The job of flight attendant is synonymous with glamor and a jet-setting lifestyle. But the role has evolved to require staff to be able to handle a variety of important safety issues, such as handling disruptive behavior, emergency landings, aircrafts checks, and even providing medical assistance to passengers when required.
Latvia-based flight attendant, Gerardo Enrique Vázquez Bastidas is passionate about highlighting the important safety aspects of the role, reminding passengers and potential cabin crew that the job requires far more than most people realize.
Born in Venezuela, Gerardo forged a career as a flight attendant for Latvian flag carrier airBaltic. Passionate about shedding light on the roles and responsibilities of cabin crew, Gerardo often shares content related to his aviation career on his popular TikTok account, where he has amassed an impressive 35,000 followers.
While Gerardo is now considered somewhat of a cabin crew sensation, his career looked a little different when, prior to joining aviation in 2019, he first began working in a retail role.
From shoe store assistant to cabin crew sensation
“I was working in a shoe store at the time, and I got fired because I couldn’t sell any shoes at all,” Gerardo reveals.
However, as he commenced a job search for a new occupation, a recommendation made by a pilot went changed the course of Gerardo’s future.
“I started gathering [a lot of] interest and passion,” he says. “And I started doing my research on aviation in general.”
“I found myself searching for jobs and at the time my flat mate was a pilot and he recommended me to join an airline,” he explains.
Unsure if the opportunity would be a “good fit”, Gerardo took what he refers to as his “shot” and after a six-month long selection process, joined the aviation industry where he started work in the information department at Madrid Airport.
Going forward, Gerardo felt inspired to discover and explore more about the industry. “I started gathering [a lot of] interest and passion,” he says. “And I started doing my research on aviation in general.”
After six months, Gerardo managed to get into his first airline. However, “COVID-19 happened, and we all got fired,” he reveals.
Despite the global downturn in traffic, Gerardo was not deterred from pursuing his newfound passion and, committed to remaining a part of the aviation industry, continued with his research.
A year later, in 2021, Gerardo joined his second airline, Ryanair subsidiary Laudamotion, also known as Lauda, where he worked as a cabin crew member. After six months, he landed his current role as a flight attendant for airBaltic.
Safety first: helping to change the narrative
Gerardo is now approaching three years of working in aviation and clearly takes immense pride in his work and his role as a flight attendant.
He notes the sheer amount of preparation and training that cabin crew must undergo and addresses several misconceptions surrounding the profession and what the role entails.
“[In the event] of a different emergency, I bet you there [will be] no drink or snack that is going to save you, it is going to be us. No coffee is going to evacuate you out of the aircraft in 90 seconds.”
“[I sometimes encounter] people that ask, ‘why are you so happy to have to be serving coffee on an airplane?’ And, of course, most people think that that is all that we do. But I try as well with my videos [on social media] to bring light to the fact that sometimes we are waking up at three in the morning, running to the airport, doing all the checks in the aircraft, for everything to be safe,” Gerardo says.
Gerardo emphasizes that there are many behind the scenes procedures, things that the passengers don’t necessarily see, that are integral to ensuring a safe flight and highlights that flight attendants must be ready to act in all situations.
“We have to secure the cabin. We have to know [multiple] procedures in our head. We have to be ready in case of an evacuation and in case we have to do first aid,” he says.
“Most of our flights are normal, and everything goes according to plan, but if something goes wrong, or if something goes south, we are the first [respondents] that must act, and we are the ones that must know how to do everything by the book. So, it is not just serving coffee on an airplane, there is a lot more that goes into [the role],” Gerardo adds.
“I never really thought about being a role model.”
Preparing the next generation to take flight
Gerardo believes that it is necessary to prepare and equip people looking to pursue a cabin crew career with the right information.
“I never really thought about being a role model,” he says. However, people seem to connect with the content he shares on social media, especially those based in South America and Europe, who have not been able to fly for a number of reasons but enjoy following Gerardo’s journey.
“They just enjoy seeing me doing all of my flights and all of my layovers, because they wish they could be like that,” he adds.
So, does Gerardo have any advice for those looking to follow in his footsteps?
“My biggest advice for everyone is to just keep applying. I know [that] getting inside of an airline is not the easiest thing.”
Gerardo also notes that even after an airline accepts a new stater, there are a number of additional things that they must do, including background checks, paperwork and medical exams to name a few. However, Gerardo believes that the reality should not hinder someone from going after their dream of a career in the skies.
“I think that if you have this dream, just go for it,” he says. “And keep trying and trying and trying until you join your first airline. Everything just becomes easier [after that]. You are more experienced, you know how to act in interviews, you know what to say, you know what to do. So just keep pushing.”
Gerardo also encourages people pursuing a career in the industry to do their own research regardless of their occupational status.
“Before joining my first airline, I was looking [at] videos [of] every single flight attendant that I could find. So, to me naturally after I started flying, I wanted it to be like that. Now that I am doing it, I realized that there are some people looking at me the way that I saw other flight attendants. So, it is like a circle.”
For Gerardo, the most important aspect of the role is “to show everyone that we are here for your safety”.
“That is my biggest, biggest goal,” he continues, “to let everyone know that we do more than just ask if you want any drinks or snacks. Because [in the event of a] different emergency, I bet you there [will be] no drink or snack that is going to save you, it is going to be us. No coffee is going to evacuate you out of the aircraft in 90 seconds.”