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Confessions of a private jet attendant… where what happens on board stays on board – or has done, until now!

Even by luxury hotel standards, it’s impressive. Vivaldi is playing in the lounge.

In the bedrooms, the pillows you requested have been plumped. In the en-suite bathrooms, silk pyjamas are laid out. In the dining room there’s a platter of caviar and fresh seafood, a bottle of your favourite vintage champagne on ice.

And the space? This is the cabin of a private Airbus A320neo. About the same size as an Easyjet plane.

And Vanessa Williams, 35, from Greenwich in London, is one of three flight attendants on it.

‘You might have 19 passengers turn up on a stag do who want to party the whole time and smoke and drink beers nonstop,’ she says. ‘Or you could have a Muslim family who want to pray at certain times and aren’t eating anything because they’re fasting.’ 

Passengers are often chauffeur-driven directly to the door of the plane, with passport checks performed on board. For the duration of the flight, their every whim will be catered for. They probably won’t even experience turbulence because private jets can fly higher than commercial – around 42,000ft rather than 35,000ft – meaning they often miss bumpy patches.

Despite the glamour, some pilots and flight attendants say they feel under pressure to take risks to keep private-jet clients happy. Harry, 41, from Surrey, is a pilot who used to fly for a major private jet company and now works for British Airways. ‘There’s a constant expectation that you’ll turn a blind eye,’ he says.

And the space? This is the cabin of a private Airbus A320neo. About the same size as an Easyjet plane (stock photo) And the space? This is the cabin of a private Airbus A320neo. About the same size as an Easyjet plane (stock photo)

And the space? This is the cabin of a private Airbus A320neo. About the same size as an Easyjet plane (stock photo)

‘I watched some guys take off from a mountain airport in the Alps with only one engine working so that they could get the plane fixed and return in time to pick up the owner. For some clients there’s no such thing as “No”.’

Sounds dangerous? It can be downright death-defying:

‘A friend was flying some Albanian passengers and one of them got into a fight with his bodyguard. Guns were pulled out,’ he says. ‘The pilots had to depressurise the aircraft [lowering the pressure in the cabin and so reducing the oxygen levels] to knock them out,’ says Harry. ‘When they landed, the pilots blamed it on a leaky outflow valve.’

Guests have sky-high expectations. ‘We have high-speed wifi on board, but there’s a patch over the Atlantic where you’re in between satellites and it always cuts out,’ says Williams. ‘We had these crypto guys on board all constantly on their laptops and when we lost the internet they were going crazy. They were shouting: “Get us back online! We’ve got money to make!” but there was nothing I could do.’

That said, private flight attendants are well compensated – they earn between £50,000 and £100,000 a year depending on experience (compared to the £26,000 average of a commercial flight attendant). They also receive tips, both cash and gifts. ‘I’ve been given a beautiful Gucci handbag,’ says Williams.

‘My friends who work in the Middle East get given luxury bags all the time.’ The uniforms are also a step up from Easyjet. ‘We wear smart Reiss suits and an Hermès scarf,’ she says. ‘There’s no polyester in sight.’

Some clients just want to be left alone. ‘There are a few passengers who come on board and won’t make eye contact or will only communicate with you through an assistant,’ Williams says. ‘Once we had Russian passengers who boarded with some young French girls. They had a big bottle of vodka and let’s just say they didn’t want to be disturbed.’

Sex at 42,000ft? ‘The music was loud and the doors were closed the whole time,’ says Williams. ‘What happens on board stays on board.’

Vanessa WilliamsBALondon

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