Sharon Au's Journey From Cabin Crew To Business Class Passenger
She flies Business Class 12 times a year. And it's partly to do with a medical condition.
We know Sharon Au for a lot of things. Former actress-host. Businesswoman. And erstwhile Singapore Girl who still dons her old uniform for fun. (Okay, it was for a shoot.) We quiz the 42-year-old head honcho of fashion portal styleXstyle on all things Business Class.
It still fits!: For a shoot last year, Sharon donned her original kebaya from 1994 during her cabin crew days. She left the job after 15 months to become an actress. “I cried when I had to leave! It was like the dream job to me.”
Business Class has her back, literally.
“I’ve had severe scoliosis since young — my spine is crooked. Even my bed at home is a medical bed and I use support pillows. I often have to go for physiotherapy and swimming. I travel at least once a month, and half the time, they are work trips. For my business trips, the company provides Economy Class tickets. So I’d top up to upgrade myself to Biz Class. In the past five years, I’ve topped up all my business trips. I’ve been to Tokyo, Seoul and Shanghai where I had to top up $3,000 to $4,000 each trip. Many colleagues think that I’m really stupid for doing so. It’s a necessity. But whenever I top up, I never [reveal the reason] to people. Nobody knows [about my back problems]. So people think that I’m a spoilt brat!”
You snooze, you get snapped: Sharon sleeping onboard a flight to Seoul last year.
It’s also a personal preference.
“I only travel Business Class. To each his own. It’s really for comfort and also ’cos I’m old already. I don’t want to put myself through [sitting or sleeping in] a very uncomfortable position, especially if it’s a long-haul flight. Even more so if it’s a biz trip ’cos I don’t want to arrive [in bad shape]. I travel alone or with my most beloved and my family. My mum definitely has to [travel on Business]. Aiyoh, have you seen her size? She can’t fit into the Economy seat! And she has severe knee problems. If she cannot stretch her legs, then she might as well don’t fly.”
Touch and go: Sharon on a biz trip to Beijing this Jan. She captioned this Instagram photo: “Bonjour! When you need to look fresh and clean for your first meeting right landing.”
She only started flying Business as a celeb.
“When I was a celeb — circa 1995 to 2005 — I only flew Business Class for work ’cos of privacy issues. If some client was inexperienced and asked how much it was to fly me, or Zoe Tay or Fann Wong, on Economy, our manager would always say, ‘Sorry, if no Biz Class, no go.’ I flew to many places to shoot [popular Ch 8 variety] City Beat and all my trips were on Biz class ’cos it was very tiring, and we had to work immediately when we landed.”
Looks SQ-site: Sharon indulging in a spot of fine dining with SQ's 'Book the Cook' service on a flight last year. “I rarely eat the standard meals. And I always order lobster Thermidor. Always,” says Sharon.
She scrimps and saves to splurge on air tickets.
“I travel within my means. So I only travel when I have money to travel. I’m also at the age where I’m earning enough. I don’t have kids and I’m always travelling alone. I also don’t shop. So I must have saved until I needed to travel, and then realised I could afford Biz class. And even when I travel, I don’t shop. Also, when it comes to food, I don’t go for the Michelin-starred restaurants. I like to go where the locals go.”
Once a Singapore girl, always a Singapore girl: “I was best trainee of batch 364. My name is still up there on the wall of fame at SQ training centre,” says Sharon.
She used to serve Biz Class passengers.
“Before I become an actress at 20, my first job was a SQ flight attendant serving on Biz Class. Even now, whenever I fly SQ, I’ll still meet ex-colleagues. The attendants are very nice to me ’cos they all know that I was once a Singapore Girl. We always chat. They’re like family. They know I like chocolates ’cos they hear that I’d always eat up all the Biz Class pralines [when I used to work there] (laughs). So they’ll bring an entire tray of chocolates to me. I remember when I became a celeb, and flew Biz class for my very first overseas trip, I almost wanted to stand up and serve passengers (laughs). I was really trying to control myself not to go to the galley and work!”
The last time she flew Economy was when she was a student in Japan.
“During those six years when I was abroad in school until 2011, every single trip I took was on Economy, no matter how far I flew. I was a student on scholarship. So I’d go for the cheapest flights. Most of the time, I was flying out of Japan. So, it’s cheaper to fly ANA, and I had student rate, so I could fly back to Singapore at $600 on Economy.”
She gets hounded when she flies Economy.
“At that time, I had already retired [from showbiz]. But the residual fame was still there. So whenever I flew with my classmates back to Japan, they said — in their words, not mine — that it was like I was holding a “press conference”. People would be coming up to me to take pictures non-stop and ask me about my life in Japan. My friends would be very annoyed ’cos they always ended up as photographers (laughs). It’d be like a “press con” from waiting to board the plane to when I landed (laughs). I’d be watching a movie and people would come over to ask me questions, so I had to keep removing my headset to answer them. I wasn’t annoyed. I found it endearing that they were still so warm to me even though I had already disappeared from showbiz for so many years. When I was studying, I didn’t wear make-up. But when they approached me to take pictures, [I’d oblige]. ’Cos I was like, who cares? I didn’t need the public to vote for me for the Most Popular award anymore (laughs).”