Posted Sep 29, 2011 in Travel | 14 Comments

Flight Attendants: Unspoken Heroes?

Trolley dolly, air mattress, sky waiters, all these names have been used to describe flight attendants. A laughing stock to a few, an envious career to many. All in all, the respect level towards flight attendants are at an all time low.

In recent weeks Canadian news has been flooded with constant threats of a strike from different unions in a major airline. The general public doesn’t seem to favour these unionized employee’s nor does the government. In my history of basically reading, it’s the first time I’ve heard of  people siding with the government against workers.

Why is that? Why do people seem to have such a dislike for flight attendants. I’m going to give my personal opinion as to why. Just remember it’s my opinion, doesn’t mean that it’s right.

The glamorous days of sexy flight attendants travelling around the globe with lavish layovers on exotic beaches are long gone. The general public henceforth known as the GPs assume that shopping in Paris for a week, or sunbathing in Brazil is a common occurrence for flight attendants (FAs). I know many FAs and unless they’ve been flying for an obscene amount of years the sunny beaches of Edmonton, the lush valleys of Ottawa, and the warm embrace of Deerlake are as fancy as it gets.

Yes, international flights are common as well, but after 15hours of flying to Hong Kong, what can you possibly do in your 24 hour layover that would warrant your life to be so amazing? Lets not forget the 15 hours back. As a passenger you’re so tired from sitting that you need a few days of relaxation to adjust to the time change, let alone day change. They’re expected to go 12 hours into the future then come back within 2 days. Not an easy procedure.

Now don’t get me wrong, I’d prefer to go to Hong Kong then sit behind a desk in an office. But I don’t think 30 hours of flying is worth 24 hours of a foreign stay. Not worth my time. So the layovers are not as incredible as we think.

I have plenty of friends who work 9 to 5 or even 9 to 9. Those are tiring hours, rest assure though that those hours are paid for. From my old swinging days I’ve met a few FAs and have come to realize that a 13 hour day of flying does not equal 13 hours of pay. Doesn’t make sense. Growing up I always assumed if you put in the time then you would be rewarded. However, that doesn’t really work for FAs. I remember my ex would  go to work at 6am to finish at 7pm but only received around 6 hours of pay. Makes no sense to me, nor did it to him. But then who am I to say anything, he gets to party in Winnipeg…(green with envy).

FAs have so many days off while the GP gets weekends and holidays. That is incredibly not fair. In a heartbeat I would totally give up all the holidays, weekends, anniversaries, and birthdays just so I can get those energy filled Mondays off, cause lord knows, Tuesday is party time!

I’ve even heard of an FA not being able to spend the last 3 days of her mother’s life because her company wouldn’t allow it. Work first, grieve later is that company’s motto. Not really providing the FA with moral support, is it? Yet, she was still supposed to meet and greet and make sure the passengers around her were pleased while her mother was dying.

Why would anyone choose this life? Perhaps we’re all misled on how this job can be so rewarding. The advantages of this job are but just one…travel. The ability to travel anywhere in the world. The GP hates this fact and totally takes advantage of an FA if possible.

Classic introduction:

“Hi there, I’m Tony. What brings you here”
FA responds,” Oh, I’m a flight attendant laying over”
Tony smiles,” Wow, I bet you get to travel anywhere, can you bring me somewhere?”


Some of the prettiest and loneliest people I’ve met are FAs. No one wants a partner who always travels and the stigma from the 60′s of FAs having partners in every city hovers around their head. By the way, its ok if business men do it, but not FAs. That would make them sluts, but the business men, well, they’re lonely.

Every job has its benefits. I’ve worked at hospitals and never really had to wait in emergency. I know club promoters who get free food, drinks and tickets. Retail gives you percentages off clothing or whatever you sell. Lawyers always have a colleague willing to sign gratis, which comes in handy for mortgages. Bankers get reduced charges and rates. Why can’t the FA get a reduction in what they do…fly? Why shouldn’t they be given a first class seat if its available? They deal with every individual’s problem and on their day off they’re placed in the middle of 2 fat people by the toilets?

