Confessions of a Flight Attendant

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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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