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An inspirational talk for Travel and Tourism students



Travel and Tourism students at Northern Regional College were inspired – and more than a little bit jealous – to hear first-hand what it’s like to work with Virgin Atlantic Airways. Barry Sheils, an on-board manager with the prestigious airline, spoke to Level 2 and 3 Travel and Tourism students at the College’s Coleraine and Magherafelt campuses via Zoom. He told them how after he completed his Level 3 course, he’d flown with short-haul low-cost carriers for several years before progressing to a cabin crew position with Virgin and then landing his dream job as an on-board manager with the airline.

“My career has allowed me to see the world and no two days at work are every the same,” he said. “The one thing that never changes though is that we must always provide the best possible customer service.”

He assured the students that although delivering exemplary customer service while operating across different time zones, several miles up in the air and a long way from land can be demanding, it is also very rewarding.

Barry explained that an important aspect of his role as on-board manager, which is the most senior cabin crew member on any flight, is having to deal with just about any kind of emergency that could happen on board. 

“It could be just about anything, from a medical crisis to coping with technology glitches and handling difficult passengers. It’s all in a day’s work,” he explained.

He outlined the impact of external factors like Covid 19 and Brexit on the airline industry and how Virgin was responding to these challenges. Although some routes have been axed and redundancies announced. The promise of a vaccine will lead to the skies opening up again and Virgin is already looking to introducing new routes. 

Tourism lecturer Vivienne Baldwin said Barry’s talk was most professional and truly inspirational. 

“Barry is a great motivational speaker, and the students were totally enthralled by his entertaining and informative presentation. He covered so much, from customer service and health and safety to career opportunities, airlines and airports. These topics are embedded in our Travel and Tourism courses so Barry’s presentation will certainly help the students with their exams and coursework,” she said.

Vivienne added that it was also very reassuring to hear that Virgin is planning ahead for life after Covid and that there will be new and exciting opportunities in the future for our students.