Confessions of a Flight Attendant

It's been said that becoming a flight attendant isn't just a job, but a lifestyle. How true! Every day brings a new airplane, a new set of passengers and a new destination.

I've been a flight attendant for five years, working for a regional, a legacy, and now, a low-cost airline. Though each airline flew different airplanes to different destinations, the life of a flight attendant is generally the same industry-wide.

See average salaries for a flight attendant, pilot and baggage handler.

In the United States, seniority is everything. Your seniority position within your airline dictates everything from the routes you fly to how much you get paid. New-hire flight attendants are at the bottom of the seniority list; they fly on "reserve" status, meaning they are always "on call" in case a more senior crew member calls in sick or, due to weather, the airline needs to re-staff a particular flight. As your seniority grows, you eventually reach the level of "line holder," where you can hold a monthly schedule of flying assignments, rather than on-call status. "Becoming a line holder is what every flight attendant dreams of," said Sara Keagle, a flight attendant at a legacy U.S. airline. "It finally gives you the flexibility to plan your life outside of work."

Being a flight attendant is adventurous: No two days are ever the same, and you never know whom you might meet.

"When he boarded the plane I wasn't sure if it was him or not, so I had to walk past him a few times," Anne Galvez, a flight attendant at a domestic low-cost carrier, recalled about meeting her celebrity crush Val Kilmer on a flight. "Of all the days this could have happened, I had minimum makeup on; so I ran into the restroom, pulled myself together and got to take a photo with him."

Aside from celebrities, everyday people can also make your day all the more interesting.

I recall a flight from Los Angeles to Washington D.C. when an elderly lady boarded the aircraft with a note that read: "I'm traveling to Washington D.C. to visit my son and I am blind and deaf. For my comfort I would like to request an aisle seat, a pillow and a blanket, and milk to drink." I quickly walked her over to her seat, sat her down and buckled her in. I treated her like I would my own grandmother in this situation, taking into account the fact that she couldn't hear or see me.

A few hours into the flight, the fasten-seat-belt sign came on just as she stood up to make her way to the restroom. I quickly ran to guide her back to her seat. As I took her by the hand, she turned to me and said, "where are you taking me?" I jumped back, shocked that she spoke to me. I asked if she could hear me and she replied, "Yes, why wouldn't I be able to?" I laughed and told her that the note she handed me stated that she was deaf.

She then said with a chuckle: "My son wrote that note and told me to show it to anyone I met while traveling. I didn't even read it, but he said that it would take care of me getting on and off the plane first, and something to eat."

And there are dozens more stories like this one! Thus, a flight attendant needs to possess poise, patience, flexibility, and a big sense of humor and adventure.

Next: Flight Attendant Salary Overview >>


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October 11 2011 at 5:55 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
princenc1

I want to know about what goes on sexually amongst the crew, and betweent he flight attendants and pilots.

September 25 2011 at 6:48 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Brneydlady

I flew for 13 years, 9 of those internationally....got the job right out of college and it was a dream job at a time when flying was work, but fun. Couldn't wait to find out where they were sending me next; what part of the world and who I would meet. I think it's changed now and don't miss how physically demanding the job is, how dangerous it could be and how the flying public has changed. Having said that, it's still the best job in the world. Enjoy!

February 22 2011 at 4:41 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Mary Lou

Well, I was a stewardess back in the 50's and 60's. Yhere weren't FA's in those days. Then POW, one day a man wanted to be a stewardess but did not want to be called that. Thus, the name Flight Attendant. Don't kid yourselves, back then we had school for learning how to deal not only with people in different situations, but how to listen and know when the plane was acting up. One time after serving dinner on board, I lit up a cigarette in the galley (everyone smoked in those days) and noticed the smoke going out the door. Got the co-pilot back to check and we immediatedly had to go down below 10,000 feet. Little things like that. We had to be checked before every flight for things like length of hair, our weight, nails....you name it. They were strict but we had wonderful accomodations in those days with plenty of rest time to check out the city. It was my best choice of all that I had done in secretarial work and met my husband who flew and have been married like for ever. Amazing job, amazing people. And I do hope that some day things will get back to the wonderful service that we were able to give back in those days. It definitely was fun to fly for me and my passengers had a great time as well. As it should be! M.L. X-UAL Stew.




August 19 2010 at 12:44 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
harrytng

I am not lucky with American flight attendants, I got some good some bad experiences, but the bad ones always in my memories. The recent one, I flew from Tokyo to Dallas, that's almost 11 hours flight, on my seat I have one pillow and one blanket. Since I have back problem so usually use one pillow to support my back. I need another one for my head and neck. When I asked one attendant for one more pillow and explain it to her, she refused she said that I can have only one pillow with a really mean attitude. One younger attendant happenned to be closed by signaled me, and she then came back latter gave me another pillow.

April 28 2010 at 12:42 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Carlos

Theres is one thing i don`t understand about some flight attendants . I have been traveling a lot with different airlines , and it seems that 80% of the flight attendants are very snub . four years ago i went to an interview for a flight attendant position in chicago with United Airlines . I remember the person who interviewed me telling me that all flight attendants need to be friendly . But the majority are not . Flying with Alitalia was horrible . I will keep trying until i get a flight attendant job . cheers to all of you

April 28 2010 at 8:37 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Sara

Check out upgrd.com/thecrewlounge! Bobby co-hosts a podcast and gives a behind the scenes look into the job!

April 25 2010 at 2:59 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Christina B

Oh yeah, @needcoffee: I am so sorry that happened. It's occasionally going to happen although hopefully I don't spill hot coffee on anyone. I would have gotten you ice and a dry cloth immediately! Shame on that one.

April 24 2010 at 6:58 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Christina B

@Bob: Did you comment to the wrong post? I love my job and am not looking for another job unless it's to be a travel writer and even then, I am senior enough that I wouldn't quit.

@Jack: You are somewhat correct. I think it's all in how you conduct yourself. And, @merci7, chameleon is the same as what you described. If I have a patient that has never flown and needs me, I am able to adjust to that. If I have a person that is used to getting their own way and not listening, I can definitely deal with that. With a smile none the less. I may be physically taking their phone from them or offering them the opportunity to wait inside for another flight but it's handled.

Most of my passengers are still great. Some of them don't know any better or like to act like it and just need a little education for us to get along and it all turns out perfectly. A lot of people still do love the experience and even the million milers that I have on board are thrilled that I am not stuffy and like to have fun sometimes at their expense even though I treat them with respect.

I am never amazed by the passengers or other flight attendants but it's like any other job. I like to say that I love flying on planes, staying in hotel, people and I don't sit well so this career was the perfect option. I have to admit that I met a mainline flight attendant (Delta) that was so mean I actually told her that's exactly why I DONT work for Delta and Yes, I had the chance. I swear that I am not stuck up although this sounds terrible as I just read it back to myself. I am simply too easy to get along with to tollerate anyone that is not. Of course, that's where that "Chameleon" comes in to play again....no worries mate.

April 24 2010 at 6:54 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
johnnie

sounds like sour grapes to me!

April 24 2010 at 6:05 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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