Fulfilling a lifelong ambition to be part of the aviation industry, Cabin Crew Member SONALI OODIT joined the SAA family in 2003, and has never looked back
I HAVE MY DAD TO THANK FOR THIS WONDERFUL CAREER.
Growing up, I often wondered what it would be like to fly in a plane. I finally found out when I was 16 years old – I was spending my school holidays with cousins in Durban, and my dad bought me a ticket to fly there from East London. I was both excited and scared as I boarded the plane alone, but as soon as I stepped on board, I was in awe. It was exactly what I’d seen on television and read in books. The highlight was the tall and beautiful “air hostess” seated beside me. She could see I was a first-time flyer, and chatted to me and held my hand during take off.
That encounter changed my path in life. When I landed in Durban, I called my dad and told him I wanted to be an air hostess when I finished school. I joined SAA in September 2003 at the age of 26, a decade after my love for aviation had begun. I’m still loving it 16 years later, wearing my uniform with pride and dignity.
WHAT I LOVE MOST ABOUT MY JOB
My wonderful colleagues! There’s about 1 100 Cabin Crew Members at SAA, proudly representing South Africa’s diversity. You start a flight as strangers; by the end you become friends. Many of us are parents, and we often share our family stories when we dine together. We become each other’s family away from home.
MY MOST MEMORABLE MOMENT WAS…
When, along with three other colleagues, I was chosen to represent SAA on our inaugural flight to Abu Dhabi, and attend a star-studded dinner event at the luxury Emirates Palace hotel. It was an experience of a lifetime. That same year, I was interviewed live on SABC2 for a special Women’s Day Tribute flight to Cape Town, celebrating and empowering women in all sectors of aviation. My husband and kids were so proud to watch me on live TV!
MY FAVOURITE THING ABOUT TRAVEL
Most definitely the food. I love to sample local dishes in whichever country I find myself in – the amazing chicken schnitzels in Frankfurt, delicious Mumbai vindaloo, New York food-truck hot dogs, the meat dishes in Brazil, Hong Kong street food, British breakfasts, and succulent lamb shanks Down Under. And let’s not forget our local “bunny chows” when we overnight in Durban! This is the only career that lets you enjoy breakfast, lunch and dinner in three different cities on the same day.
Favourite destination: NEW YORK
The sights, sounds and skyscrapers of the Big Apple are simply exhilarating. You can’t resist the shopping on 5th Avenue, dinner and drinks at Bar SixtyFive – on the 65th floor of the Rockefeller Center – or just grabbing a coffee and a cream-cheese bagel from Starbucks and heading to Central Park to relax. I’ve been to the Statue of Liberty twice (because once wasn’t enough); I was second in line when I bought my ticket so I was one of the hundred tourists allowed to walk up to Lady Liberty’s crown every day.
SONALI’S TOP TRAVEL TIPS
ALWAYS HAVE THESE WITH YOU:
Travel in comfortable shoes and clothing. Carry a light jacket for on-board use, even if it’s 30°C at the airport. When you’re tired, your body gets cold.
Wet wipes and sanitiser
Keep these in your handbag, along with tissues and a small tub of body cream. The air on planes dehydrates your skin. I always have a small spray bottle of witch hazel and rose water to spritz on my skin.
Small medical kit
Pack painkillers, antihistamines and anti-diarrhoeal medication, eye drops, feminine products, plasters – and a lip balm.
Copies of your travel docs
E-mail copies of your passport, visas, travel itinerary and driver’s license to yourself. If you lose any of these while travelling, you’ll have access to copies.
This is crucial when travelling. Many banks offer free travel insurance when you purchase plane tickets with a credit card.
A book or tablet
Just in case the in-flight movies don’t grab you, or your TV monitor experiences technical issues during the flight.