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Flight attendants who have turned around

Sometimes, flight attendants cross walkways other than those leading to planes, and embark on radically different professions. Especially when the pandemic rushes things. Why and how do they operate this change in altitude? Here are the professional travel notes of converted flight attendants.

Posted at 11:30 a.m.

Sylvain Sarrazin

Sylvain Sarrazin
The Press

Rebuilding an end of career


PHOTO HUGO-SÉBASTIEN AUBERT, THE PRESS

Lise Groleau became a general contractor after more than thirty years as a flight attendant.

For 35 years, Lise Groleau was happy, not like a fish in water, but like a finch in the air: she cherished her job as a flight attendant for Air Canada, which she wanted to practice until end. “I was not ready to quit my job. But with COVID-19, everything changed, ”says the fifty-year-old, not very happy at the idea of ​​​​working in this new context, wearing a mask for hours – she who was flying mainly to Asia lately.

When the company offered unpaid leave in 2020 to minimize layoffs, Mme Groleau seized the opportunity, stepping down for six months to spare the young employees. But there is no question of remaining inactive.


PHOTO PROVIDED BY LISE GROLEAU

Lise Groleau worked for Air Canada for 35 years.

My husband does renovations, and I said to myself: “Why not become a general contractor, so that we can work together? »

Lise Groleau

“So I took a course with the Régie du bâtiment du Québec, studying 12 hours a day,” she recalls. Her leave ended, at the beginning of 2021, she ruled out returning on board, definitively swapping her uniform for that of a construction professional.

Enchanted by her conversion, she immediately devoted herself to the housing sector, starting with the complete renovation of her parents-in-law’s home in Mont-Blanc. She can put her sense of customer service to good use as well as her mastery of languages, honed by 35 years of flying, all without regrets, but with a touch of nostalgia; she adored the spirit of camaraderie, the stopovers organized between friends and the contact with the passengers.

Lise Groleau also has an eye on the borders, thanks to a large network of friends woven around the globe, and benefits retained with the company where she worked. Thus, between two renovation projects, the ex-agent and her husband could well make a jump to Guadeloupe or Portugal. From now on, it is she who will be offered a glass of wine on board, rewarded with a nod to her former flight comrades.

7and art like 7and sky


PHOTO HUGO-SÉBASTIEN AUBERT, THE PRESS

Eric Gonsalves had a position with very enviable conditions on board, and collected anecdotes throughout his career (“I have already flown with Julie Snyder to Orlando”, he confides). But this man of challenges, who loves to climb the stairs, preferred to land in the world of cinema, where he aspires to become a producer.

Eric Gonsalves did not wait for the pandemic or the fifties to change course. After nearly five years as a flight attendant for Rouge, despite a very enviable position, he felt the sky had become the limit. “I love being challenged, but even at 40,000 feet there just wasn’t enough for me. I was at the top and I had no more steps to climb – unless I became a pilot, which I never wanted, ”says the one who was hired at the age of 23.

His terms? Cotton wool: he was in the first cohort of the new Air Canada subsidiary, which quickly gave him priorities for the choice of destinations and colleagues, without ever being on hold (stand by). “I was very, very lucky, I went around the world with extraordinary crews,” he admits. A radiant situation, but not cloudless. Besides the lack of challenges, he rarely saw his relatives and fell tired once at home.


PHOTO PROVIDED BY ERIC GONSALVES

After flying for almost five years, Eric Gonsalves embarked on new professional adventures.

Many flight attendants repeat, “This will be my last year. This will be my last year”, but never make the leap, for fear of not finding better elsewhere.

Eric Gonsalves

The jump, he did it. Without parachute. In 2018, he dropped everything for a sabbatical. The following year, he resumed studies at LaSalle College in interior design. He takes off, winning major contracts to update three houses from top to bottom. Then forks, this time to invest the cinematographic world: now, he is production coordinator at MPC Films, and works hard on a major project which will soon be broadcast on Netflix. No connection with aviation? Think again: “When it comes to customer service training, Air Canada has given us a passport to excellence. Today, this allows me to perfectly manage interactions with around fifteen artists on a daily basis,” he notes.

Has the sky become the limit again? Eric, eager for challenges, aspires to make people soar, otherwise: “In two years, I will be a film producer”, he foresees. What to wish him? Good flight !

A career resurrection


PHOTO PATRICK SANFAÇON, THE PRESS

Marie-Josée Lemire became a funeral director after probing various possible exit routes. She finds certain points in common with her former profession, including contact with a clientele experiencing a wide range of emotions.

