When I speak on the phone with Tennille Murphy, I realize that our timing couldn’t have been better. I’ve managed to catch her on a day that we’re both in the same time zone and that she has ample free time, two incredibly rare occurrences in her everyday life. Despite the daunting to-do list that looms on her horizon, she still maintains the genuinely sunny personality that people from L.A. are known for—and this is only one of many, many traits that make her great at what she does.
How Murphy manages to run a successful blog, spend quality time with her family, and work as the corporate flight attendant to a former NBA superstar is a balancing act nearly impossible to comprehend. But if there’s anybody who knows how to pack—and pack perfectly, at that—it’s someone who makes a living creating immaculate travel experiences not only for herself, but for the travel elite. Here, she gives a peek into how the other half flies.
For those who don’t know, what exactly is a corporate flight attendant?
Imagine you’re hosting a very fancy dinner party at your house. You are going to invite people over, and you’re going to prepare the food. You’re going to dress your table; you’re going to make sure everything is presentable and on point. And that’s my job—except it’s in a plane, and I do it from city to city.
It’s definitely five-star breakfast, lunch, dinner. You’re doing your utmost to make the presentation and everyone’s experience lavish. You really want your passengers to leave thinking, “That was the most amazing experience.” And whatever it takes to get it there is what I do and what the job entails.
What did you do before this job?
I was going to school for interior design and interior architecture—I was toeing the line in both fields. I did that for a number of years, and it was something that agreed with all the things that come naturally to me: an eye for detail, I like precision and perfection, and I like making things beautiful. It satisfied pretty much every checkbox when you’re looking for something that feels really good; something that you can dedicate your life to. So interior design was it for me for a long time.
After you left the interior design world, how did you get started in corporate aviation?
My family is in aviation. My stepmom is Vice President of Charter at a private jet corporation. She took pity on me and threw me a little bone and said, “Okay, come hang out at my job. I’m sure they’ll find something for you to do.” So I met with the director of in-flight services over at Clay Lacy, and within the first couple days, she says, “Tennille, you’d make a super flight attendant!”
I spent about six solid months basically restocking the solid aircrafts. Meanwhile, I was siphoning off all this knowledge. I didn’t really know what I was experiencing, but I knew that I was learning. By the time summertime hit, my boss looks at me and she says, “Tennille, you have been on the ground basically all this time. When are you going to go do your training? We want to see you fly.”
What is the training like?
It was about 10 days, the initial training, which entails a combination of emergency evacuation training, fire training, medical training—and that’s about 4-5 days. And then there’s another portion of training which is the etiquette training on how to serve, how to set tables, how to plate food. Every day, it’s really just drilling you and teaching you all these other techniques of food service. So it’s a pretty intensive ten days because your day starts at 7 and it ends around 4 or 5.
Do most corporate flight attendants work on commercial flights first?
If you come from a commercial background, you’re basically rethinking, retraining your entire way of being. I’d say the majority of women that come through have no flight experience, but they have that intrinsic thing: the love of making things beautiful, they have a high drive, very self-motivated, attention to detail. They have an eye, a certain polish to who they are. If you possess those skills—a willingness and a genuine, sincere desire to take care of others—not from a subservient standpoint, but “I really derive pleasure from taking care of people”—if those things are in place, it always makes for a successful flight attendant.
What is your schedule like?
A flight always begins sometimes 24 hours, sometimes 48 hours before your actual departure day. Depending on the requirements of your passengers, you need to begin prepping. I keep a list of restock items, of things that I might have used—whatever it may be, I grab those things, and I usually do that one to two days before a flight. Once I have the catering order, which is usually 24 hours before departure time, if I have a morning flight, I’m going to shop for those items the day before. If I have an afternoon flight, then I’ll shop those items the day of so it’ll be nice and fresh for my boss. I love giving my passengers fresh-baked desserts, and so I always bake the day before a flight or the morning of a flight. Depending on how many days I’m going to be out, I like to make flower arrangements, so that’s something I would do in that 48-hour to 24-hour period.
I’m just running all these errands, and I’m also clocking myself because I need to get to the plane two hours before departure because it takes about anywhere from an hour to 90 minutes to set up a plane. That scenario that I just described for you is the same scenario from city to city to city.
What are the perks of the job?
I’m not flying on a commercial plane, so I’m not really worrying about “Is that a full bottle?” or “Is my suitcase too heavy?” or “Did I pack too many shoes?” I never have these thoughts, so I’m definitely guilty of overpacking. I’m guilty of bringing every single thing I need to feel comfortable. I’m not even just a frequent traveler—I travel half the year. That means half my life is spent in a strange place that, even if I’ve been there before, is not home. So for me to continue loving my life and loving my job, there are certain things that I have to have, because I do want to have a sense of continuity even though I’m not at home.
If I’m in a super cool city, of course, I want to go out touring or sightseeing, go out and get something to eat, which is totally to my discretion. When I have days off in a city, it’s totally my time. I’m not beholden to anyone, and that’s the flexibility and the job perk that people are really most curious about. As long as I’ve got all of my work done as far as my boss may want, then I’ll just enjoy my time.
Frequent flying can be harsh on the skin. What staples do you use to keep your skin healthy?
I use this product called Bee Yummy, and it’s by Live Live Organic. I’ve been using it for a few years, and I find that it is the most restorative moisturizer. My skin absolutely thrives with it. The other thing that’s not really a beauty product in the sense that it’s a “beauty product” is that I drink wheatgrass powder every day. I take it on the road, to every city. I call it a beauty product because skincare is amazing, makeup is amazing, but none of it is going to give you anything that you’re looking for if you’re not taking care of your body. And my wheatgrass powder is like liquid sunshine for my body.
The other thing that I’m a huge proponent of is sunscreen, and I believe in wearing it every day, even if it’s just a rainy day. And of course, nutrition and water and eating a nice, clean diet and all that—those are all beauty things, too.
Anything you never leave home without?
My blow dryer is always in my suitcase and my diffuser. I also always have a cashmere sweater, and there’s a couple that I keep and it’s because cashmere is so luxurious and soft and comforting, and sometimes hotels can be less than comforting. I always have slippers, and it’s because I have hotel-room-floor-phobia, so my feet can never touch carpet or tile or anything!
Favorite place you’ve ever been to?
Florence, Italy. I feel at home when I’m in Italy, and so at home in Florence. I love cities where I can just walk; Florence is that city. It’s exquisite and pristine, and pristine not in the sense that it’s so perfect and clean, but the architecture…The whole vibe there just feels like my kind of city. I love exploring there.