Thursday, September 1, 2011

9 to 5: Mandalay Love, Flight Attendant

new feature!

This week I'm really excited to feature an old friend of mine, Mandalay!  Mandalay and I met when she rushed my sorority in college, and from the moment I met her I adored her. She's a lovable, fun, spunky girl who adds so much positivity and life to any situation she's in. She's also one hell of a go-getter, and her career is one of the most interesting of anyone I know. When she agreed to partake in this little project I was elated; I knew that all of you would find her incredibly inspiring!  So thanks again Mandy for being a part of my blog today!

Tell us about yourself.

My name is Mandalay Roberts. I am a 27- year old originally from Phoenix, Arizona. My family is very 'blended' and I am lucky to say we all get along and support each other 100%. I relocated to San Francisco in 2007 with hopes of becoming a teacher in the Bay Area. When I made the move, unfortunately the area school districts were laying off almost 2000 local teachers. So, I went to plan B. I was searching for jobs on YahooHotJobs,com and came across the need for 'Inflight Teammate' at Virgin America. Intrigued, I went searching through their website to get a feel for this new airline. Just the website alone was sleek and sexy and had an incredible vibe. The airplanes were equipped with black and white leather seat, mood lighting, TV screens on each seat back which allowed people to watch TV, movies, listen to music and order food and drink on demand. The only problem was that Virgin America had yet to gain the go ahead from the Department of Transportation in order to fly. I thought to myself, eh, minor technicality, this airline sounded amazing! So I went ahead and applied for the position. To my surprise, I received a phone call that night to set up an interview a few days later. I showed up to my interview in Burlingame, CA just south of San Francisco, and had a great time in the group interview setting. That night, I got another call asking if I would be interested in beginning training a few weeks later. I could barely contain my excitement as I said yes. I was Virgin America's newest Inflight Teammate.

I have now been with the company for 4 years and have had incredible opportunities to be part of Virgin America's first advertising campaigns as well as their 8 episode series on the CW called FlyGirls. It has given me the flexibility to move from San Francisco to Los Angeles to where I currently reside in the Lower East Side of Manhattan. I love the people that I work with and the excitement of being able to hop on a plane to see friends back in SF, attend a wedding in Hawaii or head home to recharge with my family. Being a flight attendant is a glamorous yet grungy and mysterious lifestyle. For some it is a short hobby, for others, it is a life-long lifestyle that never lets go.

(that's Mandalay front and center! Sorry Mandy, I love this fierce photo of you and had to use it! ;) )
Describe a typical day at work.

The traveling public may not know that flight crew must arrive 1 hour prior to departure time to check in. We then have time to meet with our crew (three Inflight Teammates and two pilots) we are given a quick briefing on flight time, guest load, crew communications and a few other odds and ends. Safety equipment is then checked on board to ensure everything is in proper working order. As soon as we are all prepared, the guests are then sent to board the plane. Once everyone is in and seated, we are then ready to begin the flight. The plane then pushes back from the gate and the flight crew starts getting paid.

During the flight the most important role we have is guest safety. I, knock on wood, luckily have never experience an emergency while flying. I have seen my fair share of passer-outers (try to hydrate as much as possible before, during and after your flight) and a few non-life threatening medical incidents. But beyond the drinks and snacks we serve, we are there to make sure travelers get from point A to point B as quickly and safely as possible.

Did you always want to be a flight attendant? How did you get into this field? What kind of schooling or background did it entail?

I never had aspired to be a flight attendant, but as I said before, the ease of which it all came to be was something I couldn't ignore. Once I was hired, the only schooling necessary was provided by the company in a rigorous 4 week training course at Virgin America's headquarters in Burlingame, CA. We had to complete a series of written tests as well as emergency simulations in order to pass the training. Four weeks seems short to be qualified to do what we do, but I promise, it was an butt-kicker.

Is this what you hope to do for the rest of your life? If so, how do you see yourself growing in this career? If not, what else do you dream of doing?

I have really enjoyed my time flying around the country meeting all kinds of interesting people and hearing fascinating stories, but I am hoping to move on to something that allows for a little more stability in the near future. Being gone three to four days a week makes it difficult to nurture relationships the way they deserve. Although the ability to jump on a flight at the drop of a hat has its benefits, so does a 9-5 that allows one to be home each night.

I will always look back fondly at the experiences of being part of an innovative airline that gave people a reason to enjoy flying again.

In 10 years I hope to be pursuing the career for which I have always had a passion, and that is education. Where ever I end up planting some roots and having a family of my own, I hope to be able to give back to the community where we live and become a teacher at a local elementary school.

If you could tell your 17-year old self anything about your life today, what would you tell her?  

Take some time to see the world before deciding what to do with your life
Learn a second (third, fourth, fifth) language
Listen more, talk less
Be open to meeting people and hearing about how they contribute to the world. You can learn something from every person.


  1. This is so amazing!
    I think if I wasn't going to travel in the Winnebago, I'd get my pilot's license/have my husband get his pilot's license and we'd just do it that way. =]

  2. oh nice.. :)

  3. how awesome!! Flight attendants seem to be offered fun adventure and it would be the most fun!
    Smoking Crayolas Blogspot

  4. This is real cool ! I liked this feature love sweet flight attendants my kids are on aa flight from sfo today to o hare

  5. This is so interesting! I travel for work, so I am around flight attendants all the time. I always wonder how they do what they do and what it takes, so this was fascinating to me. I'm always sure to be nice to them because I imagine they deal with some pretty awful people.

    Also, I flew Virgin last May and LOVED it. I wish they flew to more locations!

  6. Sounds like such a fun job :) If I could go anywhere right now...I would love to go to Greece. Not for me, I love my teaching job...but that's why I'm getting my masters so I'll have flexibility.

  7. I've always wanted to be a flight attendant! Especially for Virgin. Maybe one day when I get out of the Army :)

  8. Ahhh, I love this! What a neat opportunity and lifestyle!

    Danielle, I was just thinking about how I miss your webcam pictures of your morning coffee or smiling face or hugging Madeline with a more personal post! <3

  9. I'm terrified of flying and yet I still found this amazing!

    A Collection of Passions

  10. Hey!!!

    So I have to admit I found your blog by googling "brian fallon wife" ha and your pic with him popped up! Anyways I am glad I found your blog because I love it and have been following ever since! I wanted to pass on this link to the horrible crowes preview!!!

  11. This is a really great new feature Danielle!

    Sometimes, when I look around the blogging world, I see so many full time artists, that as an artist myself I get slightly discouraged by having to work 10 hour days....It is definitely fun to get to read about other women with insane work schedules too. (This is not to say at all that artists are not sister has an insane schedule with her job as an independent metalsmith/jewelry designer...which is why I also like "a day in the life" posts as well)

    It is just fun to read about all different types of ladies and the lives they lead!

  12. You always have the best features :) All the girls have been great so far - what interesting careers! School has taken me so long that I love living vicariously through other's while I continue to work on my degree and nanny a 10 year old. Someday - hopefully not too much longer I'll have an interesting career of my own!

    Loved your post this morning too :) Hope you 3 have a great long weekend!

  13. Wow. What an intriguing life-style. I love traveling but I imagine that this job could be very tiring.

  14. This started airing in NZ a few weeks ago, and I remembered reading about it so I had to come back and find this post! So jealous- I started training to be a flight attendant but couldn't carry on because of health problems... so I got a plane tattoo instead ha.

  15. Hi Mandalay, I received a card for you from another Roberts in Phoenix on East Washington Street. It was addressed to my address on Washington Avenue in Brooklyn. I'd like to get it to you. Please email me to coordinate.