Stand-up comedian, Rhod Gilbert has been put through his paces of becoming British Airways cabin crew at the airline’s global training centre near Heathrow Airport in West London. It was all for a new BBC TV show that sees’s Gilbert take on a number of different jobs – not all of which work out very well.
Describing the role of cabin crew as akin to being a “human Swiss Army knife’, Gilbert had to learn how to fight onboard fires, evacuate an aircraft in an emergency, deal with urgent medical issues and even deliver a baby at 40,000 feet. And that’s not to mention the ‘premium’ service delivery.
But before all of that training could begin, Gilbert had to look the part – a tough job in itself for the famously scruffy comedian. Luckily, Bobby Nazareth – a longtime trainer for British Airways – was able to get Gilbert looking shaved, manicured and groomed in order to model the Julian MacDonald-designed BA uniform.
While Rhod only had a few days to learn the ropes, up to 2,000 new cabin crew attend BA’s state of the art training centre every year before they can receive their ‘Wings’ and work on a real aircraft.
British Airways describe their crew as having to take on a variety of roles including “safety expert, paramedic, chef, waiter, fireman, police officer and agony aunt” – all at the same time!
“While Rhod was a natural at the safety drills, he couldn’t get his head around what he called the ‘first class fiddle faff’ needed for premium service,” explained Katharine Nimmo – the comedian’s very own mentor during his time at BA.
“But after he’d had the session on learning fine wine and cheese pairings, he seemed to get more into the spirit of it, and even nailed how to make the perfect First class bed.”
And how better to put that training to use than to work on a real flight – the BA184 from Heathrow to Newark. Working alongside experienced cabin crew, Gilbert would have to help serve and look after 250 passengers onboard a Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner – an experience he described as “exhausting”.
“Hats off to you… fair play, it’s exhausting. It is really hard work and there is a lot more to it than anyone would ever realise,” Gilbert said to the crew.
“Once you see it in this environment, you realise the training has got to be perfect, and I haven’t been this tired in a really long time.”
The show will be shown on the BBC iPlayer – an internet television service which is only available to viewers in the UK. The show will be broadcast on the BBC2 television channel later this year and should be made available to BBC America at some point as well.