By Noah Graff
For the past 10 years, JetBlue, one of the few successful airlines in the sky, has hired several hundred New York police officers and fire fighters as flight attendants. Some estimate that 10 percent of the company’s total cabin crew workforce of 2,400 has emergency response experience. Seemed pretty weird to me when I read about it in the Wall Street Journal last week. When someone mentions the word “flight attendant” the first words that pop in to my head are “cute,” “female,” and “young,” then “grouchy” if it’s United Airlines and “friendly” if it’s Southwest.
Retired cops aren’t prototypical stewards, but after further reflection, maybe it’s not such a crazy idea. Police officers and fire fighters are trained to remain calm in stressful situations and deal with volatile strangers. They’re adept at noticing subtle social cues, to identify if a passenger may be disruptive or potentially dangerous. Also, prior to September 11, pilots on occasion would leave the cockpit to defuse disruptions in the cabin. Today they are prohibited from leaving the cockpit, so ex-cops and ex-fire fighters are useful to fill that role.
Police officers and firefighters are also used to the alternative schedules of flight attendants—working long shifts for a few days and then getting a few days off. They don’t make as much money as they did before, but they are already retired, so it’s a nice supplemental income to their pensions.
Meanwhile, unemployment remains the same at 9.5 percent. In the month of July, 150,000 jobs were lost overall, while 70,000 jobs were gained in the private sector.
Who are the people getting the 70,000 new jobs? They’re often not the ones who held those same positions previously. Many of the hires are younger people, who may possess less experience and skills than their processors who held the same job but require fewer benefits and less pay. But bringing in new blood should be done more shrewdly than just on a basis of getting younger and leaner. It’s an opportunity to hire like JetBlue, to find people with fresh ideas and new skills, for a chance to take a company to higher level of success than ever before.
The best new talent may be walking the streets right now, just wearing a different uniform.
Question: Do you prefer to hire or work with people who previously worked in a different field than that of your business?