She’s graceful and she’s poised – even at 30,000 feet. We caught up with a former Singapore Airlines wonderwoman to find out their superpowers (which are all very applicable for life here on ground too).
Sharifah Almaghbouly worked as a member of Singapore Airlines’ cabin crew for 12 years and there’s just something about her. Meeting Sharifah, you’re immediately struck by her casual finesse and effortless style. She tells us how the iconic Singapore Girl gets her famous poise.
1. A great fit is a powerful thing
“The uniform (the famous kebaya sarong) is so tight. It’s made to measure just for you by the best tailors in Singapore. Putting it on feels like putting on an armour – it’s amazing. You’ll stand straighter and you’ll feel like, ‘I’m ready to take on anything. I’m ready for battle!’ You should see us hitch them up into minis in a split-second in our emergency training!”
2. Do it right the first time
“You learn quickly that lazy, sloppy behaviour is just not worth it. For example, in training, you’re given strict advice on makeup colours and techniques specifically to suit your features and colouring, and the right hairstyle to complement your face shape or hide your sticking-out ears! If you turn up with messy hair or the wrong colour eyeshadow on, you’re sent home to re-do it. It’s brutal, so you learn fast.”
3. Everyone needs a crew
“As a newbie crew member, you need to know your place. When you’re on layover, it’s the junior’s job to give a wake up call to every single crew member. If they don’t answer, you call again… and again. You need to show them respect and when you earn it, it’s amazing. Crew work hard and play hard together. You’re each other’s family in another city and when things go wrong – in the air or on the ground – you have a fierce army behind you.”
“We actually get passengers e-mailing in complaints if we haven’t smiled enough! But it’s about more than keeping them happy. Looking cheerful helps you keep your cool. Whatever’s going on, it’s tough to lose your temper when you’re smiling. Plus, it keeps everyone else calm, too. Anger only ever makes bad situations worse.”
5. Mistakes happen – don’t freak out
Even perfectly coiffed crew are human, right? “I was once 16 hours into a flight and I was chatting to a passenger, pouring a drink onto his tray – not into the glass. I just apologised and laughed with him. It happens to everyone sometimes!”
6. Know your stuff
“You realise pretty quickly to learn everything about the wine, the cheese, the city you’re flying to – because some passengers see us – and treat us – like vacuous, dress up dolls. Never give them a chance to make you look like an idiot.” The takeaway? Do your research.
7. Never say “No”
This doesn’t mean you should act like a doormat. “Professionals in any industry try to find solutions to problems. Say there aren’t enough The Straits Times for everyone who requests one at boarding, for example. I’ve seen crew literally race to a 7-Eleven to buy more copies before take off.” However, if passengers are being obnoxious or abusive, Singapore Girls will stand their ground.
8. Be punctual
Crew members are expected to show up for each flight two hours before take-off for briefing. Every. Single. Flight. “If you’re late,” says Sharifah, “you’re flustered and not well prepared and you’ll make mistakes.”