The world of aviation is full of interesting stories and more importantly, journeys. Today we introduce you to Jolanta. You may already know her through her Jolanta_Freelance_FA Instagram account. She is the founder and Managing Director of the Nelly Academy, an app based online community and service designed to cater to needs of VIP Cabin managers and attendants alike. Her rise in the world of Private aviation is definitely unique.
Having started off her professional career in the hospitality sector back home in the Czech Republic, a chance encounter led to the opportunity of working in aviation, an opportunity which she took with both hands. We sit down with Jolanta to find out more about her story.
Elite Cabin Crew: Hi Jolanta, thank you very much for joining us today, we are looking forward to finding out more about you.
Jolanta Stryjova: Thank You, it’s nice to speak to you, I am looking forward to our chat.
ECC: So first things first, tell us a bit about yourself and your background.
JS: Sure, I am from a small town close to Trinec in the Frydek-Mistek District of the Czech Republic. It is a town close to the border with Poland. It's a nice part of the world to grow up in. Growing up close to the border gave me the opportunity to learn Polish from an early age as well as spark my interest in speaking in other languages.
ECC: How many languages can you speak?
JS: I can speak Czech, Polish, English and Russian fluently. I also know a few words in Maltese and I am hoping to become better at it.
ECC: Impressive, this must help a lot in your line of work.
JS: I was always quite social and I knew that I wanted to work with people, I was also a professional bartender when I was finishing my school education, you get exposed to so many different people from so many different places. I also took part in Bartending competitions during this time. The attention to detail and presentation required to be good at this and to win one of an event requires a lot of discipline. It taught me both how to work under pressure and how to remain composed at the most challenging of times.
ECC: What happened once you finished school?
JS: I moved to Cesky Tesin, another border town in the Czech Republic and I studied in a Hospitality and Gastronomy institute. I was passionate about working with people and it seemed only natural for me to make the move into the hospitality sector. Once I became qualified I moved to Prague and began working for an upmarket Gastronomy group.
ECC: It looks like your path was pretty set on working in Hospitality, what made you make the transition into aviation?
JS: A good friend who worked in aviation encouraged me to try it out. I already knew a lot about the hospitality side but the security and safety regulations around flying intrigued me, I found it quite challenging and I love being able to prove that I can do something. You are right about me being set in hospitality, before I decided to fly I had only been in a plane once. But as with most things, I found the prospect of me flying challenging in a positive way.
ECC: What was your first role in aviation?
JS: I started flying with TravelService, a Czech charter airline that caters to the Czech holiday maker. I completed one season (9 months) with them and thoroughly enjoyed the role. It was a good introduction into the world of aviation. After completing my contract I found my first role in private aviation.
ECC: How did you find the change from flying in the commercial sector to the private sector?
JS: I found that it was completely different, commercial companies have set procedures for everything. The passengers already have a specific expectation of how the flight will be, the catering on a commercial flight has already been ordered and taken on board and all the planes in the fleet have a consistent standard of equipment and service.
Once you move on to the private sector, you realise that a large part of the logistical side of flying is now your responsibility, and whilst the bigger charter airlines have some level of service consistency, they try to cater to the individual, so nothing is standardised, everything is bespoke and what you have available to you will change on a daily basis. From the onboard equipment to catering facilities and options, all of these things are now your responsibility.
ECC: You mentioned that passengers have different expectations, how so?
JS: You don’t interact with your passengers too often on a commercial flight. On a private flight some passengers want to be pampered whilst others want to be left in peace. They all expect great service so finding the balance of that is one of the keys to being successful. Private flying is full of glamour, it is also extremely hard work. The hours can be long and you need to keep a level of professionalism at all times. Your clients pay a lot for your service so you are always expected to deliver.
ECC: What other types of challenges do you come across in the world of private aviation.
JS: The facilities available to you always change, this can be particularly challenging at times. Private jets are much smaller, so as a Cabin Manager you are often solely responsible for the catering on board. This means that you need to be able to source food and beverages for your passengers regardless of your location, this can be quite easy if you fly into busy private terminals but it can be extremely challenging when you fly into a quiet town in the middle of a country where no one speaks your language and where they have less adequate facilities.
ECC: It must be quite challenging, what aspects of your role do you enjoy?
JS: The people, you meet so many interesting people, from Cristiano Ronaldo to politicians and other influential people. You get to see how they operate and you can often see why they are successful in whatever they do. I have always enjoyed learning from others and I try to surround myself with people who can challenge me to be better and try to learn from both positive and negatively experiences. You definitely get challenges in this role and that is one of the main reasons I enjoy it.
ECC: Tell us a bit about the Nelly Academy Application, how did this idea come about?
JS: Many factors came into it, I’d been working in private aviation for over 4 years and had reached a glass ceiling within my profession. I had reached as high as I could reach within my company at the time. I therefore decided to become a Freelance VIP Flight Attendant, I had built myself a good client base and was known for being hard working and reliable.
Operating as a Freelancer is quite challenging, the crew and equipment you fly with constantly changes, but more importantly, you are responsible for everything within the passenger cabin at all times. I often felt that the information I needed wasn’t available to me and I knew that this was something I had the power to resolve.
ECC: What does the application resolve?
JS: The application helps Crew and Operators to organise their cabins, this is particularly useful when you are constantly changing planes. Its Flight Attendant Handbook feature gives the operating crew access to the operating company’s set up, all the relevant contact details they will need, the costs of catering and procurement procedures that need to be followed, customer specifications, cabin and safety instructions, aircraft details and much much more.
ECC: How does this help crew when operating a flight?
JS: All plane models have different equipment on board, for example, some private jets do not have oven or microwave facilities on board. This means that the crew will not not able to serve hot meals on board. Weight and space restrictions are also prevalent in the industry. You don’t want to be ordering too much food or water and realise that this exceeds the plane’s weight/space restrictions, thereby not allowing the crew to have enough potable water, food or the passengers to carry their full luggage on board. Certain destinations will also have the resources to supply Private Jets whilst others won't.
A lot of work happens before the flight even begins and our application gives flight attendants information regarding all the resources they will have available to them at every destination. Safety is critical on board, the application details all the procedures that need to know in case an emergency situation arises. It helps with VIP clients as it allows you to know what they like to have on board and what type of service they desire. High profile clients have high expectations that need to be able to delivered at all times. All of this information can also be updated on a flight to flight basis, meaning that the crew on board will always have access to the latest information and are therefore able to perform at their very best.
ECC: What do you hope to achieve with your application?