Throughout her career as a flight attendant, Marie-Josée Lemire never stopped looking out the window. Between two boardings, she occupied all sorts of parallel activities, as a croupier at the Casino de Montréal, importer of furniture from Indonesia or manager of a small restaurant within a gym. When Air Canada offered her an early retirement plan last year, she was hired in the blink of an eye by the SAQ as a fund advisor. But quickly, his cup was full, in particular for lack of stimulation, and Mme Lemire has gone back to the drawing board to better define the new profession to which she aspires. Mortgage broker? Sales representative? Finally, a door opened in the funeral field, Urgel Bourgie taking her under his wing as funeral director. “Discussing with people in the industry, I felt that it was for me. A funeral director advises people and does the planning,” she explains.

And if, at first glance, it seems difficult to draw a parallel between her old and her new job, Marie-Josée Lemire weaves one without difficulty. “In both cases, we work with all kinds of ethnic groups and in all kinds of conditions. »


PHOTO PROVIDED BY MARIE-JOSÉE LEMIRE

Marie-Josée Lemire has always had one foot in an airplane, and the second in other professional fields. So she had no trouble changing course after taking early retirement as a flight attendant.

People who travel are often under stress and experience all sorts of emotions, which we also see in the funeral field.

Marie-Josee Lemire

“Also, we find the professional aspect, with a very neat appearance and a more advanced sense of service,” she says.

Does she regret certain aspects of her former more nomadic life? “Nothing, I regret nothing! “, she says; even if she still likes to be able to sleep at home every night and be more available for her 15-year-old daughter.

Barista after a helm


PHOTO HUGO-SÉBASTIEN AUBERT, THE PRESS

Louis Bertrand is now a barista, which is in relative continuity with his previous functions, without the constant time differences.

After serving passengers for 34 years in the cramped corridors of aircraft, Louis Bertrand now has much better latitude behind the counter of the Bons vivants café in Sainte-Adèle, where he became a barista. All these years, he has certainly enjoyed himself during the stopovers, but had recently begun to reflect.


PHOTO PROVIDED BY LOUIS BERTRAND

Towards the end of his career, Louis Bertrand said he switched to “compensatory” mode, fatigue and sleep disorders being more and more present, although mitigated by the splendor of stopovers such as Rome or Paris.

Flight attendant, it’s extraordinary, but it’s more difficult than it seems. People don’t see the lack of space, air, sleep… which ends up wearing out.

Louis-Bertrand

When Air Canada presented him with a departure plan in 2021, he raised his hand.

For the love of coffee and new experiences, he then enrolled in barista training, out of personal interest. Then, crossing the path of Marc Hervieux, founder of the establishment where he now works, he embarked on the adventure, retaining an aftertaste of his former life. “We find this closeness with customers. The spirit of a café is to take the time and discuss”, says the one who holds a triple baccalaureate in human sciences (psychology, philosophy, theology). Could his artistic flair, navigating between writing and painting, also open the way to other paths? “I am happy right now. But standing in front of the unknown is the most beautiful thing in life,” he philosophizes.

Close to home


PHOTO ALAIN ROBERGE, THE PRESS

Isabelle Dion likes the fact that she was able to find part-time jobs close to her home.

In the summer of 2021, Isabelle Dion was able to take early retirement after having been an agent and then a flight director for 32 years. Still wanting to be active, and very much in demand in a context of labor shortage, she made up her own menu of part-time jobs, becoming a facilities administrator for the engineering firm WSP and a secretary-receptionist for a clinic. ENT medicine.

Jobs, for once, close to home.

These are new experiences, I meet people. Above all, I like being at home every night… and knowing what’s in my fridge!

Isabelle Dion

“Even though I kinda miss not being on a layover somewhere every week, at my age as a flight attendant, it’s not easy on the system,” she adds.

Tight-knit employees

These former flight attendants will certainly keep precious memories of travels and discoveries, but it is above all the spirit of camaraderie that has left an indelible mark on them. “We are a big family, confidants, we tell each other our lives while the passengers sleep and we are witnesses and we support each other in the face of the difficulty of the work. It’s much more than colleagues, and it’s one of the aspects that makes it more difficult to leave,” says Louis Bertrand.

“People find it hard to understand, but being a flight attendant is a way of life. There is so much camaraderie, we do long flights together all over the world: Shanghai, Israel, etc. I often flew with the same people, we organized and planned our stopovers with friends, we made the most of it,” says Lise Groleau.

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