The inspirational women of Virgin Atlantic - Carly Navin
‘Surviving & Thriving’ – championing the women across Virgin Atlantic; sharing individual stories of how they’ve survived and thrived over the last 12 months.
Tell us a bit about your role at Virgin Atlantic…
I’ve been full-time cabin crew for Virgin Atlantic for 14 years now and worked at lots of different events and trips as part of the promotions crew. I’m so lucky to have worked on so many memorable promotions over the years: Ant & Dec’s Saturday Night Takeaway in Florida, Brazil with Sir Richard Branson, our activities to launch Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge at Walt Disney World, a photo shoot with Eric Lanlard (and getting to eat all the display food at the end!). There have been loads!
What were your ambitions growing up?
I’m going to sound really cliché here, but I just wanted to be a famous singer and dancer! I went to college to do dance and drama but when I got to about 19, I realised I wanted a more stable life. The auditioning process and not knowing when your next job was going to come in just became really stressful. So I ended up working in retail after college.
Tell us about how you came to be cabin crew. Were there any barriers you felt like you faced?
At 22 I was still so young, and I didn’t see any barriers preventing me from choosing my own path, to be honest. You’re so fearless at that age and I didn’t know enough about the world to feel that worried.
I’d spent a few years working in retail and I know this might sound like another cliché, but I really wanted to live in New York. I knew I’d have to get a visa to live there or only be able to spend a few months there at a time before coming back to the UK. So, I was thinking about how I could make it work and that’s when I considered becoming cabin crew. From making that decision I knew there was only one airline I ever wanted to work for and that was Virgin Atlantic (even though I’d never flown with them before!). It was their reputation and the image of the brand which made me so set on only wanting to work for them. And I’ve been hooked ever since!
What gives you the most job satisfaction?
For me, it’s the impact that I can have on someone’s day. I go to work knowing I have the power to make a difference to someone’s holiday or trip, and I find that such an important responsibility. It’s the absolute best feeling in the world when someone’s going away, and you’ve got them off to the best possible start. Or if a customer is travelling for not a very nice reason then I can comfort them and make their experience as easy as possible.
If someone boards one of our planes and has a problem or isn’t happy, then I can completely change their mood. That is my job satisfaction.
What has been your experience of living through the pandemic? ~
It really took me a while to get into the swing of things when we first went into lockdown. I live with my boyfriend in a two-bedroom house and he had to work from home. I was furloughed so we were just having to learn each other’s schedules and work around one another – you feel a bit of friction now and again!
But then we found our groove as time went on and I used my time on furlough to complete some online courses. I finished 200 hours of online yoga teacher training and a three-month course in understanding autism, both of which I absolutely loved. The yoga I’ve always enjoyed and taught a free virtual beginner’s course after qualifying to support people’s mental health. And the autism course was something that has been on my radar and I was super interested to learn more; we quite often have autistic children onboard so I thought it would help me understand their behaviour more and how I could best support them and their family during the flight. I also learnt so much more about adults living on the autistic spectrum; why they may say certain things or do things that you don’t quite understand. It was fascinating.
Our workforce has sadly almost halved as a result of Covid-19, how have you dealt with losing many friends in the Cabin team?
I’m a mental health first aider at Virgin Atlantic and have been part of the cause to support fellow crew throughout the pandemic, whilst also being part of restructures myself with my job put in jeopardy twice. We talk about survivor’s guilt quite a lot, as you see such amazing people leave the company through absolutely no fault of their own and you’re still here. You want to reach out to them to support them, but you sometimes don’t know where you stand, and you’re then going through the whole turmoil process yourself. That’s been the hardest thing for me.
The only thing that I feel reassured with is knowing that cabin crew are SO amazing and so fantastic at their jobs that I just know they’ll end up somewhere great at some point. I trust in the process that the cycle of the world will look after them and that they’ll be fantastic in any job they step into.
For me personally, I struggled with my own mental health situation but knew how important it is to be aware of. I went on my own emotional rollercoaster; watching too much news; trying to get too much information on the pandemic; and going through two rounds of redundancies. One of my main learnings from living through the past year is that we can all be so quick to tell people that we’re here for them whenever they need it or that your door is always open, but when a person isn’t in a great headspace then they don’t always want to reach out for help.
What I’ve learnt is that instead of saying ‘I’m always here’, is to actually be more proactive. When I felt like people were going off the radar or you hadn’t seen anything from them for a while on social media, then I’d privately reach out to directly ask them ‘how are you?’, ‘what are you up to? ‘would you like to go for a walk to talk it out?’’. Very few people who need help are wanting to be the ones to reach out and say they’re having a bad day. I had friends reach out to me when they noticed I’d been quiet on Facebook for a period of time and it makes you feel loved and valued. It makes all the difference.
I also found out I was pregnant during the pandemic and am due to give birth in May, so the support of my friends and family has been invaluable.
Congratulations on this exciting news! What’s it been like living through the pandemic and expecting your first child?
We knew we wanted to start a family, but when we first went into lockdown in March it was like you had to plan your life one month at a time and everything was put on hold. As every month went on and nothing was clearer when it was going to end, I had to make a decision that I wasn’t getting any younger and we’d just crack on – whatever happens, you get on with it and deal with it!
Similar to the feeling of survivor’s guilt I mentioned earlier, I feel so utterly blessed to be pregnant and you don’t want to ever complain about it but there are these little things I’ve missed out on. I’ve not been able to go shopping for maternity clothes with my mum and try different things on, or even get measured for a maternity bra! And the one thing I’ve most wanted to do and looked forward to is getting a pregnancy massage; if things open up in April then I’ll hopefully squeeze in one or two! All of my NCT classes have been online so I’ve not been able to meet up with other expectant mums and my boyfriend hasn’t been allowed to come to my midwife appointments. It’s just been a very different experience to the one which I’d always imagined but I really am so grateful to be pregnant so don’t want to complain. Online shopping for baby things has got me through – my Amazon delivery driver is my hero!
Which women have inspired you growing up?
Throughout my career – and not just because I’m pregnant – I’ve always respected and been inspired by working cabin crew who are also mums. They’re warriors, pure soldiers! I became crew at 22 and would work a night flight, land back early in the morning, get home by 9am and then spend the rest of that day either asleep or watching TV. But I’d speak to crew who were mums and they go straight from the flight to being ‘mum’ again at home, looking after their children and getting on with what needed doing at home. I’ve just always admired them!
One of our Senior First Officers, Bernice, is the epitome of an amazing working mum. Not only is she a mother, but she’s also a commercial pilot who’s spent years training to become SFO and is an entrepreneur with her own café and business. You can’t get more inspiring than that!
Describe what it’s like to work for Virgin Atlantic in three words…
Proud. Variety. Team spirit (that’s almost 3 right!?).
There’s not a more solid connection between a team than that of cabin crew when we step onboard a plane before operating a flight. It’s a close-knit and very supportive community both onboard and on the ground.
Find out more about the inspirational women of Virgin Atlantic on our International Women’s Day page