Always ready for a challenge, Suzanna Seng went from being a cabin crew member to a pilot within a decade at Etihad Airways. Courtesy Etihad
Always ready for a challenge, Suzanna Seng went from being a cabin crew member to a pilot within a decade at Etihad Airways. Courtesy Etihad

High flyer soars from Etihad cabin crew to pilot

Suzanna Seng has grown to welcome change. It is unsurprising to hear this from someone who has gone from being a cabin crew member to a pilot within a decade.

The Singaporean qualified to be a first officer with Etihad Airways last September. But when the 29-year-old first moved to Abu Dhabi in 2005 after studying geology in Melbourne for three years, she came to work as cabin crew for the airline.

"My mum said we paid so much for your university fees, so go out and get a job, and that's what I did," she says.

"Cabin crew has always been a profession that people think is glamorous and for pretty girls. I was more of a rugged tomboy, so it didn't occur to me that I could do it. But I got the job and I moved here."

So at the young age of 20, Ms Seng arrived in Abu Dhabi at a time when Etihad was expanding very fast. "There were approximately 800 members of staff back then. I was cabin crew number 455 - that's how small the airline was at the time."

After being a cabin crew member for just a year, Ms Seng was hungry for more. Opportunities for cabin managers came up and she decided to go for it.

"I have a very restless personality," she says. "It was just another position to go for as I continuously want to challenge myself. I'd rather be out of my comfort zone and accept a challenge than stand still."

Her positive outlook and can-do attitude won her the position, a job she describes as "a lot of fun".

"I learnt so many different skills that enabled me to develop a lot. You're not just responsible for service and safety these days - you're also a brand ambassador," she reflects. However, after just three years, the restless Ms Seng began to feel the sense of stagnation she dreads and started to look for other positions in middle management at the airline.

This is when the cadet pilot position came up. "It was never my ambition to become a pilot - it was one of those jobs that I thought was cool but never thought it could be for me," says Ms Seng.

"I didn't even consider what it would take to become a pilot or how far this career would go, but when the cadetship came up I thought it was a challenge just to get through the selection process."

Having made her way through to the final stages of the interview process, the panel interviewers asked why she wanted to be a pilot. She gave an answer that she immediately wished she could take back.

"I said I didn't actually want to be a pilot, but that it was a challenge and that when you give me a challenge I'll make sure that I do it well," she recalls.

"That was my personal motivation. After I said that they started scribbling in their notepads and I thought I should have said that I really wanted to be a pilot since I was a kid," she laughs. However, her candid answer did her no harm as she passed the assessment first time and started her training - a process that took three years to complete.

"Throughout training you imagine how it feels the first time you land a plane with passengers onboard. When it actually happens, though, your stress levels are so high that I just zoned out everything behind me.

"It's only afterwards when the captain patted me on the back and said 'well done' that it occurred to me I'd just landed a plane with 140 passengers on board," she explains.

For someone like Ms Seng, who is always hungry to learn more, being a pilot is the perfect career. As she says, there are many different avenues that she can take within this same role.

"I cannot see myself getting bored any time soon. There's so much studying. At the moment I'm happy doing what I am - it fulfils my restlessness," she adds.

Company Profile

Name: HyveGeo
Started: 2023
Founders: Abdulaziz bin Redha, Dr Samsurin Welch, Eva Morales and Dr Harjit Singh
Based: Cambridge and Dubai
Number of employees: 8
Industry: Sustainability & Environment
Funding: $200,000 plus undisclosed grant
Investors: Venture capital and government

Company profile

Company name: Fasset
Started: 2019
Founders: Mohammad Raafi Hossain, Daniel Ahmed
Based: Dubai
Sector: FinTech
Initial investment: $2.45 million
Current number of staff: 86
Investment stage: Pre-series B
Investors: Investcorp, Liberty City Ventures, Fatima Gobi Ventures, Primal Capital, Wealthwell Ventures, FHS Capital, VN2 Capital, local family offices

Company Profile

Name: Direct Debit System
Started: Sept 2017
Based: UAE with a subsidiary in the UK
Industry: FinTech
Funding: Undisclosed
Investors: Elaine Jones
Number of employees: 8

The more serious side of specialty coffee

While the taste of beans and freshness of roast is paramount to the specialty coffee scene, so is sustainability and workers’ rights.

