Joy Ogbebo ~ THE TOP FLIGHT!

Joy Ogbebo's ascent from Cabin Crew to Head of Cabin and Inflight Services has been astonishing. It's been a blend of glamour and grit, with exciting and suspenseful moments. The Nigerian adventure-seeker recently turned entrepreneur with her own company, Mamaj Aviation, an aviation consulting firm

The Womenz Bureau had an opportunity to interview Joy Ogbebo, Founder/CEO, Mamaj Aviation Consult Ltd, Nigeria and here’s what she shared with us

Hello Joy, please tell us something about you, your education, background, etc.

I am Joy Ogbebo from Nigeria. I have a Diploma in Social Work from the University of Benin and a Degree in Mass Communication from Delta State University. Other qualifications include: Diploma in Customer Service, Diploma in Journalism, IATA Certificate in SMS Implementation Control, Certificate in Leadership and Coaching, Certificate in Customer Relationship Management, Certificate in Customer Service Etiquette, Effective Coaching and Supervisory Skills, Certificate in Passenger Handling Awareness and Effective Sales Promotion. I have also attended numerous Crew trainings in Nigeria, Germany and Egypt.

You seem to have vast experience in the aviation sector. Please tell us more

My Aviation career started way back in 1992. I have come through the ranks, as Cabin Crew, Purser, Crew Development Purser, Cabin Services Supervisor, Crew Line Manager, Line Trainer, Performance manager, and also been into Customer Relationship Management, Assistant Cabin Services Manager, until finally rising to the peak, as the Head of Cabin and Inflight Services. 

Please tell us about your expertise.

My expertise is in the area of Crew Management, Coaching, Mentoring, Training, Event Planning and Project Management.

When and how did you get introduced to the Aviation sector? What was the motivation behind it?

I realised at a very young age how caring I was towards people generally. And then again, I also realised I had the ability to tolerate and accommodate people. I knew I was an adventurous person whose dream was to visit places. So I knew becoming a Cabin Crew would help me actualise my dreams and put those skills to use.

I was really and truly fascinated by the sight of flight attendants. Unfortunately, way back then, there were no social media platforms except newspapers, magazines and a few TV stations which seldom aired flight attendant related programes.

Interestingly, the few times I had the opportunity to watch flight attendants, I fell more in love with the idea of becoming one. Although my dad wanted me to pursue other careers, the desire to chase my dream never waned. And so as luck would have it, I had an uncle who worked in an airline. I told him I was interested in flying. When the airline placed an advert for Flight Attendant he informed me to apply. And so in 1991, I was invited for a keenly conducted and very intense interview. Fortunately, I was successful. I got the opportunity to commence training in January 1992.

Please tell us about initial days of your career and struggle.

The initial days I would say were a blend of both. First, I was very excited at the opportunity. Being chosen out of the lot of applicants was exciting. But then, it meant I had to relocate to Lagos, a sharp contrast to the quiet home town in Benin where I was raised. The thought of leaving home and my parents for the first time was that of anxiety and a bit concerning for me.

Lagos was known for its usual hustle and bustle. The population and traffic situation was in no way comparable to Benin where I was coming from. This was my first shocker. I had to come to terms with this reality.  To get to class each day, I needed to wake up as early as 5 am just to make it early to the training facility for 8.30 am. To make matters worse, the training facility was located in a highly populated area with terrifying traffic as well. There were times I secretly asked myself how I could cope on the long run.

And then, the training itself was very intense. Almost 12 weeks.  We wrote a test each week.

Please tell us about your experience as Cabin Crew

It’s been a remarkable 26 years journey for me in the Aviation industry in Nigeria, starting as a Cabin Crew.

Flying is quite exciting. It is fun. It gives you the opportunity to see the world absolutely for free and still get paid! You go to amazing places you never imagined. You meet with world-class leaders, superstars and very important personalities. You stay and dine in 5-star hotels. Imagine having breakfast in Lagos and dinner in London. What can be more exciting? Flying is a glamorous profession.

However, behind that glamour, there is also the bad and ugly side of flying. I have seen it all. I have enjoyed the good side; you know the perks that come with the job. I have also experienced the risks, exposure to assault, unfriendly skies, continuously flying in pressured cabins, and the ugly? Well, I have experienced two plane crashes.

The job of a Cabin Crew is very unique. It’s hard work! It transcends tea and coffee service. Cabin Crews are strategic in the aircraft Cabin. They are safety officers. The kind of training we receive makes us well-grounded and well-rounded. This is one job at which you juggle different roles with a short time frame and in a confined environment.

Once you step on board as a Crew, you automatically become a Safety Officer, a First Aider, a Security Personnel, a Hospitality Personnel, and a Psychologist. So many roles rolled into one. I usually call it a one role fits all.  I once became a tailor on board for a passenger. Every split seconds counts for the Cabin Crew. It is a very mentally tasking and sometimes physically draining job, I must confess. The ability to multi-task is the key. Above all, you must have passion for what you do. That is what will see you through.

