In the first of a new series of behind the scenes features, we asked Blue Islands’ Head of Inflight Services Lloyd Collins to spill the beans on what his role in the pan-Channel Island based airline entails.
Lloyd has worked with Blue Islands since January 2015 as head of inflight services, when he returned to Jersey after an aviation career which started in 1996 with the airline which went onto become Flybe – Jersey European Airways.
Just before I was born, my parents moved from Jersey to a small town on the border of England and Wales called Chepstow, near Bristol, which is where I spent my first few years. I moved back to Jersey in 1995 when I was 17.
I’ve worked in aviation for near two decades, and loved every second of it. My CV lists no fewer than 11 airlines, and through hard work, determination and a passion for what I do, I’ve worked across a wide variety of inflight and operational disciplines. Plus, working in aviation means I have had the amazing opportunity to get to live all over the world, and during my career so far I’ve been based in London, Paris, Manchester, Jeddah, Lagos and now I’m back to my aviation genesis – Jersey.
I joined Blue Islands after a spell at British Airways, but have also worked for Thomas Cook, BMI, Titan Airways, British World Airlines and Air Atlanta Icelandic. I’m able to bring all that experience to this role and make our passengers’ time with us as memorable and enjoyable as possible.
Seeing as this is the first behind the scenes feature, I think I can get away with dropping the cliché “no two days are the same!” [Ed: it won’t be happening again]. I have what is probably one of the most diverse roles in the company. One day I can be interviewing prospective Cabin Crew Members, the next I can be training those new recruits in our in-house classroom or assessing them inflight, then the next day I’m working on our duty free and on board menu options. Other times I can be found updating the Cabin Crew PA announcements, either with legislative tweaks or adding news of our latest charity initiative, or reviewing cabin safety procedures and policies in accordance with latest regulatory authority guidance. Also part of my role is performing cabin inspections to ensure they meet the presentation standards our passengers expect. I’m also heavily involved with the commercial aspects of the Inflight Services Department and matching commercial needs with operational ones is often a balancing act. It’s a very ‘hands on’ role, which I absolutely love – but that also means I regularly have to be ready to literally turn my hand to anything!
I’m a real people person, so one of the true joys of working for an airline the size of Blue Islands is I get to know each and every Cabin Crew member personally – which is the opposite from some of the larger carriers I have worked for. The team ethic and can-do culture here is second to none, and we strive each and every day to get people where they need to be, making their experience with us the best it can be. I also fly regularly as an operating Cabin Crew Member, and over the past few years, I’ve got to know a number of our regular passengers very well. I think it’s reassuring for our regular customers to see the familiar faces of either myself or our other members of the team on board. It’s great when passengers board and greet you by name – and it’s nice that we’re able to remember their usual Duty Free requests, or drink and snack preferences during the flight. Remembering who likes what tipple is only a small part of our role on board, but it is a nice way of recognising our regular travellers and making them feel “at home” whenever they are on board with us.
London City! Without a doubt. It’s a jewel in the crown of the capital, and approaching it is a totally unique experience – with its amazing views of London’s iconic landmarks. Most people are often transfixed with seeing the Houses of Parliament, London Eye, the Shard, Docklands and 02 from a new perspective and I never tire of it. Plus when you land, in only a few minutes you can be on board the DLR and speeding into the city.
Quite simply, the island is stunning. Anyone visiting has got to head to the beaches, no matter what time of year they visit. In the summer, they can grab an ice cream and stroll along with their feet in the sea, and in the winter head out to the rugged north-coast cliffs. The salty fresh air and sound of waves lapping – or in the winter, crashing – up against the shore does everyone the world of good, it certainly helps me to relax.
Then there’s the food! Everyone must try the fresh, locally caught seafood lunch with a chilled glass of wine. Check into one of the many spa hotels, indulge in the treatments offered, before heading into St Helier for a pre-dinner cocktail before deciding where to enjoy dinner. It is a wonderful place to visit, and an even more fabulous place to live.
Well, there are so many memorable events and occasions that spring instantly to mind, but I’m unsure of how appropriate it would be to publish them!
On a serious note, I’d say that during my time in Saudi Arabia, based in Jeddah, operating ‘Hajj’ flights has to undoubtedly be one of the most memorable highlights of my career.
‘Hajj’ is the fifth pillar of Islam, and according to their faith, every able bodied Muslim must make the Hajj pilgrimage to Mecca at least once in his or her lifetime, should they have the material means to do so. Hajj is an exceptionally busy time for specialist charter airlines, who rebase their entire fleet in that part of the world during the Hajj period each year, to transport literally millions of Muslim pilgrims to and from Mecca. My first Hajj was operated by Air Atlanta Icelandic on behalf of the then airline, Air Afrique. Me and my crew of 18, away from home and together for almost six months, took our Boeing 747 Jumbo backwards and forwards between Jeddah and some of the most obscure and remote parts of the African continent – getting to experience destinations that would never, ever appear on the tourist map. Our passengers included members of indigenous African tribes – whole villages would save up for an entire lifetime to be able to send just one or two people on the Hajj. This was one of the most humbling, thought provoking and amazing experiences I think I’ve ever had. You’ve heard the expression ‘it really is a different world’ and I think in describing this part of my flying life – the expression is absolutely accurate!
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