Flight Attendant Problems…
And flight attendants have a lot of them. Being a flight attendant is not just a career, but a lifestyle. All aspects of a flight attendant’s day-to-day are tied into the industry, whether this fact is acknowledged or not. This post isn’t a hate-rant, only exposing the cons of the job, but more of a sharing of information, in a humorous, yet true-to-a-point fashion of what I’ve noticed from living The Flight Attendant Life. This isn’t an all-inclusive list, because I’ve certainly missed scenarios, but this blog has already taken me over a week to write, so I had to keep it to a list of 10.
Flight Attendant Problem #1: My Life In A Bag
Living out of a suitcase is the norm for many flight attendants. You won’t often get a straight answer from an airline crew member when you ask “Where do you live?” It’s complicated. Many flight attendants live thousands of miles away from where they work, commuting, on airplanes, across states, oceans, or countries, just to go to work. When someone asks me where I live, I stutter, “Well, about that…” I don’t know. I’m on an airplane more often than anywhere else, and a hotel address doesn’t exactly count as a “home.” My friends joke that I need a tattoo that reads, “If lost, please return to the nearest airport.” That’s about right.
Living out of a bag, and being constantly away, adds hassles to life that aren’t experienced when you have the staples of a home at your disposal. Flight crews are probably some of the most creative individuals when it comes to fridgeless hotel rooms, meal making, packing, and picking clothing that can be functional in all environemnts. I figured out quite quickly that Febreze To-Go Spray, a swimsuit, and extra nylons are must-be-with-me side-kicks.
Flight Attendant Problem #2: Commuters, Stand-By, & Non-Reving Nightmares
If you have ever heard the saying, “Date me, fly free,” don’t believe it. I don’t even want to take the time to go into detail over the many reasons why that statement is wrong. Let me just tell you a little story:
It’s 530am, at Bostan Logan International Airport, and I am anxiously waiting. I look fairly put together, considering I haven’t slept in over 24hours. Uniform and Make-up on. What was supposed to be a simple jump from Aruba to JFK, and then on to Ft. Lauderdale, so that I could return to work, had turned into a monster of missed flights, and me scrambling up to Boston, so that I wouldn’t get fired from my beloved Airline. In Boston, I hoped for better luck, and prayed for grace, considering the serious ramifications of not making it to work on-time. While waiting at a gate in the terminal, I overheard a group of men, late 40s, talking, and I was able to overhear bits of their conversation. One of the men in the group said, “I need to find myself a flight attendant so that I can travel where ever I want, whenever I want. And all I thought was, “SOOOO that’s what’s wrong with my picture! Where’s my flight attendant knight in shining armor?!? Sorry Romeo! Flight attendant, stand-by, travel doesn’t work that way.
Flight attendant’s and airline crews deal with a double edge sword when it comes to flight benefits, and the free, to discounted, travel travel benefits that our type enjoys. It’s stand-by, meaning, I as a flight attendant, hope you, Mr. Paying Customer, doesn’t show up. If you don’t show up, my odds of flying where I want to go significantly increase. Sometimes this system works brilliantly, and I’ve gotten to travel first class, compliments of my career field, but often, flight attendant’s get stuck. And stuck. And stuck, in an airport, watching plane, after plane after plane leave without them. That’s the ultimate rejection.
To handle the stress of stand-by travel, a flight attendant has to be ok with plans changing, accepting that weather, mechanicals, and oversold flights, can throw the day into a whole new realm of adventure. The cons of non-rev travel have to be countered with an attitude and smarts, set ready to problem solve. I’ve learned that there is more than one solution. I’ve learned to have an idea of a backup plan. And what I should learn, but just ignore, still, is giving myself a couple extra days to get back to work just in case. I’m thankful that I don’t know the future. If I could future-tell, I would have missed out on so much because I wouldn’t have put myself through the hassles, then in-turn, missed out on the places, the people, and the learning.
The moments when stand-by travel is worth it:)
Flight Attendant Problem #3: “A Life Up In The Air”
Literally, and figuratively, up in the air is how a flight attendant’s life is, which can be a problem for the flight attendant, and others involved in said flight attendant’s life. Jet lag, delays, and constantly being in contact with others in small spaces can wreak havoc on a flight attendant’s personal life and health. Many new flight attendants, as well as the seasoned veterans, are constantly coming down with colds due to the innumerable amount of germs on an airplane. Flight attendant schedules, base assignments, and locations are in constant flux. And what is even more challenging than the constant changes is that those outside of the industry begin view airline crew members as flakey and noncommittal, which challenge friendship building. “Nothing is certain” is too-true with so much of one’s work life spilling over into personal lifestyle. I think that most airline crew members simply build a tolerance to the inconveniences and annoyances associated, learning to live with it, and hoping to find someone that can tolerate the life with them.
Learning to work with the unpleasant additions of the job
Flight Attendant Problem #4: Flight Attendant Fighting
I went to a small high school. My high school also happening to be a boarding school, and living with, and going to class with the same few people every day, for many days out of a calendar were all the ingredients needed to bake drama. I’ve learned that the airline industry isn’t much different. Flight attendants fight, sometimes because of differing work styles, sometimes because their personal lives have been unprofessionally intertwined in their work. You just can’t expect to get along with everyone, but it’s important to be professional and be a cohesive team when working in the airline industry. It is a high stress environment, with the possibility of experiencing emergency situations, so regardless of what ever flight attendant problems may be going on, leave them as much off of the aircraft as you can, and take them to the ring later.
