Contributed by FS Jun Acullador
Two semesters ago, I went back to school to pursue an academic path that was long overdue. I went back to my alma mater, took the entrance exam and as the cliché goes, the rest is history. I am a Cabin Crew Supervisor and a concurrent graduate school student in Industrial Relations (IR).
I can still remember during my first day in school when my professor asked us to introduce ourselves. I found out that my classmates were either HR practitioners or labor lawyers. I also had classmates who were university instructor, BPO supervisors and administrative personnel of a government office. Such a diverse bunch of executives in one room! They all banded together for one purpose, that is, to specialize in Industrial Relations. When I introduced myself as a Cabin Crew for an airline company, I received quizzical looks from all of them, including from my venerable professor. She asked me, “Why are you here?”
Honestly, I forgot how I answered that poignant question. But it piqued my mind.
Pursuing a higher education is not a whimsical decision on my part. I have always longed to specialize in an academic discipline that will help me professionally and IR fits the bill. I have always been interested in collective bargaining and negotiations, settlement of industrial conflicts and labor-management relations. Putting up a ‘union’ is definitely not in my DNA but I am interested to sit down and listen to what the employees and employer have to say to improve working conditions and achieve industrial peace.
A cabin crew as student is not for the faint of heart. On the average, the course syllabus has 12 pages, back to back. It contains the required readings from 5 to 8 different books per week. The professors are REAL subject matter experts with PhDs to boot. These are authors of well researched papers presented abroad and have become sources of information locally. They are practitioners coming DOLE, NEDA, NLRC and the United Nations. They undersecretaries, directors of think-tank organizations and government agencies. Graduate students are expected to read these readings and come prepared for class discussion. Submission of term papers are tightly scheduled. Midterm and final examinations take about 3 hours to finish. This reality is totally shocking but once one’s system has adjusted, it becomes more of a challenge than a curse.
The career path of a cabin crew is limited. That’s a given, UNLESS, a crew transfers to another department. Which simply means, bidding adieu to flying totally. Age has taken toll on me physically. I do not want to fly in my 50s. This master’s degree will definitely equip me as I move on to another department in my company. This pursuit is for the long term and while I can still do it, I might as well prepare now.
I personally know a couple of cabin crew who pursued this same track. A colleague from another airline has MBA. A fellow crew supervisor recently earned her college degree (she joined the airline as an undergrad). Another crew is enrolled in the Open University. Other cabin crew are engaged in their passion for the arts and technology. I have crew friends who are make-up artists, event hosts, photographers, DJs, bloggers, part-time vloggers and even a fashion designer. Gone are the days where cabin crew are perceived as safety officers or simply as flying waiters/waitresses. Today’s airline crew are mixed and multifaceted. They aggressively seek new ventures to improve themselves both professionally and personally.
This diversity bodes well for the industry. You have an array of crew who are thinkers and creative people.