Service in the Sky
15-year veteran Emma Ridgers talks to us about life as a British Airways cabin crew member
With a crisp white shirt, pressed navy blue suit, and red patterned tie placed just so, it's always a high-flying day at work for British Airways' cabin crew. While the passengers watch the in-flight entertainment, read, and doze, the hard-working cabin crew members like Emma Ridgers do everything in their power to make the flight as safe and pleasant as possible for everyone on board.
What made you choose this line of work?
I have always loved traveling and working with people and cultures from around the world. I am quite fascinated by that. I enjoy the fact that every day at work is different. It's all really appealing, the whole package. British Airways is such a huge global airline. We have a really diverse customer base and you get lots of different situations on board. You can't ever judge how the day is going to go, how the flight is going to go. It is challenging but that is also what keeps it interesting.
What is the most challenging aspect of your job?
I've been flying for 15 years. Jet lag and sleep deprivation are the hardest part. You just have to work your way through it and find out how to make things work for you.
How do you approach in flight food preparation and service?
Anyone who travels knows that the food is a big part of the experience of flying. It is almost as important if not more important to some people as the in-flight entertainment. Generally the meals are prepared for us to cook and we add individual touches to them. We follow guides and have a lot of training with regards to the food. We get information from the chefs through training courses. I think recently people feel they were being served tasteless food on many airlines, so that is something the chefs have addressed with Height Cuisine. British Airways has taken the time to invest experience and money to try to improve our food onboard. It is definitely working.
How do you know it is working?
We have been getting positive feedback from the passengers. People will say "That was a really nice meal," which is a hard thing to achieve in the air. It's been a big learning curve especially for the cabin crew.
How are the meals prepared on board?
We have a crew member on every flight who chooses to work in the galley, which means they are like the chef for the flight. Even though they haven't made the food from scratch they are in charge of cooking it, presenting it, and telling the other crew members when it is ready to be served. Before takeoff, they are responsible for making certain everything is in order. We don't want to have any disasters mid-flight like realizing that the butter wasn't loaded. They take responsibility for seeing that the catering cases are loaded while the representative from the catering company is on board.
Has the way you present the food changed since Height Cuisine was established?
For Height Cuisine the way the food looks is as important as how it tastes. The airline has invested the time and gotten the experts to tell us what it is we need to do on board. We have added more garnishes and ingredients. For example, in the U.S. we get limes and on the flights from Asia different herbs. It's going to look nicer and be fresher if we finish it on board. As much as possible, they give us the leeway to create.
When does the cabin crew eat?
Generally about four of five hours into the flight on a long haul flight once the passengers have everything they need then we have an opportunity to sit down and eat. We eat in shifts. On an aircraft people are awake and asleep at different times so there is always a constant flow of passengers coming through the galley.
Can you describe a favorite meal you ate on board recently?
On a recent flight I had a business class meal that was a steak with roasted potatoes and vegetables and it was utterly gorgeous. The meat was tender and it had loads of flavor, which is hard to do especially with meats. I also have a weak spot for desserts. They make a really lovely sticky toffee pudding. It is so sinful.