, beef steaks take the cake when I have to really decide on my favorite food and the restaurant that serves some best meat is Brazilian Stake house in Manhattan – NYC
What are your favorite destinations, and why?
Beyond the shadow of a doubt, it has to be Manhattan, NYC, as its got everything from sightseeing to shopping to nightlife to amazing restaurants and street food. The winters are as enjoyable as are the summers. The only thing I fell that’s missing in NYC is a beach. I have always loved the snow / cold places and the beaches, so the others would have be St. Moritz in Switzerland and then the Bahamas.
What are your favorite restaurants?
Well if its beef and meat then it has to be Churrascaria Plataforma Brazilian Steak House in Manhattan, NYC
When in the Bahamas, please definitely try the local drink at the beach – The Bahama Mama.
What are some things to do that you would suggest for a corporate flight attendant visiting some of your favorite destinations for the first time?
Well NYC is no alien to anyone, but yes two places that took me by surprise were the top of Empire State Building and Ground Zero. Ground Zero is so well done up commemorating the people who gave up their lives during 9/11. It is simply amazing and harmonious.
St. Moritz (Switzerland) is typically a skier’s paradise, without of the fairy tale landscapes when it snows heavily. A very old town-side getup with peace and tranquility at its best; so the best thing to do is just relax and enjoy each and every landscape.
Any cultural tips for a corporate flight attendant visiting one of your favorite destinations for the first time?
Anywhere in the whole of USA people are friendly loving and down to earth, so just be yourself. Having said this, you have to tip (minimum USD1) for any services provided to you, be it a taxi driver, or at the bar, or even at a breakfast table, and believe me they appreciate when it’s done willingly.
What are some in-flight catering challenges you have experienced?
How did you overcome them?
The biggest challenge in our field as a corporate crew is getting the logistics well organized. For example, if I am heading to a new destination, first of all to locate a good Indian cuisine restaurant itself is a challenge. After that, we have to see how the food would be delivered to the aircraft because at times the restaurant doesn’t carry out the delivery, at times certain FBOs / countries (Catania, Italy) do not allow outside food; they discourage it. Hence, we have to ask the in-flight caterer to get it arranged and probable even take permission from the handling agencies.
Dietary restrictions of certain guests have to be always kept in mind and explained clearly to the chef. In countries where English is a barrier, we do take help of the local person who in turn would translate things to the chef and vice versa.
The best way to avoid all this is to do your homework regarding the same well in advance, so there are no last-minute surprises springing up.
What made you decide to become a corporate flight attendant?
I like to interact with people, fellow crew and especially anyone related to the aviation segment. On one such flight I was speaking to a corporate flight attendant who got me thinking as a crew for business jets. Well, I had completed 5 years in the commercial segment and had a pretty good experience of serving guests in business class, flying wide-bodied aircraft; having good knowledge of wine, cheese and food pairing, so all this made me want to take up the next challenge in the sky —- corporate life. Yes, I started researching all the companies in India which had private jets – there are around 105 companies – and I sent my resume to 30 companies I thought were on a good scale. Got replies from only 3 companies and here I am with probably the biggest and the best corporate company in India.
What do you feel are essential skills for a successful corporate flight attendant?
The biggest skill requirement is anticipation, without which you will always fall short of something or the other. The clientele that any corporate crew deals with are so high-profiled that we can’t think of saying no to such guest, leave aside refusing them for something. After having flown a particular guest, the crew should be able to read their mind before the guest would even think of it.
At times, I’ve flown a guest for the very first time, so I will always ask a fellow crew member for his / her likes and dislikes. Even after that, I would look up the internet for that guest’s special preferences and comfort. I have had guests telling me “How did you know I like this? Very few people know about it,” and that’s what makes my flight an experience for him / her.
Another skill set required is to keep things ready well in advance and for contingency planning for short notices ahead of flight. It’s very important to keep as many people as possible in the loop when preparing for a flight so there are many lines of defense to cross through before a mishap / shortfall may occur that is service related.
Have in-depth and correct information of anything and everything on the aircraft you are flying, right from software to hardware related, from menu to the count of bags and flight time, destination weather. Most of the times you’re the only operating cabin crew and there is nothing more embarrassing than not knowing any of the above info / knowledge when asked to you by your guest.
What advice would you give someone looking to become a corporate flight attendant?
It’s a completely different ball game to begin with. Not demeaning the commercial side of flying where one is taking a basic handover of catering, serving the guest their food and wine to a turn-down service.
To begin with, there are no fixed working hours or fixed roster, unlike in the commercial world. We are on call 24/7, but at times we don’t fly for a week or even two weeks. Be prepared for ultra long-haul flights which are good for those who like flying long sectors.
Your mind has to continuously keep thinking “What next?” This is the challenge I love about being a corporate crew; the mind is continuously evolving and getting better of how to make the next flight more successful.
There are times when I have been away from home for at least 24 days at a stretch, so not the ideal job for those who get homesick easily.
All in all, it’s any day more challenging than flying commercial and I love my life full of challenges.
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.