- Arta Uma Upmale is a social-media manager who works as a flight attendant as a side hustle.
- Apart from the rigorous training, she said being a flight attendant is a low-effort side gig.
- The flexible hours means she can work shifts before or after work or on the weekend.
This as-told-to essay is based on a transcribed conversation with Arta Uma Upmale, a 26-year-old social-media manager and part-time flight attendant at airBaltic, Latvia’s flagship carrier airline. The following has been edited for length and clarity.
I started at airBaltic in 2021 as a social-media manager. I loved my job, and then it got even better — I had the chance to become a part-time flight attendant.
After pandemic restrictions lifted and air travel got back to normal, airBaltic needed extra aircraft staff, so it launched its “Office in the Sky” program. It allows the company’s office workers to undergo cabin-crew training and take flying shifts a few times a month around their full-time jobs.
I was a bit of an anxious flyer, but I applied. I saw it as a chance to make extra income — provided and supported by my employer. I was curious about what the cabin-crew job was like. I also wanted to experience the training, which I thought would be fun.
I was selected for further training after passing health checks and psychological tests.
I had no idea how extensive cabin-crew training was
Whether you’re a full-time or part-time cabin crew member, there are no shortcuts. We were taught the ins and outs of the aircraft and how to handle all situations and scenarios that can happen on board — from unhappy passengers to first aid and emergency landings.
We had to read hundreds of pages of training materials and manuals. There were dozens of tests and practical exercises. Once, we had to role-play a passenger rescue mission after an emergency water landing. We were dumped into a pool with life vests on while artificial waves tossed us around and helicopter sounds played in the background.
I spent three evenings a week and every second Saturday in the training center for four months. It was exhausting but interesting. AirBaltic also paid me a stipend on top of my salary the entire time, which was extra motivation to carry on.
When the training concluded, I had to take several training flights and pass a line check. That’s when a cabin-crew instructor observes the trainee’s work during a flight before they can start flying duties.
I started training in October 2022 and did my first shift in April 2023.
Now, I mostly fly two times a month and up to four times a month during peak season. I’m no longer anxious when flying — I know how the aircraft works, so every little sound, beep, or squeak makes perfect sense to me.
I enjoy being part of the cabin crew, but my priority is my office job
Balancing flying with my office work involves strategic scheduling. I take early morning, evening, and weekend shifts to ensure I don’t miss any commitments for my full-time job.
For example, a quick 6 a.m. flight from Riga to Helsinki and back means I’m done by 10 a.m. and can be back in the office for my working day.
On weekends, I prefer longer flights. My favorite is Lisbon, which is a 4 ½ hour flight from Riga. I enjoy sharing travel tips with passengers and noting ideas for my future trips.
Longer flights equal higher earnings, too. Flying shifts are paid by the hour. As an existing airBaltic employee, I receive overtime pay.
If I have free time on flights, I work on my daily tasks as a social-media manager. I talk to colleagues and passengers for content inspiration, take photos and videos, and draft posts. On long flights, I usually have more time for it.
A part-time cabin-crew job suits me perfectly
Since the training was done, this side gig hasn’t taken up much of my free time. It’s quite predictable — as long as it doesn’t interfere with my office duties, I know I’ll have at least two shifts a month. This role is also a good fit for me; I’m a people person and like taking care of passengers.
On the flip side, being a flight attendant is not for you if you don’t like working with people. This job requires strong communication skills and empathy. And you have to be ready for never-ending training, tests, and line checks to meet the industry’s safety requirements. Some may find this burdensome.
In my case, this job also requires me to be highly flexible if I want extra shifts. I may get a call during the day to cover one that same evening, with little time to think about it.
Combining flight attending with another job is more realistic than I thought
The “Office in the Sky” program may be unique to airBaltic, but the flexibility of being cabin crew is universal. I have colleagues who work as cabin crew full time and combine their work with being architects, physiotherapists, and personal trainers.
A cabin-crew job can be as flexible or fixed as you like, depending on the type of roster you choose. If you like traveling while pursuing another profession, becoming part of a cabin crew is one way to do it.