“Find a job you enjoy doing, and you will never have to work a day in your life.” – Mark Twain.
How wonderful it must be when you do something you love, get to see the world at the same time AND get paid to do it.
It’s literally like being paid to live your dream.
Danelle de Wet is one of the lucky ones who actually gets paid to live out her dreams.
Originally from Cape Town, De Wet has been a crew member with Emirates Airlines for three years.
Now living in Dubai, she gets to visit countries around the world and has learnt invaluable lessons during the time she’s been a flight attendant.
We spoke to De Wet about her career in aviation, her experiences and the advice she has for young people.
What motivated you to be a flight attendant?
Since I took my very first flight with my father at nine years old, I fell in love with the skies. Since then, becoming a flight attendant was always on my list of dreams I wanted to achieve.
Growing up, I pursued many of my other passions and goals, but flying stayed at the forefront of my mind.
Finally, when it felt like the right time to pursue this career – I did. Leaving your hometown is not a decision to be taken lightly.
What do you love most about your job?
I have always been someone who enjoyed seeing new places, making new friends and, most of all, trying new cuisines.
The best part about this job is that it is a culmination of those three things that I truly enjoy in life. In the space of one week, you could find yourself in Dubai, Greece, Bali and London. Four very different countries, experiencing different cultures and trying all new flavours.
What is a normal day at work like for you?
The nature of this job is mostly “abnormal” – in the best of ways. To elaborate, no two days are the same. Waking up at odd hours of the day or night, living in hotels and/or out of a suitcase and jet-setting to every corner of the earth – all in a day’s work.
The main focus of my job is the safety and security of all on board; passengers, crew and the aircraft itself. Thereafter, we try our utmost to make all our passengers comfortable and serve them with grace and flair.
What is the most challenging aspect of your job?
The most challenging thing about a career in aviation is definitely managing your rest. Waking up at all hours of the night and/or day can be strenuous on one’s body and mind. It is therefore imperative to take proper care of your health by eating well, exercising and making sure that you get proper amounts of sleep after those tough night flights.
Describe life in Dubai
Life in Dubai is pretty fast-paced. New buildings, restaurants and activities pop up every week. There is always something new to experience. Because Dubai is mainly made up of expats, people are quite sociable and therefore it is so easy to make new friends in Dubai.
The weather in Dubai is really hot and humid, with summer temperatures reaching up to 42 degrees Celsius – it can take some getting used to. The cost of living is higher than what we are used to in South Africa, however, this is levelled out by earning a tax-free salary. Dubai is extremely safe.
What advice would you offer South Africans who are keen to move to Dubai?
Dubai has many job opportunities available for any and all occupations. Do some research into your field of choice and if you have the opportunity to relocate to Dubai, take it.
There are only experiences and lessons to gain by uprooting one’s life. Sure you will miss home, but the world is your oyster as they say.
What do you miss about South Africa?
What I miss most of course is my family and friends. Without a doubt, this is probably the toughest and most difficult part about relocating. However, therein lies the benefit of working for Emirates.
Discounted flights to be able to go see my family, or for them to come and visit me whenever possible. Other things I miss are braais (in Dubai we barbecue, but of course, it doesn’t compare), malva pudding, award-winning wines and I have definitely missed our beautiful luscious green landscapes.
What advice do you have for young people who are wanting to get into the airline industry?
This job can be tough on the body and mind, but, in the same breath, it is so rewarding. So if you dream of a career in aviation – go for it! You have nothing to lose (only maybe a little bit of sleep) and everything to gain!
What is the highlight of your career?
Highlights of my career thus far would be seeing the Eiffel Tower and the Louvre in Paris, France.
Hiking for three hours in the Philippine "jungle” to see the breathtaking Hulugan Falls.
Sailing through a small part of the 1 300 islets that make up Ha Long Bay in Vietnam on a man-powered boat.
The overwhelming emotions I felt when I first went to the 9/11 memorial site in New York.
Coming home to Cape Town, after being unable to see my family and friends for a year due to the Covid-19 pandemic.