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Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Insider Interviews: Air New Zealand in-flight concierge

It was that twilight hour at the end of a long flight from Auckland to San Francisco last March. There wasn’t quite enough time left to start another movie, but staring out at the calm, cloudless Pacific was getting a little dull. The delicious hot breakfasts were fading to happy memories.

People began to chat, and one of the cabin crew had taken a seat on the foot rest of a nearby passenger.  It was the in-flight concierge, an uber-flight attendant, part of a program by Air New Zealand that offers itinerary planning, recommendations, and travel advice to all passengers on long-haul flights. 

What transpired in that conversation can not be blogged about until further fact-finding research takes place, preferably in a long-term assignment to New Zealand. We strive to provide only the best here on FROSCH Insider, you see. Long story short, we landed with a formidable list of New Zealand’s hidden beaches, obscure restaurants, great shopping tips, and secret spots that can’t be Googled. 

We recently spoke with one of the in-flight concierges, Brigitte Ransom, who talked to us about her job.  She flies the North American routes, encountering some memorable experiences along the way, from flying with movie stars and filmmakers, to transporting the America’s Cup, which gets its own seat in business class!   

Brigitte says that her fellow crew members are as diverse as the passengers.  “Despite the ‘trolley dolly’ stereotypes associated with cabin crew, Air New Zealand employs former nurses, pilots, police officers, firemen, writers and TV reporters and even a former zookeeper as flight attendants and concierges,” she says.  “Many have degrees and, as some of the best traveled people on the planet, they are an incredible source of knowledge, with far more to offer passengers than just a good meal and a glass of wine!”  Many thanks to Brigitte for taking the time out of her busy day to answer our questions!

FROSCH Insider: What’s the funniest experience you’ve had aboard an Air NZ flight? 
Brigitte Ransom: As a concierge, it’s my role to go above and beyond, surprising passengers with my ability to solve the most obscure of issues. A passenger once came to the galley keen to put this to the test, ‘if you can make anything happen’ he said ‘I’d like to see someone do the splits’. Without missing a beat, one of the flight attendants, a grandmother, hit the galley floor in a perfect front split. I managed to keep a straight face long enough to give the passenger my ‘all part of the service’ smile, but it was definitely the funniest thing I’d seen in a while.

FI:  What's your favorite route in terms of the views and scenery?  Favorite airport to fly into?
BR:  Each of the North American destinations has its own appeal (besides the great shopping) so it would be difficult to choose a favorite. In terms of views and scenery though, Vancouver has the most impressive scenery within easy access of the city, with stunning spots like Whistler and Vancouver Island just a short drive, flight or boat ride away.

I may be a little biased but I think Auckland Airport is the most user-friendly of the airports I fly to. It has been voted one of the ten best airports in the world two years running, and even has volunteers who welcome visitors with a free cup of tea or coffee in the baggage hall, which is a nice touch at 5am!

FI:  Where are you from?  What's your favorite NZ vacation spot, and what do you like to do there?
BR:  I come from a seaside farming community near the bottom of the North Island of New Zealand, but have lived in Auckland for several years so ‘home’ is always high on my list of vacation spots.

New Zealand is famous for its stunning South Island scenery – glaciers, fiords and mountains. Queenstown would be my pick of places for a winter break, to experience all of these natural features, along with loads of extreme activity options and great restaurants and bars. Personally, I’m more of a warm weather girl so Auckland, where I live, is perfect in summer – surrounded by water, with several islands, loads of beaches and even two wine regions, there are endless options for a weekend away, all within a couple of hours of the city.

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