Tia Chetty, dressed in her signature Emirates outfit: a red hat, cream scarf and beige suit, is the epitome of grace and poise.
The flight attendant is at the airline’s stand at Africa’s Travel Indaba where she provides guests with the “First Class” experience.
In between her educational talks, guests whip out their smartphones to capture a selfie with her. When we meet to chat a few minutes later, Chetty is a ball of energy, and her smile lights up the room.
The 22-year-old says that she stumbled upon the career purely by chance. Having moved to Dubai from Johannesburg in 2017, Chetty wanted a career that allowed her to travel and meet new people.
“My heart was longing to travel and to get out of my shell. When my mother told me about a flight attendant vacancy at Emirates, I immediately jumped at the chance.
“It is one of the best decisions of my life. It has been one adventurous year,” she says, passionately. The aspiring model, who hopes to enter Miss South Africa in the next two years, has travelled to more than two dozen countries since she started in August last year.
While she loves visiting exotic locations, she says it has not always been “roses and sunshine”. She says: “This job teaches you patience. Learning everything at one go can be challenging. I remember crying on my third flight. I felt overwhelmed. I felt there was not enough time to get everything done, but practice does make perfect. You grow with every flight.”
Chetty was an introvert when she started the job but can now easily strike a conversation with anyone.
“I am quite confident now. Having the opportunity to meet different people allows you to come out of your shell. You get to learn about their culture and traditions.”
Layovers for Chetty feel like a mini-vacation.
“I love layovers. It allows you to travel to the city and take part in a few activities. It's the best way to experience a destination," she says.
When she is not flying or enjoying layovers at some of the world’s most breathtaking locations, she manages an online store called Queening Runway, which she founded in April last year. She also enjoys relaxing in Downtown Dubai with her loved ones or visiting the Burj Khalifa.
Chetty does not require much when she checks into a hotel. All she wants is a good bed. Rwanda is one of her favourite places.
“I visited a rural settlement in the country recently and got to spend time with the locals. The experience warmed my heart. I got to see what people face daily. It helped me to appreciate life more.
“I am working with a few organisations in Rwanda to improve school facilities for the local children," she says.
Her must-have travel essentials include a camera and clothes for all types of weather.