New leadership heights for cabin crew

E tū delegate and Aviation Industry Council Convenor, Alen Ram

Alen Ram has been around airports in one way or another all his life.

Growing up in Fiji, overlooking the runway at Nadi Airport and with a father who travelled a lot for business, Alen always thought how great it would be to be able to have a job where he could travel himself.

“We would sit outside on the veranda and we saw all the planes coming in and out – our house was about five minutes away from the airport.”

After leaving Fiji to come and live in New Zealand to study business management, Alen then flitted between the two countries for more than a decade, including going home to help his family rebuild after Cyclone Winston.

He finally settled back in his adopted country five years ago.

Having always had an interest in working for Air New Zealand, Alen got a role working in cargo as a warehouse agent.

Then came the “icing on the cake”: becoming a flight attendant on A320s, flying domestic and trans-Tasman routes.

“I wanted our voice to go to the highest peak.”

When he started filling in as an in-flight service manager (IDO), Alen realised how much he enjoyed leading a team. “You set the tone of the environment – talking to people, making them feel comfortable. I wanted things to be more democratic, and for my colleagues to be empowered to do [serious] calls themselves.”

He also flew long haul on 787s, before returning to A320s. However, Alen found himself side-lined and unable to fly – first due to an inner ear issue and then, like many other aviation workers, due to the major industry-wide disruption of COVID-19.

Alen decided to put himself forward to become a delegate: “I wanted to make sure there was more transparency around what was happening between the company and my colleagues.

“No matter how many times you fall, it’s about how you get up and move forward.”

He resumed flying domestically part-time, but decided to complement his lighter work schedule with finishing a graduate diploma with a double major in human resources/employment relations and business management at AUT.

Realising the power of “being in teams and being in a group”, Alen decided to see if he could join E tū’s Aviation Industry Council.

“I wanted our voice to go to the highest peak. As a delegate, I can attend the meetings and take [our issues] to the Aviation Industry Council, and then the voices of cabin crew would be heard in the process.”

Now the elected Convenor of the Aviation Industry Council, Alen says his priorities are clear: having decent work for all in the aviation industry – whether it’s Air New Zealand’s ground handling staff, customer service staff, or those at other companies, such as Jetstar or Menzies.

He’s keen to see better wages, ways of managing fatigue on the job, and bringing more flexibility to roles. Fair Pay Agreements are one way of setting industry standards to create better working conditions and wellbeing for everyone, he says.

“Everyone wants a good life, and I want to help everyone in aviation to achieve that goal.

“That’s what E tū is doing – we are not just thinking about our members, we are thinking about everyone in the industry.”