The Sky’s the Limit: Behind the Scenes with a Flight Attendant

By Princess Aileen Quimpo

Raised in the Kingdom of Bahrain, Sue Kristine Ortega studied in the country from kindergarten up to high school, before she moved to the Philippines to take up a degree in Communication Arts in the University of the Philippines.

Thereafter, Kristine moved back to Bahrain to pursue her childhood dream of being a flight attendant, and has since then been flying with Gulf Air for nine years.

Kristine-2bKristine’s career started when she attended a Gulf Air Open Day walk-in interview. There were approximately a hundred or more applicants present, but that was gradually reduced to a smaller number, which resulted from a series of group discussions, a written exam, a one-on-one interview, and a brief grooming check. Ultimately, Kristine was one of the fortunate applicants who passed the screenings. Because of the rotation in flight schedules and time zones, being a flight attendant requires her to remain mentally and physically fit in order to efficiently and effectively carry out her tasks of ensuring every operating flight’s safety and render professional service to the hundreds of passengers in each flight. It also requires her to be patient, open-minded, respectful of diverse cultures, and maintain her integrity wherever she goes. “You should learn to deal and take everything with a grain of salt”, she added.

Traveling has introduced Kristine to a whole new world of experiences. Each layover takes her to new places, bask in exciting cultures, taste cuisines from all over the world, navigate each country’s local transportation systems, and though she has been doing this for the last nine years, each experience still feels as delightful as it was as the first time she stepped in a new place.

You should learn to deal and take everything with a grain of salt.

Along with exploring various places, Kristine enjoys reading books, and has a keen interest in music and pop culture. Her imagination often wanders to places and people.

While she was in school, there was one clear goal that she set for herself: she would become a flight attendant against all odds. This was despite petty judgement she received from others for her choice of career, but family support encouraged her to keep up with what she had set in stone for herself. “You will never see true selflessness, perseverance, and love like that of a mother’s.”, Sue expressed, as she shared with us the person that she looks up to the most, her mother. With these characteristics, she challenges herself by doing something she’s most afraid of at least once a year, such as traveling unaccompanied. She highly values independence and finding comfort in solitude. In order to overcome her fear of heights and oceans, Kristine ventured out to try activities outside her comfort zone, such as bungee jumping, skydiving, cliff-diving, as well as getting a PADI diving license. Another activity that she’s afraid of is driving, which she plans to get over with by taking up driving lessons someday soon.

Working in the airline industry in Bahrain provides Kristine a tax-free salary, housing and transport allowances, health insurance, limited free and discounted tickets on any airlines all over the world, which is also extended to her family members. Some places have left a mark on her journey, including Rome, which she mapped out of all the locations from her favourite movie, Roman Holiday. Just like most other romantics, Paris, her ‘first love’ topped one of her must-see destinations and the magnificent Eiffel Tower never fails to let her heart skip a beat. Quarter Latin is Kristine’s favourite spot in Paris where Shakespeare and Co. bookshop is located. She recounts spending her time there eating and drinking, whilst daydreaming of the 1920’s Paris Jazz Era.

There is no list of rules. There is one rule. The rule is: there are no rules.

Kristine-2aBehind every dream and achievement come words of wisdom to hold on to, and for Kristine, it’s a quote from the book of Shonda Rhimes: “There is no list of rules. There is one rule. The rule is: there are no rules. Happiness comes from living as you need to, as you want to. As your inner voice tells you to. Happiness comes from being who you actually are instead of who you think you are supposed to be. Being traditional is not traditional anymore. It’s funny that we still think of it that way. Normalize your lives, people. You don’t want a baby? Don’t have one. I don’t want to get married? I won’t. You want to live alone? Enjoy it. You want to love someone? Love someone. Don’t apologize. Don’t explain. Don’t ever feel less than. When you feel the need to apologize or explain who you are, it means the voice in your head is telling you the wrong story. Wipe the slate clean. And rewrite it. No fairy tales. Be your own narrator. And go for a happy ending. One foot in front of the other. You will make it.”

Kristine plans to make the most out of the perks of being a flight attendant and visit as many countries as she can while saving up finances before she decides on shifting to another career lane.

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