The bulk of genuine specialty coffee companies aim to improve on these elements in every stage of production via direct relationships with farmers. For instance, Mokha 1450 on Al Wasl Road strives to work predominantly with women-owned and -operated coffee organisations, including female farmers in the Sabree mountains of Yemen.

Because, as the boutique’s owner, Garfield Kerr, points out: “women represent over 90 per cent of the coffee value chain, but are woefully underrepresented in less than 10 per cent of ownership and management throughout the global coffee industry.”

One of the UAE’s largest suppliers of green (meaning not-yet-roasted) beans, Raw Coffee, is a founding member of the Partnership of Gender Equity, which aims to empower female coffee farmers and harvesters.

Also, globally, many companies have found the perfect way to recycle old coffee grounds: they create the perfect fertile soil in which to grow mushrooms. 

The specs: 2018 Nissan Altima

Price, base / as tested: Dh78,000 / Dh97,650

Engine: 2.5-litre in-line four-cylinder

Power: 182hp @ 6,000rpm

Torque: 244Nm @ 4,000rpm

Transmission: Continuously variable tranmission

Fuel consumption, combined: 7.6L / 100km


Director: Lee Isaac Chung

Starring: Glenn Powell, Daisy Edgar-Jones, Anthony Ramos

Rating: 2.5/5

The specs

Engine: 1.8-litre 4-cyl turbo
Power: 190hp at 5,200rpm
Torque: 320Nm from 1,800-5,000rpm
Transmission: Seven-speed dual-clutch auto
Fuel consumption: 6.7L/100km
Price: From Dh111,195
On sale: Now

Story of 2017-18 so far and schedule to come

Roll of Honour

Who has won what so far in the West Asia rugby season?


Western Clubs Champions League

Winners: Abu Dhabi Harlequins

Runners up: Bahrain


Dubai Rugby Sevens

Winners: Dubai Exiles

Runners up: Jebel Ali Dragons


West Asia Premiership

Winners: Jebel Ali Dragons

Runners up: Abu Dhabi Harlequins


UAE Premiership Cup

Winners: Abu Dhabi Harlequins

Runners up: Dubai Exiles




West Asia Cup final

5pm, Bahrain (6pm UAE time), Bahrain v Dubai Exiles


West Asia Trophy final

3pm, The Sevens, Dubai Hurricanes v Dubai Sports City Eagles


Friday, April 13

UAE Premiership final

5pm, Al Ain, Dubai Exiles v Abu Dhabi Harlequins


Founders: Sebastian Stefan, Sebastian Morar and Claudia Pacurar

Based: Dubai, UAE

Founded: 2014

Number of employees: 36

Sector: Logistics

Raised: $2.5 million

Investors: DP World, Prime Venture Partners and family offices in Saudi Arabia and the UAE

Herc's Adventures

Developer: Big Ape Productions
Publisher: LucasArts
Console: PlayStation 1 & 5, Sega Saturn
Rating: 4/5


Director: Elie El Samaan

Starring: Nour Al Ghandour, Mahmoud Boushahri

Rating: 3/5

'Nightmare Alley'

Director:Guillermo del Toro

Stars:Bradley Cooper, Cate Blanchett, Rooney Mara

Rating: 3/5


Group A: Egypt, DR Congo, Uganda, Zimbabwe

Group B: Nigeria, Guinea, Madagascar, Burundi

Group C: Senegal, Algeria, Kenya, Tanzania

Group D: Morocco, Ivory Coast, South Africa, Namibia

Group E: Tunisia, Mali, Mauritania, Angola

Group F: Cameroon, Ghana, Benin, Guinea-Bissau


Company name: Sav
Started: 2021
Founder: Purvi Munot
Based: Dubai
Industry: FinTech
Funding: $750,000 as of March 2023
Investors: Angel investors

Our family matters legal consultant

Name: Hassan Mohsen Elhais

Position: legal consultant with Al Rowaad Advocates and Legal Consultants.