My Journey to Flying Red
The Very Start
I never wanted to fly. I was never one of those little girls who was desperate to be an ‘air hostess’.
After leaving school with distinctly underwhelming GCSE grades I really didn’t know what I wanted to do. I drifted for a while, worked in a bank, worked as a Nanny, but the one thing I always knew was that I loved working with people.
I was never cut out to be in the corporate world!
Aged 23, with 3 small children I saw an advert for a 2-day introduction to Cabin Crew course. Something about it caught my interest and I went along.
Little did I know that this was going to be the start of my love affair of all things aviation.
The course didn’t get me a job, but it prepared me for what to expect at interview, how to dress, how to sell myself and crucially, the differences between airlines – charter and scheduled, long-haul and short haul, low cost and full service, and of course the non UK airlines that recruit in the UK.
Armed with this knowledge I applied to a small charter airline. I applied to every airline going but I was offered an interview and was successful with Ambassador Airways.
I will never forget my first flight! I was convinced that passengers could see my hands shaking as I attempted to get the ice into the plastic glass I was holding to serve a drink.
From there I moved to Britannia, a much larger and award-winning charter airline, who flew both long and short haul from Gatwick.
I look back on those days with fond memories, it was pre-camera phones and pre-Facebook and we had a lot of fun. I went all over the world, and have some amazing memories.
Three-week trips to Australia, two-week trips to Abu Dhabi, fantastic experiences. But on the flip side were the night flights to Tenerife (which were less fun!).
It was whilst at Britannia that I first became aware of Virgin Atlantic. The girls always looked SO glamorous strutting through the airport in their red.
They were everything that I aspired to be, but that I felt I wasn’t. I applied to Virgin twice in the late 90’s and was unsuccessful both times. I got all the way through the process but never quite made it.
Life is too short and I pushed it to the back of my mind and continued on with my career.
In my career I have flown for British Midland, who became BMI, worked on the ground for BA, and spent several years with Air New Zealand. I also spent 10 years working as a Civilian in the Police and in New Homes Sales – very diverse.
All however adding to my ‘people’ and ‘customer service’ skills.
Never Give Up on Dreams
Last year a friend of mine from my Air New Zealand days contacted me and told me that Virgin were recruiting again.
My immediate answer was ‘I’m too old and too fat’. I was 45 and not a size 12. But on reflection I decided to give it a go.
What was the worst that could happen?!
The application process is lengthy, there was an initial on-line application. A few months later I was advised I had got through the paper sift and was invited to a video interview.
This involved a pre-recorded piece with the Virgin Recruitment team asking questions, you then had two minutes to answer each question.
I’ll never forget being sat at my partner’s study desk, hair and make up done, white blouse, and pyjama bottoms on!
I managed to get through that and was invited to an assessment day at ‘The Base’ in Crawley – Virgin’s crew Headquarters. Just walking into that building was amazing! I felt privileged to be there.
The Recruitment team were fabulous, although I’m certain this is the case with most airlines. They want the best out of you, so they do their best to put you at ease.
The whole day was fun and 5 days later I was overjoyed to get a successful email.
I have now been with Virgin for just under a year and I’m happier than I’ve ever been. I work with some amazing people and I’ve been to some even more amazing places.
Flying isn’t a job, it’s a way of life. It’s hard work, exhausting, frustrating, amazing, fun, incredible and anything else you can think of.
Don’t give up, follow your dreams! At age 46 I’m flying for an airline that I set my heart on back in my 20’s. Along that road, with all the airlines I’ve worked for, I’ve learnt a lot and that has made me the person I am today.
If you don’t get your first choice airline, don’t give up, don’t think you’re ‘settling’ by working for another carrier. It’s a tough career to get in to, but so so worth it.
Yeah sis wow this is real im, we’re proud of you happy flying hopefully it doesn’t take long to earn the other wing. Love you
Lovely article Lorna I know how proud I felt felt when I joined Anz when I was 51!
My confidence was sky high my salad days . Enjoy your time with Virgin life is for living
Congratulations on fulfilling your lifelong dream Lorna.
You are an inspiration in many things, but the passion and love of flying, along with your can-do attitude and bubbly personality inspire others. Thank you for sharing and I look forward to reading more of your adventures above the clouds.