The Public Life of a Flight Attendant

by Tiago Vilaça

“Ding! [Here we go…]
– Yes, sir. Do you need something?
– Coffee. Black.
– Would you like some sugar with your coffee?
– I said black!
– Ok, sir. Give me two minutes… [sigh]”

This is how everybody perceives the work of a flight attendant. The average passenger has the idea that we are only there to serve their every need throughout the duration of that fight, without even needing a kind thank you. Let me start by saying that this is an absolutely wrong and twisted manner of making a person a slave of contemporary times. Obviously, cabin crews are in a flight to help passengers feel well and appreciated (and not just a seat number full of money to spend), but our job resides in much more than that.

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When you are taking the course to become a hostess, there comes a time when the instructor tells you the three main purposes of this job: protect the passengers, the aircraft and your fellow colleagues (cabin and flight crew). Nowhere in our manual says that we have to put up with monkeys and cavemen, in terms of rudeness, attitude and poise. But, sadly enough, we do put up with this people. And they are not a minority.  During that same course, you only talk about emergency situations, how to cope with them, how to help everybody, how to be fast and how to think straight in a life or death scenario. You feel like you’re becoming a hero of the masses, that your training is going to flourish in a great deal of reward from everyone that you are going to meet, because they know that you are the one prepared, you are the one with the great knowledge and so they will see you as superior to them and even as a fortunate being, because you are the one in charge when chaos strike.  Two days into your new job and you regret every beautiful thought you ever had, because it is now killing you on the inside to know that all was the fantasy of a rookie and that things will never be any different.

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Being a cabin crew is not an easy life. You have freaky schedules that ruin your sleeping cycles, you don’t eat properly, you have to be smiling all the time (even though you want to punch someone in the face) and meet an enormous amount of crazy people that you never even thought existed. I always try to see the glass half full, and in this situation, a simple smile and a thank you from a person in one of my flights is enough to make my day. I’m not picky and I have a lot of patience. But even I can grow green and mean if passengers are being assholes. Let me give you some examples of what can really make me go out of it:

  • You tell them that they have to be seated as soon as they find a seat and whenever the seatbelt sign is on, in order to avoid unnecessary delays, to facilitate the boarding and for their one safety. What does the majority do? Block the aisle; “save” seats and hatbin spaces for friends and/or family; stand in their seat just to see what is happening; ask to go to the toilet during boarding, although they just came from the terminal; leave bags on the ground, because, in their heads, it is the flight attendant that has to deal with it and pick up the 10kg (more like 50kg!) and put it in the proper storage; get up during the safety demonstration because they feel too hot now and the jacket cannot be in their laps, but in the hatbin above; stand up right after take-off, when the plane is still climbing like hell, or right after landing, when we are still breaking in the runway; etc…

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  • You tell them that all of their electronic devices must be switched off for take-off and for landing. What does the majority do? Block the screen in front of the hostess and say that is off, like we don’t have cell phones ourselves and we are stupid and don’t know how it works; have the earphones in their ears and say that it is off so it’s ok if they stay like that; turn to the cabin crew and say is on flight mode so it’s fine, although we just said that it has to be completely off for take-off; etc…

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  • You tell them that it is strictly forbidden to smoke on board of the aircraft, even in the toilets, where we have smoke detectors. You even explain to them that this is not a company rule, but an European demand and that if they do smoke they are committing a crime.  What do some (fortunately, not that many) passengers do? Sneak to the toilet and have a puff, like you will never feel the smell of cigarette coming from there; smoking electronic cigarettes in their seats or even standing in the cabin, and after you explain that not even those are allowed, they answer “Why?” and have another puff. I really don’t understand why do they do this! I smoke and sometimes I’m 10 to 12 hours inside the airplane and I don’t even think of having a smoke, so why would they in a 1h, 1h30 flight, do it? We have to call the police for this and have a delay because of this person and, instead of getting home at midnight, I arrive at 2 am…

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I could be here forever telling you a thousand things passengers do that pisses me off. I can understand those who have never flown before and ask silly questions. They don’t bother me, because they are somewhat afraid of the aircraft and they don’t do shit. Now, the ones that think they know everything and only flew like two or three times in their lives, these are the tricky ones and these are the ones that make you feel like you want to jump off the plane.

Bad experiences and monkey passengers aside, the life of a flight attendant can be good and glamorous. We travel the world and see things that the common mortal wouldn’t even think of, we’re in contact with a stupidly big amount of people and cultures and we can enrich ourselves with their knowledge. We work (at most!) around 15 days a month and still get a pretty good paycheck, we have a lot of free time and we can take that time to do whatever we want. When the day is finished we don’t bring the work home with us and we can say, if nothing more, that it is an incredible life experience that no one will ever be able to take away from us.

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We, flight attendants, perceive ourselves as proper professionals in our customer’s eyes, so you would never think of half of the stuff we do on board. We pull pranks on each other (like putting sugar in the seatbelt so it can fall on top of a colleague when he/she is fastening it, or placing some dry ice inside an oven so that, because of the smoke that comes out, another cabin crew has a mini heart attack thinking that a fire is happening (yes, we can be mean), and so much more), we gossip about the person seating on 1A, because he is super hot or about 6E, because she smells like pee), we revenge ourselves from that dickhead in 18C in our own way (by “accidentally” hitting his seat with the food trolley and waking him up),  we flirt with passengers just to make a sale and we allow passengers to flirt with us if (and only if!) we want them to.

Now, the question that has been in the back of your dirty, perverted minds: is it possible to have sex in the aircraft or, in other terms, to be part of the Mile High Club? My answer is not a simple yes or no, because it is actually possible to do, but the amount of variables that have to be in your favor for this to happen are so many, that the accomplishment is not likely to be tangible. Between two passengers it’s impossible. You may start going at it, but for sure your will never finish it. Between cabin crews it’s a lot easier to do it, but the risk is too high to be taken by them. Between a passenger and a cabin crew it’s much more likely to happen, just because the passenger has the will and the cabin crew the position to make it possible. So this last hypothesis would be where I would bet my money.

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With all this said (and with so much more still in my head), I want to conclude this article with two simple statements:

  1. Be kind to you flight attendants, because they will be kind to you and even, perhaps, be a lot more willing to CPR the shit out of you, in case you are having a heart attack;
  2. This is the best job in the world, even with all of the primates that we encounter. Nothing beats the sense of freedom of traveling with money to spend and friends besides you.

Think about these things next time you travel and give a smile and a thank you to your cabin crew, just because it might happen to be me.

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One thought on “The Public Life of a Flight Attendant

  1. Pingback: Aaaaaand… this was 2013! | We should name this soon

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