Pran Susilo has always been passionate about drawing.
But after a family tragedy forced him to leave art school and get a job, the 26-year-old Indonesian had to get creative to keep his interest alive.
For the past two years, the Qatar Airways crew member has regularly drawn sketches of passengers.
Speaking to Doha News, Susilo said that he enjoys making people happy, particularly if they appear to be going through a hard time.
He added that he began drawing passengers almost by accident.
“A man came to the galley and we were having a conversation, and I just started sketching him,” he told Doha News. He continued:
“And then I thought wow, this is something different I can do for passengers, something not everybody can do. And they feel special and that’s the thing I love doing.”
A difficult start
Susilo is delighted that he has found a way to combine his love of drawing with his cabin crew role.
As a teenager, he had high hopes of forging a career in art, before a family tragedy changed everything.
Susilo’s father had died when he was 12 years old, and his mother died just after he had enrolled at art school:
“After that, my brother just came to tell me that nobody could support my education,” he said. “So I had to leave school and find a job.”
Susilo initially made ends meet by teaching English and Art to children, but was then encouraged by a friend to apply to Qatar Airways to become cabin crew, a job he said he feels “so lucky” to get.
Sparking a smile
For Susilo, one of the highlights of his job is getting to interact with lots of different people. “Every day, I meet new people, and learn new things,” he said.
He fondly recalled a number of memorable encounters with passengers, including one with a tearful female passenger who told him she had broken up with her boyfriend:
“I said I would love to see her smiling, so I said just give me 10 seconds while I sketch. Then I showed how her portrait. I told her she was beautiful, and that she needed to know that.”
He often takes photos of the passengers he has drawn, alongside their sketches.
Susilo remembers all of the subjects well.
Referring to the couple pictured above, Susilo said that they were a boyfriend and girlfriend traveling to Bali.
“I said, I’m local, if there’s anything you need to know, I can help,” he recalled. “They just looked cute, so I sketched them.”
When asked how he fits drawing around his cabin crew responsibilities, Susilo said that he sketches “very quickly,” and emphasized how important he thinks it is for the airline to provide a personalized service.
“We need to go the extra mile, and this is my way of doing that,” he said.
He also sometimes draws with children on flights, he said.
Cabin crew on Twitter
Susilo’s story was initially shared by Qatar Airways on its Tumblr blog, alongside candid images of Susilo and the subjects of his drawings.
The informal nature of the post is relatively new territory for Qatar Airways, which previously banned cabin crew from sharing photos of themselves in uniform on social media or identifying themselves as crew.
“For the past year, we have been testing a new policy on our cabin crew, allowing them to identify themselves as Qatar Airways employees on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram,” an airline spokesperson told Doha News.
“They are our ambassadors, and they have shown that they are more than capable of handling the responsibility,” she said.