Rachael Karakanna is a former cabin service supervisor for Virgin Atlantic – until the pandemic brought her back down to earth. Rachael explains why she is putting her in-depth knowledge of first aid at 38,000 feet to good use on the ground
Like many of us, my world was turned upside down with the Covid-19 pandemic. I was a Cabin Service Supervisor for Virgin Atlantic Airways and had been for the past 21 years. I was furloughed in March 2020. I was worried about the uncertainty of the situation, but I was still getting paid and home schooling kept me busy. Unfortunately, in July, with the world and the travel industry at a standstill, I found out I would be made redundant.
As cabin crew, I was required to have an in-depth knowledge of first aid; after all, we can’t call the emergency services at 38,000 feet. This knowledge was tested many times over the years, leaving me with a fair bit of hands-on experience as a first aider. After having a family (my son is now eight, and my stepsons are seven and 13) I was yearning to be at home more, and the idea of teaching others the first aid skills that I had acquired in the skies, appealed to me.
I had planned to train as a first aid instructor and build a client list gradually alongside my job. But now I had a decision to make. Would I invest my redundancy into the training and start a business from scratch, during a worldwide pandemic? Or should I put that dream on hold and get another, more stable job? I decided to follow my dream, which scared the hell out of me, and set up First Class First Aid Ltd in September 2020.
It was a tough first year, and I wondered if I’d made the right decision more than a few times. We weren’t prepared to lose my wage, but we made sacrifices and I sold my car to keep going. I’ve had to learn so much about running a business along the way (I’m still learning every day!) but I love what I do. The business is growing steadily, and I’m now proudly teaching first aid in a variety of ways. I teach workplace qualification courses, informal classes for parents and carers and classes for children. I also teach first aid classes for Norwich parents-to-be at Bump & Baby Club antenatal group.
As well as teaching through my own company, I freelance for Mini First Aid Norfolk and this year I joined Norfolk County Council as a Paediatric Tutor, teaching free classes to parents and carers in libraries and community centres across Norfolk. Going from cabin crew to business owner has been quite the journey.
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