I confirm that Flying is an adventurous job, with dependable income (but commensurate?). The work schedule is quite flexible compared to the 9-5 jobs which can be monotonous. Sadly, all people see is the glamorised aspects. Unknown to people, the job of a flight attendant is HARD WORK!  BACK BREAKING HARD WORK! You can only enjoy the job and become successful if and only when you work hard. It could be quite challenging, you know, juggling different roles most of the time and trying to strike a balance. If you are an aspiring flight attendant and you are lazy, then please I will advise you to consider another profession.

In all, my experience has been quite interesting…I found joy and happiness in doing what I am passionate about.  Every moment has been fun!

Please tell us if you have any interesting incident you had while dealing with passenger on board.

One very remarkable moment for me in my early days which I can never forget was my most embarrassing.

We had just commenced our final descent into Port Harcourt International Airport where… “we shall be  landing shortly”.

That was me making the landing announcement. But then I paused suddenly when I noticed confusion on the faces of the more than eighty passengers and watched them muttering God knows what to one another.

Whilst wondering what was going on, I sighted my Lead Crew taking a brisk walk to the Forward Galley and then she snatched the PA from me. “Ladies and gentlemen, point of correction, we shall be landing at the Murtala Muhammed Airport Lagos shortly….”

Ooops!!! It suddenly dawned on me that I had goofed! I had announced the wrong destination! We were coming in from Port Harcourt that morning into Lagos. My announcement had caused confusion and almost destabilized the passengers. Just when they were preparing for arrival into Lagos, they were informed it was Port Harcourt!

When she was done with the announcement she told me to return to my position at the rear. You can only imagine how I felt. I stood fixed to one spot and wished the ground would open and swallow me. I begged her to allow me stay up front for landing as I felt too ashamed to walk all the way back and face the passengers, but she insisted I take the walk back to my position.

As I made my way to the back, I heard all sorts of remarks and enquiries from the passengers. “Were you the one taking us back to Port Harcourt?”, “Oh, she is a trainee; can’t you see she is in black and white uniform?”.

It was my training flight and making announcements was one of the on board duties that must be mastered. But truth is, holding that PA for the first time as a trainee could be unnerving. The fear of not making mistake could actually make one fumble. That was my experience on that particular flight. My thinking was that I would be able to watch and listen to my Lead Crew make the announcement on few flights. However, I was caught napping when I was called during descent to make the announcement. There I was staring at the PA system. “Joy you better hurry up; we don’t have the time.”

My Lead Crew warned when she noticed I was still staring at the PA, she took a walk into the Cabin and left me there…lol….and then I messed up.With more practice after that incident, I became better at it.

So many interesting and funny incidents. Another one I can never forget was this particular flight I operated into Abuja on a fateful morning. A flight that was scheduled for 10 am did not depart till 2 pm due to operational reasons. There was aviation fuel scarcity and technical issues.

As expected, the passengers were infuriated. Many of them had missed their appointments for that day. You can only imagine what we had to deal with on board that flight trying to make up to the passengers.

I happen to be the Purser of the flight working in business class. As usual, we have a coat room where the business class passengers could hang their coat and pick up on arrival. Usually for easy identification, we would request for their boarding card which will be placed in their coat pockets. On this particular occasion, one of the passengers in a bid to rush out of the aircraft took someone elses’ and left his in the coat room. Now here I was, working with a very short turnaround time, the ground staff was ready to turn the aircraft around because the inbound passengers as well have been delayed for almost 5 hours. So whilst the economy passengers were deboarding, the flight deck crew needed my attention, in fact everybody needed my attention, it was such a crazy situation and then, here comes this business class passenger, following me around. And he goes….”Joy, you guys have delayed me for 4 good hours, I have missed my appointment and now I can’t find my coat. Joy, where is my coat!! And then I am like,”Sir, please be calm, whilst we try to sort this out. I am liaising with my duty manager to handle the situation.” Intermittently he walks up to me again, “Joy, where is my coat?” Just when I was getting frustrated, there comes one of the business class passengers running towards the aircraft with the coat “I am so sorry, I mistakenly swapped mine. I was about entering my car when I realised that it was not mine. He apologised to the owner and they exchanged. But then, I had taken the heat!

Joy Ogbebo on duty as a crew of Virgin Nigeria

After serving the airlines so many years what made you start with Mamaj Aviation Consult Limited.

Somehow I always knew that at some point I will need to give back to society. Overtime, I realized that a lot of the young women out there needed some form of mentoring. I receive lots of overwhelming calls, Facebook messenger chats, instagram, facebook, Linkedin and whatsapp. They are either requesting for assistance for the job of a Cabin Crew or requesting for information in regards the Cabin Crew job in particular and Aviation Careers in general.

So I identified an information gap that needed to be closed. I also observed that there were no mentoring institutions where these young ones could be mentored. I knew it was not possible for me to respond to every request or chat with almost 10-20 people every day. Then it struck me that I needed to create a platform where I could reach out to a large number of people at the same time.

