As duty man­ager of Vir­gin At­lantic, Rishi Mehta has seen it all in check in bag­gages – dead cow and live gold­fish, in­cluded.


As duty man­ager for Vir­gin At­lantic at Dubai In­ter­na­tional Air­port, Rishi Mehta does ev­ery­thing to get pas­sen­gers on board – from check­ing in to open­ing the air­craft doors – even ar­rang­ing the cater­ing.

What got you in­ter­ested in a ca­reer with air­planes and air­ports?

As a child, I was al­ways mes­merised watch­ing air­planes take off and land at the air­port not far from where I grew up. We used to go ev­ery evening and sit out­side, with the air­port run­way in view, and watch them fly­ing in and out for hours. Even though I had an in­ter­est in planes grow­ing up, land­ing a ca­reer in avi­a­tion was ac­tu­ally just a co­in­ci­dence. My mum spot­ted an ad­ver­tise­ment for an air­line in In­dia, and mums be­ing mums, she was con­vinced I was the right fit for the job… and turns out she was right.

What was your first job?

I worked in credit card sales – vastly dif­fer­ent to the pace and en­vi­ron­ment I work in today.

What is the first thing you do at work?

Make a hot cup of black tea to shake off the cob­webs, be­fore at­tend­ing to pre-flight prep.

What is your typ­i­cal day like?

I wake up ev­ery morn­ing at around 5.30. The first thing I do is check our mo­bile app to see if our flight from the UK to Dubai is sched­uled for an on-time ar­rival. Once I’m ready, suited and booted in my Vivi­enne West­wood-de­signed uni­form, I leave the house, and nor­mally ar­rive at the air­port at around 6.45am. First thing I do is to be­gin the pre-flight pro­ce­dures with our team. Th­ese pro­cesses al­low us to es­tab­lish what the spe­cific re­quire­ments are for the flight that day, for both the ar­rival of the air­craft from the UK and de­par­ture of the air­craft back to London Heathrow. We al­ways com­mit time in the morn­ing to re­view­ing the lat­est feed­back on our route. We have tech­nol­ogy that al­lows us to gather timely feed­back on our cus­tomers’ ex­pe­ri­ence with us, from check-in all the way through to their ar­rival at their des­ti­na­tion. Then, it’s off to the check-in desk.

What hap­pens there?

Dur­ing check-in, it’s my job to meet and greet as many cus­tomers pos­si­ble, sup­port the op­er­a­tions team with any sys­tem is­sues or sit­u­a­tions that might arise, and be on hand in case of any is­sues with check­ing in spe­cific cus­tomers.

Through­out the check-in process, I’m also in con­stant con­tact with our teams who are over­see­ing the ar­rival of the air­craft, clean­ing the air­craft, load­ing in our cater­ing and all the other teams who are in­volved in get­ting our air­craft ready to de­part, to en­sure that all is go­ing smoothly. Once check-in is com­plete, my team and I move to the board­ing gate to greet our cus­tomers, wish them a safe and happy jour­ney to London, and, most im­por­tantly, help fa­cil­i­tate an on-time de­par­ture. Once our VS401 has de­parted, we have a post-flight de­brief to dis­cuss any learn­ings to im­prove fu­ture flight han­dling.

Did you have to take any par­tic­u­lar cour­ses?

I joined the avi­a­tion in­dus­try at a young age, so have had a lot of on-the-job train­ing. My role is in­te­gral to en­sur­ing the safety and se­cu­rity of our cus­tomers each and ev­ery day. It’s ex­tremely im­por­tant that I have con­sis­tently up-to-date train­ing so I can per­form my du­ties ef­fec­tively to keep our cus­tomers safe. The cour­ses I’ve com­pleted are as long as your arm.

Tell us one mis­con­cep­tion that peo­ple have seem to have about your job?

For a lot of peo­ple, all Vir­gin At­lantic staff are also pilots!

What has been the most amus­ing mo­ment in your ca­reer?

The strange items peo­ple have tried to check in with Vir­gin At­lantic. We’ve had it all, from a bag filled with water with four live gold­fish; loose car tyres; a fridge-freezer; a dead cow, wrapped in bub­ble wrap; the head­board of a bed. It’s fair to say no day is the same when you work in avi­a­tion.

What are the joys of your job?

It has to be the peo­ple I get to work with ev­ery day. And by that I mean my col­leagues and our cus­tomers. At Vir­gin At­lantic, we all have a shared pas­sion for the brand and ev­ery­thing it stands for. We’re instrumental in the start of peo­ple’s hol­i­days, hon­ey­moons or busi­ness trips to the UK and it’s not a re­spon­si­bil­ity we take lightly. When you see that pas­sion come through in our cus­tomer com­ments from our sur­veys, it’s a re­ally sat­is­fy­ing feel­ing. The perks: I’ve trav­elled the world.

Tell us a time when you went the ex­tra mile to make a trav­eller happy?

Re­cently, we had a fam­ily of four trav­el­ling back to the UK; the mum was trav­el­ling on her Pak­istani pass­port and the dad and two chil­dren were trav­el­ling on Bri­tish pass­ports. At check-in, the mum re­alised her res­i­dency visa was in her old pass­port, which she had left in the UK on a pre­vi­ous visit. Re­al­is­ing, that as per stan­dard im­mi­gra­tion rules, this would mean that mum wouldn’t be able to travel, the whole fam­ily be­came ex­tremely up­set as the prospect of them trav­el­ling sep­a­rately. I met the fam­ily, then co­or­di­nated with the Bri­tish Em­bassy who agreed to help fa­cil­i­tate the travel and we man­aged to board the whole fam­ily to­gether off on their trip to the UK. The tears stopped, there were lots of hugs and we were just de­lighted that we could help.

My mum spot­ted an ad­ver­tise­ment for an air­line in In­dia, and mums be­ing mums, she was con­vinced I was the right fit for the job

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