On dating a flight attendant

Dear Heather,

I’ve really enjoyed reading your blog. I thought I’d add a different perspective…what it’s like to be the guy who is dating a flight attendant. ALL red-blooded American men dreamed for years of dating a flight attendant. My turn finally came and I was in awe. I then was rather surprised that the glamorous life we were led to believe didn’t really exist. I found flight attendants have one of the toughest lives out there, and to this day I don’t understand how they endure it. My suspicions are…those who can’t take it drop out in the first year, leaving those who can.


I had absolutely no idea that flight attendants (god forbid one slip and say stewardess) didn’t merely go to the airport in time for a morning flight, fly during the day, only to return and sleep in their own bed each night. I was introduced to the world of “trips,” “bidding,” and “seniority.” Since Delta hadn’t hired in many years, my particular flight attendant with many years seniority was still at the bottom of the list, meaning her four day trips frequently consisted of frequent short hops.

I was horrified…and mystified…that essentially flight attendants get paid door closing to door opening. ALL that work-heavy time boarding….is their “contribution to the airline.” All the time waiting with the door open for a mechanical delay is on them. All the time waiting for the last granny to deplane and wait for a missing wheelchair…again on them.

They report two HOURS before a flight….out of the “goodness of their heart.” I was even surprised they weren’t paid on layovers. My strongest belief is that flight attendants should be paid from the second they check in on the first day of their flight until the second they check out on the last day of their flight…even if this means the semi-artificial high flying time pay is reduced. I AM aware that those with seniority would take advantage of this and suddenly WANT the short hops, leaving those with less seniority with the longer flights, but even still…I feel that since they are on company time and rules even when on a lay-over…they should be paid.

It’s not as easy as a flight attendant may feel on their companion. They are gone for four days, on a average, for a trip. The night before a trip, gosh forbid their partner turn on the TV…they need their rest….and forget romance that night either. The night they return, they have a desperate need to get rid of the frozen smile on their face, and have zero desire to talk…they HAVE been talking for four days. The first night home, their companion is to have wine, dinner, a hot bath ready and to ready mute, but at their beck and call. Now six out of seven days have been used. The day after a trip, their companion better be darn ready to go out on the town…it’s their night to party, shop, enjoy the town.

I was extremely surprised to find out a flight attendant wasn’t ecstatic to hear from their loved one at length during a lay-over. I THOUGHT, how nice, they’re alone in a room in a hotel, so they would appreciate a long phone call for companionship. Instead they are working at removing the fixed smile, have been talking all day, can’t really have a drink to relax, and basically want to be alone, probably catching a sports event on TV. I was even surprised that sports was big in their lives until it dawned on me….they can’t really get into a TV series, as they will miss so many episodes, so they learn to watch something that is a one-time event.

So, their life is tough, and their companion has to be totally understanding. I was absolutely unable to understand when economic times got tough, that somehow the airlines felt the flight attendants must be the source of their economic difficulties, so removed crew meals. Let me get this straight…away from home, so no access to your own fridge….so you have to BUY a ridiculously-priced airport sandwich? Let me get this straight, no crew meal, so you have to serve meals to all the passengers, but not get to have one yourself? At Least the CEO’s did away with their own corporate dining rooms. (AS IF.)

Then some bright guy figured out….hey, they have nothing to do after passengers deplane, let’s have the FLIGHT ATTENDANTS clean the plane! Ignore the fact that they are getting paid at that point and essentially every flight attendant I’ve ever met has chronic back and knee problems.

Still, I just can’t help it. I still adore flight attendants. I still am in little boy awe of these goddesses of the sky. I think their absolutely PERFECT grooming and make-up is so appealing. (I’m aware that that perfect grooming comes at a price of yet ANOTHER hour of their own time in their room preparing for the flight…but wow, the results!)

I found it funny how basically EVERY flight attendant will name the SAME city-city flight as the horror flight, the OMG NO I have to fly from this one city to THAT one city? MOST of the flight attendants also have the same celebrity they chose for horror stories. I was sad, that even though International flights have the best pay, the best time spent for hours paid, that it wounds flight attendants with the time changes and hours, so they get burned out.

Congratulations on your blog, and keep up the good work.

Lewis

Dear Lewis,

What can I say? You’ve already said it all. And thank you for that.

Heather Poole

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Heather Poole View All →

Yeah, that's me, the one standing in the aisle wearing flammable polyester...

40 Comments Leave a comment

    • Geez Lewis…c’mon man…you make it sound as if they have roughest freakin’ job in the world. Based on that post, you’d think a ditchdigger would be better off than a flight attendant.

      There’s a REASON so many women LOVE being flight attendants. A reason that only 1 out of about 600 is picked for the job. Yes, it has its nuisances…but at the end of the day, it’s a great freaking gig.