Flight Attendant Problem #5: “On Stage”
As a flight attendant, I often feel that getting ready for work, and then being at work is a production. I have to be ready to shine and sparkle, putting on the smile and the swagger, whatever that means. Flying is like being on stage. Many and most days, I would rather not be front and center for 600 plus pairs of eyes, at the mercy of others who make their conclusions about who I am, judging if I am cute and competent enough for the job. Any flight attendant that believes he or she is not being judged for appearance; hair, make-up, attractiveness, size, among other attributes, is simply delusional. A flight attendant represents an airline; a brand. Because of that, there is a responsibility to project a certain look. Flight Attendants must be “compliant,” meaning a skirt has to be just such a length, tattoos must be non-existent or at least hidden, and heels have to be not too tall, but not too short. Stilettos are definite no-no. Ladies, remember to don your pretty little lashes with mascara, and gentlemen, shave the scruff on your chinny-chin-chin, because that is written down in the rule book too. And supervisors take compliance seriously. I’m not demerit-less and have been pulled aside to discuss a uniform dress too short, shoes un-shined, didn’t bring my heels, wore my nose ring, wrong earrings, nails unpolished, hair not tied back, this over the course of my flying career. I’m such an A+ pupil. Some rules are meant to be broken:)
Flight Attendant Problem #6: Balanced and Healthy
My first few months in Waikiki must have been a test to see how much my body could take of little sleep, poor food choices, drinking, and an irregular schedule. Socializing is a big part of the off-the-clock life of a flight attendant, but this can be problematic for those that are trying to maintain a healthy mind and body. Alcohol and late nights strike their victims in a variety of ways, some of which being lowered inhibitions, weight gain, lethargy, and sleeplessness. Pick your poison, or don’t pick at all. Remember your decisions will come with consequences in one form or another.
Flight attendants are faced with the challenge of trying to maintain consistency in their lives’, with a schedule that stays the same. It’s hard to create space for daily exercise, personal time, and community outside of work. I don’t think that it’s possible to make everyday the same, with breakfast, lunch, dinner, and workout happening the same hour of the day. But due to the unpredictability of a flight attendant schedule, it is that much more important to take care of yourself to the best that you can, in the situation that you are in.
For example, in college, I worked out two hours a day, 6 days a week. I’d like to be able to maintain that type of regimented life, but with my job and travel love, it’s a failing battle. I just try to make the best decisions that I can, in the situation that I am in. I also give myself permission to enjoy the moments. I’ve chosen that striving for perfection is a lost battle, and instead I’m on the path of balance because I want to be healthy, and balance is just that. Balance is healthy.
Exercise and moisturize
Flight Attendant Problem #7: Stereotyped
Many people who don’t understand what being a flight attendant entails have preconceived notions about who flight attendants are. The stereotype can include descriptions questioning intelligence or hooking up with pilots and passengers.
I couldn’t even begin to describe the stereotypical flight attendant, because, either I haven’t been around long enough (this could be true), or there isn’t one. The flight attendant’s that I know are those types that could be doctors, or will be, are in school for nursing or culinary arts, speak seven or eight languages, or dream of working for a non-profit in a foreign country someday. These men and women are smart, educated, interesting, funny, and engaging. They have raised families, worked hard, seen the world, and are better people for it. Only 4 percent of applicants eventually get to claim the flight attendant title, so the individuals have something going for them. And yes, some flight attendants sleep around, cheat on their husbands or wives, but let’s be real, that is sadly more indicative of the culture that we live in.
Flight Attendant Problem #8: Pilots
Flight Attendant Problem #9: Relationships
Often, the success of a romantic relationship requires proximity, especially in the beginning phases of dating. The flight attendant life is movement and fluidity, changing locations, and schedules. This can stress relationships, especially if the relationship is with someone who struggles with jealousy and insecurity. Some flight attendants use the job as a way to escape failing marriages or a home life that is too complicated to face on a daily basis. The distraction of new places and new people make for an exciting and interesting existence, but exciting and interesting don’t necessarily equal happy. I’m not claiming to know about other flight attendants and their relationships, all I know is of what I have observed. I’ve been single since I started flying, so I haven’t been challenged to maintain a connection with someone. I have been challenged with stereotypes and heartbreaks; being hopeful, and then disappointed, but accepting where I am in my life right now. I’ve questioned many men and their definitions of commitment, which to some means until you find someone better. I’ve realized that if I personally want a romantic relationship, I am going to have to stay in one place for more than two weeks at time. Relationships take an investment of time and care and consideration regardless of the field of work, so maybe relationships aren’t just a flight attendant problem. I think everyone wants to believe in love. Being a flight attendant has made me question…
Flight Attendant Problem #10: Always Goodbye
And maybe I question because I say so many goodbyes. People are constantly entering and exiting my life. How attached do I let myself become if I am only around for a week or two? It is already a challenge for me to stay connected with my closest friends, let alone develop new, and lasting friendships with people that are not part of my daily life. I haven’t talked with my closest friends in Los Angeles in more than just weeks. My best friend-travel buddies in New York?? Yeah…love them, but I haven’t seen them in over eight months. My heart is in so many places. I sense a callous that has been building within my soul to cushion the fall out of see-you-laters; an umbrella to catch the tear drops of goodbyes. I’m too sensitive for this job. People affect me. Their presence. Their spirit. Their friendships. I feel like I’m on this merry-go-round where I keep spinning, and waving, and traveling in circles, staying on the fun ride, but everyone else walks up, twirls, and walks away. The lack of consistency and staying power with the job is draining. I think that goodbye is my least favorite flight attendant problem.
Curious. Bubbly. Creative. Curating a life I don't need an escape from and inspiring you to do the same.