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The making of the Singapore Girl

Journey to become a Singapore Girl is no walk in the park, as cabin crew trainees go through rigorous training

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Singapore Airlines (SIA) turns 70 this year but the Singapore Girl is ever ageless, her smiling face inseparable from the national carrier, which is now an acclaimed airline with 109 aircraft.

Having made impeccable service one of its selling points, SIA scours locally and overseas for talent for its crew. The search includes countries such as Malaysia, India, Thailand, Japan, South Korea and China.

Importance is placed on recruiting men and women who are customer-orientated, resourceful and team players.

In Singapore, interviews are held every month and each recruitment exercise draws an average of 900 applicants.

SIA's male to female ratio for cabin crew is 40 to 60.

To uphold a positive and professional image of SIA, cabin crew trainees learn how to climb the stairs and walk gracefully in their kebayas during a deportment and etiquette class. Besides social and business etiquette, basic postures while standing, sitting, reaching and walking are also covered. The distinctive kebaya uniform, designed by French couturier Pierre Balmain, was introduced in 1968. Tailor-made for every female cabin-crew member, trainees do the fitting during the first month of their training. ST PHOTO: NEO XIAOBIN

Once candidates are chosen, they are put through a rigorous 15-week training programme comprising classroom and on-the-job training.

  • 900
    Average number of applicants the monthly recruitment exercises attract.

This includes foundation training for the personal and soft skills they will need as the face of the airline; fleet training for their job-specific duties; and safety training, which focuses on security, crisis response and first aid.

After jumping into the pool, trainees have to swim one length of the pool unaided. They then pair up and pull their partners across to the other end as part of rescue training. The depth at the centre of the training pool is 4m and waves are generated by a machine to simulate open waters. ST PHOTO: NEO XIAOBIN

Before trainees attend to their first passengers, they have three observation flights in which they are assigned to a mentor whom they shadow and observe.

Cabin crew trainees observe a fellow trainee learning to use the fire extinguisher under the guidance of an instructor. They also learn how to manage oven and toilet fires, and practise donning the smoke hood - available at all doors on the aircraft - in 12 seconds. They must keep it on for at least three minutes as it protects against fumes and smoke. ST PHOTO: NEO XIAOBIN

The Straits Times executive photojournalist Neo Xiaobin takes an exclusive look behind the scenes at what it takes to become a Singapore icon.

Trainees Lim Hui Ern (left), 24, and Tan Pei Ling, 23, applying make-up during a grooming class where they are taught skincare, make-up, haircare and styling techniques. Two make-up palettes are chosen to complement the kebaya colour. Hairstyles for the female trainees depend on what best complements their features. ST PHOTO: NEO XIAOBIN

Sights and sounds from the Singapore Airlines cabin crew training. http://str.sg/4eWW

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 20, 2017, with the headline The making of the Singapore Girl. Subscribe