x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

An Emirates airline crew that's one big happy family

Daniela Wendorff keeps up a family tradition as she qualifies as a flight attendant and joins her two sisters on the Emirates cabin staff.

Daniela Wendorff, centre, gets surprised by her sisters, Caroline, left, and Constance at her graduation ceremony at the Emirates Airlines college auditorium yesterday.
Daniela Wendorff, centre, gets surprised by her sisters, Caroline, left, and Constance at her graduation ceremony at the Emirates Airlines college auditorium yesterday.

DUBAI // Anyone flying Emirates could be forgiven for doing a double take if they happen to be served by cabin crew twins Caroline and Constance Wendorff.

Now there will be three Wendorff women on staff after their younger sister, Daniela, qualified as a flight attendant yesterday, making it the first time the airline has had three siblings among its 11,000-strong cabin crew. Given their family background, the Brazilians' choice of career was not that surprising. Flying is in their blood. Their father has been a pilot in Brazil and the United States for the past 40 years. Both grandfathers were pilots, as are five cousins.

Daniela was the latest member of the Wendorff family to join the airline's cabin crew at a ceremony held yesterday at the Emirates Aviation College in Dubai. She had completed five weeks of intensive training and assessment. It included training on emergency simulators, full-scale aircraft mock-ups and medical teaching. The airline's cabin crew training staff arranged to have Caroline and Constance present at the graduation as a surprise to Daniela.

Seventy-two new recruits, referred to as Ab initio - Latin for "from the beginning" - received their certificates to cheers from their friends. Unaware that her family was waiting in the wings, Daniela sat, certificate in hand, with colleagues from Serbia, Romania, Australia, Kenya, France and Lebanon. She had been told her sisters were on flight standby. Much like surprise birthday parties, Daniela was tricked by friends and family into believing that none could make it for her graduation.

Her mother and youngest sister, who are on holiday in Dubai, had said they would meet her later for dinner. But suddenly all attention in the auditorium was focused on her, and a senior cabin crew official played a short video message from her twin sisters welcoming her to the airline. Then, Daniela laughed and covered her eyes when her sisters and mother entered the auditorium to rounds of applause.

"I'm very lucky to have family to fly with, to complain to, it's more grounding to have my sisters around," Daniela said later. "My friends sometimes complain about being homesick, but I have my sisters to go to the beach, spend time with. I'm lucky." Apart from their love of travelling, fashion and jewellery design, another thing the sisters share is a plan to study for a pilot's licence. "That's what we want to do eventually, get our licence," Daniela, 25, said. "We grew up flying with Dad to different countries. We saw the cockpit when we were little. We loved it all."

The family has lost count of the cities they have visited. Instead, they can only count the places they have not seen. Prague and Amsterdam are on their shortlist. "I love going to different places and being exposed to different cultures. It's inspirational," said Caroline, 30, who studied fashion design in New York before joining Emirates three years ago. Four months later, Constance joined her as an Emirates stewardess. Together, the twins have worked the Venice and Munich routes in business class, and the uncommon sight of having twins walking down the aisle has often prompted passengers to whip out their cameras. "I walked down one side and she would come out on the other, the passengers were confused and then they wanted to take pictures," Constance recalled.

The possibility of having three Wendorffs on the same flight made them smile. "Maybe we can tell Daniela, 'Do this, do that,' actually maybe not." The younger Wendorff is blonde and blue-eyed to the brunette twins, and fiercely independent. Their youngest sister has different plans. Raphaela, 23, also blonde, is studying business and international relations in London. "We talk about flying a lot and new places, but we also talk of a lot of other interesting things," she said.

The women's mother, Christine, said she never thought they would join the same airline. "My adventurous daughters! I guess it's in their blood - to move, discover new places," she said. Catherine Baird, Emirates' senior vice president of cabin crew training, said a bond developed between crew members because they flew so frequently and were sometimes not home for special events such as birthdays or anniversaries.

"Your colleagues become your family. We have a treasure of so many different cultures," Ms Baird said. "But three sisters flying is a really unusual story." The graduation ceremony was also a dream come true for Annette Opiyo because her younger sister, Regina, had flown from Nairobi to cheer her. "I was almost in tears to see her on stage," Regina said. "Back home everyone is proud." rtalwar@thenational.ae