Four years ago, Mornington Peninsula Magazine interviewed Jade Szonyi, an international flight attendant, mother of two and a travel blogger with a rising Instagram profile. With the travel industry hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic, we speak to her again as her life changes direction. Her story has much to teach us about human resilience and adaptation in the flight path of change.
What was your working life like six months ago?
I was taking one to two overseas trips a month to destinations like the US, Hong Kong and Singapore. I guess you could call it a ‘worldly’ lifestyle. I was attending yoga studios around the world, eating at local markets and absorbing different cultures.
How did you learn that Qantas would need to stand down staff?
The letter was emailed. I didn’t really have an emotive response. I just jumped on Facebook and said I’m in a position to help others and mentioned I was looking for work. Later I learned Woolworths was in need of customer service-focused staff as supermarkets were extremely busy with people panic buying. Qantas and Woolworths are points partners and have a great relationship. Ironically, I’d even crewed a Woolworths Disney Qantas charter flight to Orlando earlier in the year. Basically, as a Qantas flight attendant all I had to do was click a link and enter my postcode for shifts at my local Woolies. I am very grateful I was given this opportunity.
What are the benefits of your new role?
I love the saying “We don’t always get what we want; we get what we need”. I am so grateful I’ve had the opportunity to drop deep into my community during this time. The power of connection and being able to show up and help in this capacity has been really rewarding. It’s been convenient working in my own country. It only takes me four minutes to get to work. The opportunity to ground has also been beneficial to my health. I’d been flying for 16 years since I was 20 years old. Now I’m catching up on a lifetime of jet lag.
What have you learned about human nature working in an essential industry during a pandemic?
I’ve learned it doesn’t matter if you are boarding a first-class cabin or handing out baskets at your local Woolies. It’s all human connection, and a small chat and smile can impact someone. Some people entering the supermarket look so worried. When I reassure them the basket has just been cleaned I can see them instantly relax. It’s no different to helping a nervous flyer on board. Human behaviour is interesting. One lady shooed me because I think I got a bit too close to her standing on her green dot lining up for a register. I didn’t take it personally as I recognise people are worried and fearful. Sometimes people get caught up in their own heads and don’t realise they are forgetting their manners or basic social etiquette. I’ve also had some lovely people come through my register. It’s been quite social. I’ve served old school friends and neighbours.
Are there similarities between your Qantas role and your new job at Woolworths?
I show up. I treat people with respect. I do my job with grace. I know the power of human connection and a warm genuine smile.
Tell us about your blogging and Instagram influencer business.
I started Mum with Wings five years ago. I could see some families were ill-prepared when flying. I loved looking after families on board and making them comfortable, but once in the air there was only so much I could do. Through my blog I shared my knowledge and helped families better prepare. I love travelling with my family and I wanted to share that passion. I’m also very patriotic of my home region and I love sharing what’s on my doorstep on the Mornington Peninsula. Social media has given my family some amazing opportunities and I’m really grateful to my audience and try to give back with giveaways as much as I can. If a company contacts me to collaborate, I always ask if we can make it a giveaway. The energy exchange on social media can be a funny thing. I like to keep it moving in a positive direction – a giving circle.
Do you have any tips for embracing change?
Last year I did yoga teacher training and it has helped me in many ways. I really believe in the Yogic Values, The Yamas and Niyamsas make perfect sense. Showing up, doing things mindfully and leaving your ego at the door.
Jade’s Instagram account, mumwithwings, has more than 33,500 followers. It follows her life with husband Ben, their 10-year-old daughter Lottie, son Sol, who is seven, and their golden retriever Nelie, who is three.