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From cabin crew to air ground steward- how Claire went through the collapse of Thomas Cook, and found her new role within the RAF

  • Tuesday, November 10, 2020
  • Posted By Lucy Markillie

After going through the collapse of Thomas Cook in 2019, Claire found her new calling with the Royal Air Force through our support. In her own words, Claire tells us about her experiences:

My names Claire, I’m 43 and used to work as cabin crew with Thomas Cook. My cabin crew journey started with Airtours in 2000, a six-week training course followed by a 6-month probation period on the airbus A320/321 before qualifying on the A330 and entering the long-haul flying world. Airtours rebranded as My Travel and then merged with Thomas Cook in 2007.

I feel fortunate to have had a job I loved and was passionate about for 20 years. In that time, I worked my way towards promotions, to assistant cabin manager and then finally cabin manager, something I was immensely proud of. I especially enjoyed the mentorship part of the role with new crew joining our big family.

The collapse of Thomas Cook was devastating. Overnight, I lost the job and lifestyle I loved. It felt like my world had been turned upside down. The impact of those lost jobs is still on going, and it has been heart-breaking to see friends and colleagues associated with Thomas Cook continue to struggle. However, it has made me more determined to find a job that I was passionate about (although at the time I was not sure of how) and to see it as an opportunity to make a positive change.

I had financial/career support from the DWP, who put me in touch with the National Careers Service. They suggested the Growth Company to look at courses to gain more skills and have awareness of upcoming job events. I heard about the Thomas Cook job fair through this. It was genuinely overwhelming how much support was being shown to ex TC employees.

The Job Fair was a great opportunity to see what was available in the job market. However, once I got to the RAF stand, I didn’t leave! I found the face to face real time interactions of great value. To be able to talk to people already employed within the RAF, in a similar role to what I had been doing for the last 20 years, was a great motivator.

I Joined the RAF because I wanted a job/career I could be passionate and proud of. A job that would challenge me, whilst giving me the opportunities to develop myself through ongoing training and learning. A job that would provide security but also incorporate my passion for travel and aviation, so not an ordinary job! I feel like I’ve found all of this and so much more with the RAF. I’m suited to the unique lifestyle of the RAF and I am excited to see where my career takes me.

It’s also great to have the skills and experience from my previous job recognised and valued and hopefully now I can take these skills and transfer them into my new role going forward. On a personal level it feels good to be giving back by becoming part of a uniformed Service, protecting the Nation (and skies I have been safely flying through for the last 20 years). The RAF is more than a job it’s about becoming part of a big family, something that feels good to say.

I learnt so much about myself though basic training. It was a great reminder about how vital teamwork, adaptability and the right attitude is, when trying to overcome hurdles or challenges. We all have strengths and weaknesses so with some personal resilience, determination, ability to adapt and the right support and attitude, anything is possible. An unexpected outcome of my basic training was the high number of friends I made, friends I will have for life as part of my RAF family.

My graduation was one of my proudest moments especially as I received the Lord Lieutenant Buckingham trophy for displaying the greatest improvement in recruit training. It was a great to have my hard work and commitment recognised and acknowledged by the RAF hierarchy.

We asked Claire what it was like to adjust, and what plans she has for the future, now. She told us:

It has been both challenging and exciting adjusting and adapting to a new working culture. The support you receive in the RAF helps with these challenges and I am so excited for my new career and am 100% sure I have made the right choice.

My short-term goal is to be successful in my phase 2 training (where I learn specifics about my role). Medium term is to work toward promotion as quickly as possible. Finally, my long-term aspirations are to grasp every opportunity available to me through the RAF, whether it be personal development through education or adventurous training and sport.

We also asked Claire what she thought of the process, and the support she received:

I feel that the task force provided great up to date information on available job roles and access to training courses to support future employment. I would like to thank them for the assistance in signposting me to this exciting opportunity I am now a part of.

How can you follow a similar journey to Claire?

A career in the RAF is a lot more achievable than people think. Whether or not you have no formal qualifications or a degree, they will have a role for you. Why not see for yourself on the website -

All RAF apprenticeship schemes offer 20K per annum post training with the guarantee of a secure job from day 1. Alongside this attractive financial package are several employee benefits, such as:

  • Subsidised food
  • Subsidised accommodation
  • Free gym membership
  • Non-contributory pension

If you would like to know more, why not get in touch with the North West recruitment team via social media:

Instagram - @RAFCareersManchester

Instagram - @RAFCareersNorthWest

Twitter - @AFCOManchester

Gc Claires Story