I have encountered so many flight attendants that I’m starting to recognize some of them from previous flights, and they’re starting to recognize me. Over the years, I’ve found myself having some very interesting conversations with them in airport restaurants, lounges, hotels, and other waiting areas, in the back of planes, etc. While they enjoy certain perks, like the knowledge of where the hidden key lies that opens the separation wall to the two adjoining lavatories on an Airbus A330 (turning two stalls into one giant bathroom), flight attendants are also abused beyond what most of us would endure on our own jobs:
1) Dealing with People who can’t Count
I have no idea why, but there is an astonishing number of passengers who walk onto an airplane and simply forget how to count. Over and over again, I hear people come onto the plane and ask the first flight attendant they can find, “Duh… I’m in 14-B. Where is that, exactly?” It would take the patience of Job not to shake that person and say, “14 comes after 13… which comes after 12… and so on, you simpleton; figure it out!” I’d get fired. Quickly.
2) Dealing with People who can’t fasten a Safety Belt
Every trip that I have the chance to, I ask an attendant, “Did anyone on this flight have trouble fastening their seat belt?” With one exception, where a poor passenger had the misfortune to encounter a seat belt stuffed with someone else’s chewed gum (why? No idea…), the answer is always, “Yes, I had to show someone specifically how to fasten their belt.” If you are over the age of 8 and you can’t fasten your seat belt, I (as a flight attendant) would kick you off of the plane for being stupid. I’d fired again. More quickly this time, probably.
3) Dealing with the Abuse of your own Management
Northwest Airlines flight attendants recently settled a strike between their union and their management. During the struggle, the CEO of Northwest Airlines was quoted in the Minneapolis Star Tribune newspaper, regarding his fleet of flight attendants, “I don’t know why a settlement is taking so long, they are asking for too many demands considering they are a bunch of overpaid vending machines.” Wow. Several of the attendants I’ve talked to have told me that in a good year when they get scheduled a lot, they still make less than 20k per year. Some of the newer ones make less than 12k… and their CEO still thinks they’re just “vending machines?” If I were a flight attendant and my CEO were on the plane and the plane were to have trouble, I would use all of my safety and survival training and skills to make sure he perished in the fiery aftermath. Then, I’d probably still get fired AND incarcerated for manslaughter.
4) Dealing with People who Snap their Fingers at me and Call me “Honey”
Do I really need to elaborate here? “Sir, I have been trained to save your life. Everything else I do on this plane is an extra added bonus that you’re lucky to get… so if you don’t put those fingers back in your lap, I will grab them, break them off, and serve them back to you as a cocktail stirrer.” I know, fired… then hospitalized for mental issues.
5) The Uniforms
Polyester went out in the 70s. I wouldn’t wear it. Also, there is a rule at many airlines that the female flight attendants must wear at least a two inch heal on the plane (ask an attendant what she wears for “Terminal Shoes” vs. “Flight Shoes” someday). I would wear something more conducive to me helping people in the case of an emergency like comfortable cargo shorts with extra pockets for knifes and flashlights and such. I would also insist that the airlines pay for it! Then I’d get fired for insubordination.
So, be respectful of your flight attendants. They do a difficult job for a small pittance of pay. If you are nice to them, you’ll receive the attention and respect that all passengers should!
EXTRA: If you have questions for Ken regarding business travel, hotels, airplanes, etc, please send an email! Your questions will be recorded and Ken will answer the best ones in his Ask the Expert podcast show.