BusinessClass was invited to visit the Singapore Airlines Training Center to gain an exclusive insight into all the work and preparation that goes into making Singapore Airlines’ cabin crew one that other airlines envy.
The service, the smile, the friendliness and the personal service experienced onboard Singapore Airlines is so much more than just “Eastern hospitality”. We spent a whole day at Singapore Airlines Training Center in Singapore, just minutes away from Changi Airport, and were rewarded with an exclusive insight into the training of Singapore Airlines’ cabin crew.
A proud history
The imposing centre – sat behind high fences and locked, guarded doors – shows how seriously the company takes its training procedures. And it’s not hard to imagine fresh and spritely new recruits being humbled as they enter the crowded foyer with a large mezzanine where the entire company’s history and various highlights are proudly presented on huge displays all around. The story begins in 1947, when airline became part of Malayan Airways Limited, continuing to 1966 when Malaysia-Singapore Airlines was born. That year was also when the company bought its first Boeing 707, followed by a number of Boeing 737s.
It was also in 1968 that the company first introduced its unique and traditional uniforms for its cabin crew. But it was only in 1972 that the French clothing designer Pierre Balmain was given the task of redesigning and creating the uniform, ith the result still the basis of today’s uniform. The unique outfits were not assembled arbitrarily, but rather the colours represent the different position of the cabin crew on board. The predominantly blue uniforms are for regular flight stewardesses – so are the most frequently seen on board. The slightly green attire is for the leading stewardesses, while the uniforms which feature a little red are reserved for the chief stewardess. Lastly, the uniforms with purple tones are for the in-flight manager. For the male stewards, the colour of their tie signifies their rank, utilising the same colour scheme as the females’ uniforms.
During our visit, we were introduced to a number of students who were in their third week of training week at the centre. And today they were learning how to greet passengers and how to behave in the cabin. You can’t just nonchalantly stroll down the aisle with a Singapore Sling in hand. There are certain ways staff must hold themselves: chest out, shoulders down and the posture straight yet not stiff. One must take into account how your appearance and mannerisms will be perceived by a variety of passengers often from vastly different cultures. The students this morning were native to either Singapore, Malaysia, Taiwan or Japan. There are, however, not yet any Scandinavian staff on the books of Singapore Airlines.
Wine and food
An area where Singapore Airlines scores well is in its onboard food and beverage selection, and in one of the classrooms we visited, trainee cabin crew were being educated on how alcohol was to be served on board. The classroom was equipped with bottles of wine, art, and numerous wine-related plaques – all to set the scene. We spoke to some of the recruits and it was clear that, even though they may not have been huge wine fans themselves, they were very keen to know all they could since the passengers often ask them for advice. In addition, there was a strong focus on the responsibility that comes with the service of alcohol. For example, flights to and from the United States are more restrictive in keeping with the alcohol limits imposed by different states.
Hair and make-up
Anyone who has travelled with Singapore Airlines may think that the cabin crew’s appearance is “flawless”. And indeed, nothing about it is random. Singapore Airlines obviously follows the current fashion trends, trying to appear classical and modern at all times. Female staff can have both long and short hair but are discouraged from the more outrageous hairstyles. Short hair or a bob is ideal, but those with long hair must tie it up in some sort of bun so that there’s no chance of hair being found in the food being served. Hair nets are not an option. A few years ago, the fashion was for a lot of dark colour around the eyes, now the eyes should have less and lipstick not be so vibrant red as before. Muted and subtle is the way to go. For the men, there are also strict requirements. No beards, no long sideburns, and a short, well-groomed haircut are the requirements. For women, makeup is a necessity, but not too much.
Food and drink
On aircraft like Singapore Airlines’ Airbus A380, the business class cabin has as many as 86 seats, which means that the food must be cooked as quickly as possible. Passengers can not wait an hour to have their meals dinner served. Passengers can not wait an hour to have their dinner served. At the training centre, the cabin crew are instructed to have the dish on the plate as described in the accompanying manual – and preferably in less than 15 seconds. And with the company’s unique “book the cook” service, where passengers can order their main course in advance, there is a lot to take care of when it comes to dishing up and serving each meal. But as with anything else, practice makes perfect. A nice touch is that the staff must learn to make scrambled eggs in the aircraft’s microwave. We even had a go ourselves – spread a little butter on a plate, crack an egg, add some milk and a put into the microwave for a few seconds. Take it out, stir again, and repeat the same procedure until you get the desired consistency. We had a taste and there was nothing whatsoever to fault. And did you think cutlery and crockery were the same on all flights? It’s not. On flights to and from, for example, Japan and China, specific crockery is used that suits the dishes and history of the country.
The centre also has various training cabins in which there are seats and mock galleys. This is so the cabin crew can get a feel of how things will be on board and practice, for example, how to transform a business class or first class seat into a bed.
And have you ever noticed the various plier-type instruments cabin crew use to dispense hot clothes on board and how they have different colour handles? Well, the blue one is used when handing out the cloths while the red is used for collection. This may seem counterintuitive, but in Chinese culture, red is often associated with something dirty or used.