      My girlfriend has worked a major airline for 15 + years…she considers it her dream job. She can fly ANYWHERE for free or at a greatly reduced price. Great discounts on cruises, too.

      But you really didn’t mention the more challenging and significant aspects of being a flight attendant. Things like having the guts to make it through flight school (it’s tough); being responsible for saving lives; protecting passengers from imminent injury and, even, death; being the go-to face when a plane encounters wake turbulence (rule #1 when I fly: if the flight attendant’s facial expression looks OK, then I’m OK…the plane’s not gonna crash! My GF agrees with this).

      Your points seem rather petty to me…my GF has NEVER complained about having to smile all day and talk on the phone with me during layovers. She’s not the type to fake her way through a day’s work. She’s also NEVER complained about cleaning an airplane. Seems pretty insignificant compared to other responsibilities, like keeping or unruly or crazy passengers in check.

      you just seem like you’re out of touch. And they’re not Goddesses, for Pete’s sake. They’re just everyday, normal people who love what they do for a living. Stop pedestaling women!

  1. One of the things I will add as one who has dated a flight attendant for three plus years, is that for someone outside the airline industry it is ALOT like dating a nurse. The schedule is difficult to appreciate, and the acronyms and terminology can be difficult to master. For ground-based romantic personnel, asking your flight attendant girlfriend how her three day went can mean listening to a thirty minute rant including terms and procedures you can barely comprehend.

    There is a dark side to dating a flight attendant. It’s a rare three day that my GF doesn’t return from with a handful of business cards “Because it’s easier to just take them”. If only one in a thousand men who try to pick her up actually pique her interest, that’s still one new guy every couple of months who appears on the scene as the latest “great guy who is just interested in my business plan!”. Then there’s the grin and bear it response to her text message that she’s been invited to dinner by another CEO who, inevitably, is VERY interested in her side-business. That’s a challenge for me and it’s less about jealousy than it is about feigning respect for the concept that there are men out there who want to get together “The next time you’re in PHX” simply because they find her “a charming conversationalist with a real knack for entrepreneurialism!”

    Am I jaded? Is my experience a-typical, or all too typical?

    • This is not typical. I don’t know anyone that comes home from ANY trip with piles of business cards. Maybe every now and again, but a stack? I don’t think so.

    • This is typical for some, I am 54 and still get “the card” and the “next time you are in______ call me BS” I take the card, as if….. then when they are out of sight throw it away……….

    • Typical. I used to get a stack on most trips when I was flying…and they were always interested in my side business and wanted to talk about it. 😉 Creepers. Your GF is right though, it’s easier to just take them, smile and run back to the jumpseat knowing that they won’t be able to come back and find you once the plane lands.

  2. Makes me glad that in Australia, the unions have fought for us t be paid from sign on to sign off at home base, and yes we get paid on layovers as well. (A lesser rate granted, but still paid!)

  3. Heather, can I thank you for posting this… It will actually help someone I know (you commented on FB, BTW)… I didn’t have the courage to write a piece like this to explain. But the guy nailed it pretty neatly there !

  4. This was really enlightening. I’m so horrified that you only get paid from door closing to opening. That’s what they do to the poor kids working at McDonald’s and other fast food joints too.

    Given all that unpaid work you do, you’re essentially getting paid only half your salary. uggghhhh.

    • With our airline it isnt door to door rather when the blocks are removed and returned blocks at arrival at the gate. There is no way to measure when the door is closed (time-wise) but it is registered when the blocks are removed. That is when time “begins and ends.”

  5. KingofNonRev – it sounds a lot like dating a surgeon (I am married to one)…

    Nurses and patients ask my husband all the time if he is married and even when he says he is, that doesn’t stop some of them.

    And now he finally has enough seniority to get some of the major holidays off, but he is always on at least one of Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s. I had just taken Christmas dinner out of the oven one year when the pager went off – it was a warm Christmas that year, so I said, “kid fell of his new bike and broke his arm?” Turned out it was a scooter, but otherwise I was right on.

    So anyway, I hear ya.

  6. I am in NYC & date a flight attendant also, and I have learned interesting keywords also. For example, "Senior Momma" – refers to older flight attendants who refuse to retire and are actually electronic robots with a lifelike endoskin produced by the airlines to insure that younger flight attendants looking to further their careers never get international flights or good monthly schedules. However, I am told that they have a small circuit breaker on the back of their necks, and if you push it they will immediately shut down, allowing one to advance in their career.

    On a more serious note, I respect flight attendants for putting up with all the corporate fat-cats treating their frontline employees like sh–. I am working on a new stimulus plan called "Feed A Flight Attendant" to combat starving attendants worldwide who are starved by their employers.