Another motivation force was that I also realized that apart from the conventional newspapers, there were no Aviation-focused social media platforms where such news could be disseminated.

The only time there is so much hype about Aviation is when there was a mishap or negative incident or accidents. I knew that we needed to change that narrative. So I started the Mamaj Aviation blog. A platform for trend Aviation, Travel and Tourism news.  In 2017, I hosted the first Cabin Crew which was quite successful. After that Fair, I knew that it was important to bring the aviation blog, the seminars and the Mentorship Academy platforms under one umbrella. That led to the registration of Mamaj Aviation Consult Limited.

Please tell us about Mamaj Aviation.

Mamaj Aviation Consult is an Aviation Consulting Firm, with focus on Aviation news & trend, training, mentorship & coaching. We also offer additional services in the area of Aviation Logistics, Event Planning, Seminars, Air Charter, Airline Set Up and Customer Services.

Your journey as Founder and motivation to scale this far?

It is a relatively new company. The work is still in progress. My passion is what drives me. It is a young company still trying to find its own. The company has a lot of potential. We have seasoned Aviation experts and professionals that make up our Team.

As a woman did you face any hurdles in your journey? How did you overcome them?

I have come to realise that challenges are part of life, not something we can wish away. It becomes more challenging as you transition from one phase to another. It takes a lot of focus, patience, courage, boldness and resilience.

As a  woman  you need to put in extra effort to get there.  There will always be boundaries, but you need to keep pushing them. The reality is that, until you start and experience them, you cannot really understand how it works. It goes to confirm the saying that experience is the best teacher.

Your biggest achievement so far.

Hosting the first Cabin Crew Fair in Nigeria was the highest point in my Aviation career. Though it was the first, it was such a huge success. I was very proud of myself.


Participants at Cabin Crew Fair Nigeria

What are your future plans?

There is so much on my plate now. Sometimes it scares me. Apart from the Cabin Crew Mentorship Academy which just kicked off recently, our company is working on an Aviation TV, a platform to trend Aviation, Travel and Tourism news which will be launching this year.

We have noticed that most people out there are not well informed about the Aviation industry, Airline Operation, Travel Industry and Tourism. We want to create a platform where government policies can be properly articulated to the members of society. In fact, create a one stop centre for anything and Everything Aviation, Travel and Tourism.

We are also planning the next Cabin Crew Fair in August 2018. This year’s edition promises to be bigger. This year we intend to bring Cabin Crew from all over the world to connect together, we shall also be having the Miss Aviation beauty contest, Fashion meets Runway as well as awards to some aviators who have contributed immensely to the Cabin Crew profession.

Mamaj Aviation Cabin Crew Academy

Does the cultural norms in Nigeria support gender equality. Your views on gender equality

I wouldn’t say they do 100 per cent. The fact still remains that so many people would never accept this reality. People’s understanding of this matter differs.

I believe in gender equality. For me, my understanding is that women are not saying they want to become men. Rather, they just want equal opportunity to Education, Career and Business. They just do not want to be boxed into a corner.

The world is changing, and I believe that at some point, more people will embrace this.  Change is a gradual process; it takes time for people to adjust. Culture is one of such processes. Changing people’s perception, thought processes, is not overnight.

Gender equality is one of such very touching and topical subjects. The society is gradually changing their gender views. The era of training the boy child and leaving the girl child with no education is changing. The notion that women only belonged to the kitchen is changing as well. Today, parents are training their girl child.

A lot of women today are competing favourably with males in their dominated fields and holding their own. In the past, we used to have a handful of female pilots, but today, that has changed. We have lots and lots of female pilots and ironically, we are having all-female operated flights. In the past, I use to hear male passengers say that they will never be caught dead on a flight operated by women. So you see the women are holding their own. But the fact remains that a lot of re orientation of the mind needs to be done to change the mind-set of so many people out there who are still perhaps living in denial.

Any message to aspiring women struggling to prove themselves?

“If you think it, you can do it!” Every success story started with a dream or an idea. Do not give up on your dreams.  Stay focused. Be passionate about your dream. Dare to dream big. Explore areas that no one has attempted. It looks difficult until it is done. In times of despair it is your passion that will see you through the rough road.

There will always be boundaries, but you need to keep pushing them. That is the reality. The process, the journey is not a smooth ride. Until you start and experience them, you cannot really understand the process. It goes to confirm the saying that experience is the best teacher.

To be frank, there were times I wondered why I started, there were times I asked myself if I was doing the right thing. There were times it got frustrating because I had great ideas I could not give birth to due to finance. It got more frustrating when help was not coming and you find people not wanting to support you, but I would rather do the wait and see. But do not give up on your struggles. If you don’t give up, you will surmount every mountain.

We at TheWomenz express our earnest appreciation for sharing your unique story with us. We believe it will surely stimulate fellow women in every country and continent in the world.

Joy Ogbebo can be reached on Linked-in, instagram, twitter and Facebook 

First Published: 08-Apr-2018- 13:54