These people are not simply just flying city to city. Its not a job, its a life they have chosen. They’ve chosen a life of insecurity, instability, and exhaustion. They don’t know what day it is as their months are not calendar months. They’ve given up freedom in order to make sure we arrive safely. None of them have a regular life as it takes an extraordinary person to be in a relationship with a FA. Its hard on a partner when they don’t know where their lover is or when they’ll see their lover next.

The FA has given up any ‘normal’  life, why should they not get the rights to fly for cheap?

The GP is shocked at how much money some FAs make. What’s shocking is 10 FAs in one apartment that should house 2, to make ends meet. What’s shocking is lawyers who make 6 figures when most of what they learned was opened book, while people who save lives Dr.’s, nurses, and yes, FAs don’t.

What’s shocking is the fact they’re only paid for when their plane moves, omitting all their personal time taken away from them for free. The fact that I’ve seen FAs lying down at 1am on airport floors for 4 hours cause their company won’t give them a hotel let alone a room to rest.

The loneliest job on the planet? Somewhat. No one understands the life of an FA. I’ve sat around the table with my ex and his FA friends and didn’t quite understand their lingo. The only thing I understood was that in every turn they were somehow being screwed by either their company or the inefficiency of their union. The fact that the maximum day an FA can work is 13 hours but they have to fight to get their legal rest is problematic. The fact that passengers and their respective company weigh them down with guilt for not working the thankless surplus of hours at their own risk is saddening. I would prefer a well rested FA over a tired one any day.

I’m tired of my asian friends that state North American FAs are old and haggard. They want something nice to look at. It’s a shame when people are seen as pieces of meat. I want safety, I don’t care if a person is pretty or not. Get me there safely. If I wanted looks I would order a hooker. I tell them that the passengers are in worse condition and that the FAs have a right to have better looking passengers as well.

Its bad enough when FAs are pretty, passengers feel free to touch them as again, their respect level is nil. Yes, FAs still get touched and not by an angel.

The asian airlines have small, petite, and dainty little creatures ‘serving’ you. With their “Hello Kitty’ trinkets on their phone, tons of make up (as they were trained to wear), and their weekly manicures. Regular little dolls. So much emphasis on how to please you visually. But how are they in case of emergency? I’ve been on flights with several airlines and have witnessed many times  the ‘thinking bulb’ blinking on top of their heads as they wonder if the proper arming and disarming technique was used. Boy, do I feel safe.

An FA’s role is not service. Yes, they always serve us drinks and food but their primary role is safety and security. They’re our last hope if anything happens. People forget that time and time again. When the plane landed on the Hudson River, the pilot got all the praise, though most of it was automated. What about the FAs who managed to get 100+ passengers off the aircraft in the middle of a river to safety, without one loss of life.

My  friend who was the sweetest person and outgoing after 3 years of flying has become claustrophobic and introverted. Prefers to stay home resting until the next day of work.

On my routine flights around the world I’ve seen FAs save lives, incur injuries, wrestle with drunkards, babysit, console and encourage…and all this can be one flight. Yet, they’re seen as spoiled lushes who shop and sex everyday. I’m ashamed at Hollywood, media and airline companies as how FAs are portrayed. Where’s their reality show?

So the next time you’re on a flight and you see an old haggard flight attendant that you find oh so unattractive; think of how many years of training she has under her belt. How many lives she’s saved, how many intimate family gatherings she sacrificed so you can pub crawl with your buddies. She has feelings and despite how much you don’t like her, she has feelings for you and would try to save you if needed.

Think about this, cause lord knows, if I was in her shoes, I’d walk right by you.

*This post was submitted by an anonymous author and is posted under yourKloset’s staff account. The views expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the views of yourKloset management.

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  1. Trolley Dolly says:

    Thank you so much for writing this. This is actually the most accurate description of our job I have ever read. It’s nice to know somebody is paying attention.

  2. 'Boring' Ottawa says:

    I don’t think the GP is necessarily upset when FA’s threaten to strike, it’s when the ticketing people do. You know the ones at the airport that check you in and such. And the staff that is non FA related, but since you all fall under the same union (often times) everyone just gets painted with the same brush.

