Today we are proud to bring you a one-on-one interview with Louise Hyland, a corporate flight attendant based out of the Los Angeles area. Read on to learn more about Louise, her expertise and tips, and her insights into her favorite destination – Casablanca, Morocco.
Which aircraft have you flown on during your career?
As a contract flight attendant, I’ve been really fortunate that I’ve had the opportunity to fly multiple aircraft in my career.
Where did you receive flight attendant training?
I’ve completed training with South African Airways, Beyond and Above, and Berry Aviation.
In addition to your corporate flight attendant training, what other education do you have?
I’ve completed the Corporate School of Etiquette Advanced Service and Culinary Arts Course, I am a Certified Specialist of Wine through The Society of Wine Educators, I am a Communications Expert through Toastmasters International, and I’m certified in CPR/AED.
When was your last recurrent?
What is your base location(s) and ICAO(s)?
I am closest (a five minute drive) to John Wayne Airport (KSNA / SNA), but I am also available out of san Diego International Airport (KSAN / SAN), Bob Hope Airport (KBUR / BUR), Santa Monica Airport (KSMO / SMO) and Los Angeles International Airport (KLAX / LAX).
How long have you been a flight attendant?
I have worked as a corporate flight attendant over the last six years, and as a commercial flight attendant for three years.
Have you received any awards / industry scholarships?
Yes, I have received a VIP Customer Service Award, Professionalism Role Model of the Year Award and an Employee of the Year Award.
Which languages are you fluent in?
English and Afrikaans.
What type(s) of cuisine do you prefer?
I eat everything! I have eaten scorpion on the streets of Bangkok, camel in Morocco, and a springbok in South Africa! However, my favorite are the traditional South African dishes I make for my grown children to take home when they come to visit: Baboetie (a casserole-like dish of minced meat topped with an egg-based layer), Sosaties (a skewered South African specialty similar to kebabs), Melktert ( a “milk tart” comprised of milk-based sweet filling and pastry crust) and Malva Poeding (This translates to “marshmallow pudding” but the name refers to the spongy texture, since marshmallows are not one of the ingredients). Just mention those words to my 6’ 7”, twenty-two-year-old son and he gets in his car and drives right over!
What are your favorite destinations, and why?
I am an art history junkie and a French wine snob (I’ll own it!) so France, but particularly Paris. I also love any and every opportunity to go back to my beloved Africa. I have been to 27 countries, so I think of any place I haven’t yet visited as my next favorite destination. However, I still maintain that my trip to Morocco was absolutely life-changing, and is a destination everyone should experience.
You mentioned Morocco, can you provide some details on Casablanca, such as your favorite restaurants there?
There are so many great restaurants in Casablanca, and TripAdvisor has a pretty good list, but I had two really great meals during my last stay. Of course, one would be remiss if you didn’t take the opportunity to visit Rick’s Café in keeping with the movie. Although the restaurant is owned by a woman from Oregon, the ambiance and food are both exceptional.
Most of the “riads” (small hotels) are run by families and offer meals in their small dining rooms. My first night in Morocco was spent at a tiny riad and the food was phenomenal. I can’t remember the name of the riad, but the photos and the food remain well etched in my memory!
What are some activities you would suggest for a corporate flight attendant visiting Casablanca for the first time?
A couple of absolute must-sees are:
- Hassan II Mosque
- Old Medina Marketplace (be prepared to spend hours there!)
- A visit to a “hammam” (basically a spa, but such a magnificent experience!)
- The central marketplace
Also, if you have additional time, I would definitely suggest visiting as much of Morocco as possible. One of the greatest experiences of my life was taking a camel into the Sahara Desert to go camping for a few days. On the last morning, I came out of my tent to find my camel had left me and was happily traipsing across the dunes on his way home.
Any tips for a corporate flight attendant visiting Casablanca for the first time?
The food is exceptional and there are many foods available for every palate. In terms of catering, any of the hotels will create fantastic meals as they are quite used to catering to five-star clientele, but don’t be afraid of purchasing from the markets.
Be conscious that as a Muslim country, there are certain dress requirements. Basically, for women, this means it is wise to your cover shoulders and have, at the very least, your knees covered by either a dress, skirt or trousers. Avoid plunging necklines and carry a scarf that is large enough to cover your chest, neck and head for those occasions that warrant it. Morocco is well-known for its great respect for women and women’s rights, but carrying oneself with respect towards their customs garners great respect in return. Women generally do not go to bars and restaurants by themselves, except in hotels. Some riads do not offer any alcoholic beverages but, for the most part, have no objection to you bringing your own.
Currency and Transportation
Almost everyone speaks English and French. Euros and American dollars are widely accepted. Cabs are widely available, and all hotels / riads will happily find you a driver who will take care of you for the duration of your stay.
What are some in-flight catering challenges you have experienced?
I live in fear of two things: my food not being fresh and not having enough food! I like to say: “Nobody goes hungry in Louise’s wheelhouse!” I have personally experienced both of these situations. I have unwrapped food that does not look or smell right, and then the FBO tells me they don’t have ice, or additional passengers have appeared and I know I don’t have enough food. It is the stuff of nightmares for a corporate flight attendant, but there are always clever ways to recover!
How did you overcome these challenges?
I firmly believe that challenging situations are all about how one handles it. I make every effort to not let my pax know that there is a problem. I try to keep additional, non-perishable items with me that I can supplement with at all times. More often than not, smaller portions will not be noticed.
What made you decide to become a corporate flight attendant?
The first flight I took from Johannesburg to London as a child made sure the travel bug was firmly entrenched in me. After all these years, I still get a thrill and cannot hide my smile when that nose gear lifts. I will travel anywhere and always joke that I can be packed in fifteen minutes. The truth is; I probably need twenty minutes.
What do you feel are essential skills for a successful corporate flight attendant?
Exceptional organizational skills are paramount. As are the acceptance and understanding of various personality types, cultural differences, social hierarchies, international cuisines and etiquette. Self-confidence, along with the ability to travel and operate independently, but also work well with others. The ability to quickly problem-solve while maintaining composure.
What advice would you give someone looking to become a corporate flight attendant?
Invest in your training. Get trained, stay trained. Never underestimate the importance of continued education. Bear in mind that this is a relationship-based business. Develop and maintain relationships. Always, always over-deliver in terms of your level of service and follow through. Realize you are an extension of the flying experience for the clients, not the main feature. Remaining understated, but providing exceptional customer service is the name of the game. I think of it like Downton Abbey in the skies! Lastly, love what you do or don’t do it.
Louise, thank you for an excellent interview. For those who wish to connect, 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 email@example.com.