Husband forced into retirement. Lay-offs eminent for your current job. Kids grown and gone. Would those be strong enough reasons for you to totally change your way of life? That is exactly what Kathleen Kober faced. She was given two days to decide whether or not to take the easy way out and just wait to be fired from her current job or take a huge leap of faith and begin a new career. Kathleen opted for the new job and the new adventure of being a flight attendant. Her decision brought job security, health benefits, and free opportunities to visit her grand kids. But she has also had to live thousands of miles away from her husband for a period of time, deal with delays and creepy people, and come to really understand what being flexible is all about.
I sat next to Kathleen on a recent flight from Salt Lake to Phoenix. Kathleen was a “jumper” — an airline employee flying on another airline to get to work. While Kathleen lives in Salt Lake City, her home base for Sky West Airlines is Phoenix, Arizona. Here is Kathleen’s story; of how a wife, mother of 5, and grandmother of 6, found herself going from a comfortable job as a customer service agent to the jet-setting world of a woman of the skies.
Describe your venture: I am a flight attendant for Sky West Airlines.
What set you on your path to your venture? Living in Idaho when I was raising my family, I was a stay at home, working part time jobs. I was a substitute teacher, a school district employee, and eventually wound up working as a customer service agent for an airlines at the Twin Falls Airport. For three years, I did everything: take tickets, help with luggage, even de-ice the planes. When my husband got a job transfer to Salt Lake City, I transferred to the Salt Lake City Airport. For the next six years, I was still a customer service agent but my job was relegated to working at the gate, taking tickets. It was during this time, that my husband was “forced” in to retirement and I found out my job would be eliminated in a year or two due to a downturn in the airline industry. One day, I was approached and asked if I was interested in being a flight attendant. I had two days to decide whether or not to take this new job or just wait until I was laid off and walk away then. I decided to take the job security of a new position, so here I am. I’ve been a flight attendant now for a year.
What skills/talents do you have that compliment your venture? I like going places and meeting new people.
What fears did you have getting started? If I could handle the hours, working away from home, and not knowing a soul in the beginning.
What was involved in getting started? Twenty seven days of grueling classroom training. I had to learn everything about the aircraft. And there were lots and lots of tests. When the classroom training was over, then I had to do an “IOE”– Initial Operating Experience. This is where I shadowed and observed an experienced flight attendant for two days. Then, on the third day, I did the flight attendant duties with my trainer observing me to make sure I didn’t make any critical mistakes. After all that, I was a certified flight attendant.
What were your start up costs? What are your ongoing costs? My first home base was in Houston. I had to pay for my room and board in a “crash pad” for 5 months. Now, I don’t really any expenses to speak of.
How much time a week do you spend on your venture? I need to be in my assigned city (which is currently Phoenix, Arizona) for 4-6 days at a time. Then, I get to go back home to Salt Lake for 2-3 days before I start it all over again. I’m lucky because one of my daughter’s and her family live in the Phoenix area and they have graciously provided me a “Grandma’s Room” where I stay when I’m in town. I love the time this allows me to spend with my grandchildren.
What have you learned along the way? To be flexible!!! There’s been a few times I’ve ended up not where I was supposed to go due to weather or other problems. Also, flight delays are common. I just have to go with the flow. It is also a job that requires a lot of stamina. The days can be long and I am always on my feet. It can be quite tiring. I need to be careful and take care of myself to have the energy it requires.
What do you like best about your venture? Meeting new people. No two days are the same. And being able to fly free on stand by with my husband to visit our children and grandchildren as well as take interesting trips anywhere in the world.
What do you see for you and your venture in the future? I see myself being a flight attendant for probably one more year. Then, I am going to reevaluate and see what I want to do next with my life.