    I’ve heard comments also about N. American FA’s being ‘old & haggard’ from friends as well and while it may be offensive it is often times true in comparison to flight attendants from other airlines. Personally I don’t care but it is something that the GP is going to notice and perhaps complain about because (and although you state that they are not in the service industry) they are dealing with the general public and they are providing a service. The same can be said if you were to go into a semi upscale bar/restaurant. Would it be fair to assume that the servers/hostesses will be looking a certain way and be of a certain age demographic? …It just is what it is, just like you said your opinions are your own, so are the opinions of those who want the staff to be somewhat attractive. Though I totally disagree with the touching aspect and found that a little shocking.

    Airlines pride & promote themselves on their level of service & safety but FA’s have nothing to do with the mechanics of an airplane, nor the internal functions. So if you want to blame anyone, you should blame the industry itself for pimping you guys out in a manner that upsets you. You blame Hollywood for setting an unfortunate expectation, but you don’t blame your own industry that fosters this same attitude.

  3. It is not an easy job but nobody is forcing a FA to take it. If you don’t like it or realized that it is not for you, find something else to do. Lately I came across so many rude FAs, as if they want to take out their problems on the passengers. I have friends who are FAs, and I never hear how much they love what they do, they always talk nasty about their passengers as if they are too much of an inconvenience, I just don’t get it.
    I’ve always been really nice to Fas whenever I fly but I always feel like I sometimes need to do that so I don’t get any bad treatment back from them. And even when I am over the top nice, there is always that look/feeling that they are doing YOU a great favor.

  4. Hi there

    I am a FA and I totally agree with yr points except you calling us little creatures, there are many airlines around the world. There will be some better then the others. At the end of the day, safety is the most important and we can upkeep ourselves. Asian airlines still rule the list of preferred airlines of the world.

    We are all FAs. My team and i saved lives.

    The points that you are trying to put across is very valid, but please respect all FAs

  5. Thank you for writing this article.

    I’ve been a Flight Attendant for ten years and every word you’ve written has resonance.

    My career is one of sleep deprivation, social dislocation and bullying (from passengers and airline managers). However, my dedication to giving excellent service and an uncompromising approach to safety is what keeps me motivated to deliver every flight every time.

    I certainly wish for plenty of sex and glamourous overnights but until then I’ll settle for getting you safely to wherever you’re going.

    Fly my skies any time.

  6. Asian FAs still go through grueling safety training and procedures before they are certified to fly, it is just that just as much as any other airline in the world, that out of a million flights per year, they practice real-time emergencies in a mos miniscule small percentage of those flights. Hence, in case of emergency, what we asian FAs execute in safety procedures is not visible to the passengers so to only make them only worry about the comfort and not the safety of the aircraft. I respect that you acknowledge the duties of an FA, but please do not underestimate the competency of the Asian FA, that’s just not nice my friend.

  7. This article has some emotional appeal yet does not really stand up to critical evaluation on several fronts (mainly to do with relating to a Canadian regulatory standards which dictate duty and layover standards for this particular company, not others).

    It’s hard to take this document seriously when the author, a self perceived heroin of the skies, plays down the actions of Captain Sully describing his heroics as ‘automated’. The author may wish to research vague, self promoting opinions before under appreciating other professions which is the primary reason this document came about in the first place.

  8. Balaram Dorai says:

    The Civil Aviation Requirement (CAR) rule says that after 15 hour of flying non-stop the minimum mandatory rest period is not less than 48 hrs which includes two clear nights rest. So I do not understand the 24 hour rest after an ultra long haul flight.

  9. Miguel Vega says:

    Thank you YK staff for running this article. I am very happy that someone sheds light on this matter. I am a flight attendant and I love my job, just don’t like some of the issues that we face with our companies and hours worked. But for me, the fact that I can be at my mother’s house when I am off, anytime, makes me happy. Thank you again for shinning the light. Hopefully someone that can make a difference will read this and do just that.

  10. Bebe Battles says:

    Hey there. I work for JetBlue and we can be SCHEDULED up to 14 hours in a day, but Crew Scheduling can (according to our scheduling rules manual) work us “indefinitely” due to extenuating circumstances. Yes, indefinitely. This has happened to me before… Where I was on duty for more than 24 hours…. Robots? They must think so…

  11. jean p laflamme says:

    @balaram dorai: In canada, the Cars (canadian aviation requirement) deals mainly with flying crew members or pilots. Flight Attendant meaning a crew member other than a flight crew member are sadly not so well protected. 48h rest after a 15h duty! I would love that!!

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