    • How rude to refer someone who has elected to fly as a career a “senior Mama.” Refuse to retire? Why should one retire prior to retirement age Mr. Anonymous? Continuing to work rather than retire is a personal choice not a choice to insure younger fa’s never get……..One day your precioius little china doll might be one of those lucky enough and senior enough to hold a nice schedule…until then she will pay her dues and should respect seniored flying partners. Your words of distain for a fa with seniority must have come from your GF and if so shame on her (and you)

  7. Aha…you moved websites and didn’t tell me (sniffles.) Just wanted to tell y’all you waited too long…engaged now and not even a F.A.!
    Some lucky F.A.’s will see us flying June 20 and 28th. :o)

  8. Wow, Lewis. You pretty much covered all of it. My wife is an FA out of Boston. It’s an incredibly tough job and I have the upmost respect for every one of them.

    Congratulations on your engagement!

  9. Sorry my beloved F.A.’s, the romance will never be…I did get married last week and not to a F.A….so no hassles with her job! She’s a C.P.A. Uh, did I tell you we just got through one of the Tax seasons? Well for a C.P.A. ………. sigh

    • Lewis, I’ve included your letter in my next Galley Gossip post – can an average joe date a flight attendant? Set to run Tmrw on Gadling.com.

  10. Hi ! I’ve flown to many parts of the world and used many airlines too. I respect the flight attendants job and it’s a tough one no doubt. I live in Asia now and here most of the FA’s are young. I’d like to say that from my personal experience, the senior FA’s in US sem to have a very low tolerance and they could be preety mean and rude. I know they have their union, they’re physically fit to fly etc but honestly, some of them should retire and enjoy life with their grandchildren. You have to be realistic, as you mentioned, some of the duties they carry out have to be handled by younger people. I remeber last time I was on a plane flying through US, I was coming back from the lavatory to my seat and the senior FA pretty much pushed his way through the corridor using her hands to deviate my body. I obviously complained and she said “oh Sir, I have many customers to deal with”. Then on another ocassion, the senior FA was passing with the drinks tray so I asked her to please refill my cup and she yelled ”let me serve the other pasengers first!!”
    This never happens with the Asian FA’s. I think it all comes to the older they’re the less tolerance and patience they have. seriously.

    • To the comment above—-try doing the job for 1 day—no, wait!–8 hrs. and then get back to me on refilling a glass before anyone else has had the FIRST drink!

      • Luis, I’m a F/A but not a senior MAMMA in the US but I retired a few years ago (of course not at my wishing). Why is it that younger employees believe that senior employees should go ahead and retire..just because they are older. Come on! Also, did you know that most F/A in Asia only get to fly for just a few years because their company is wanting only the younger, prettier women to be their F/A. I’m been a F/A for 5 years, love the job, have fun with the customers/PAX, but do have to handle customers that are rude, poke you in the side (just to hand you their trash), don’t turn off their electric devices (after being told 3-6 times), get out of their seats while the seat belt sign is on (for their safety) and you have to tell them to sit back down, ask you if they are use the lav when they know their not suppose to, we all stand to eat our B/L/D while they come up and share at you, etc. And what jobs can be handle better by younger people..like putting someones baggage in the overhead bin? A lot of F/As (older and younger) are injured every year because customers think it our job to put their things away. I could go on and on…but finally, when we do end our day or trip…we usually want to be left alone and have some solitude to unwind and regain our energy…

        Dennis (oh, btw…I’m currently 63 years old and not a old man..)

    • Dear Luis,

      Not all of the older flight attendants are senior, flying for many years, and burned- out like you suggest.
      Most of the airlines in the US prefer to hire older flight attendants for the following reasons;
      – they are more reliable, show actually up for work.
      – they have less sick abcenses
      – because of their life experience, they handle certain situations
      on board better than young co- workers.
      – unrully passengers have more respect for older flight attendants.
      – they take their job more seriously.
      – they proofed already over the years they can multi- task.

      And there are much more reasons for airlines to hire older flight attendants.

      Magda
      ( an older flight attendant who loves her job and doesn’t have a lot of seniority!)

    • Please name a “duty” that should be handled by a younger fa? Not true. Please report the facts or zip it. And, what is young in your dictionary? There are innumerable examples of non senior fa’s who are rude, impatient and lacking in common sense. Furthermore, the young people of today have attitudes —some think they are pretty hot when they’re not. Should be home with their grandchildren? Senior fa’s can be home with their grandchildren on their many many days off! You need to do your research because you are not reporting anything that is fact-based.

  11. well maybe she had a point you wanted more when others hadn’t even gotten a drink yet, can we say selfish of you. How bout you let them do there job and i’m sure you would have gotten more to drink as soon as they had been able to serve everyone. Rude, inconsiderate passengers cause many to get an attitude. I’ve seen my fair share of passengers that think they are the only ones on the aircraft and they should be catered to exclusively. most of the time there are 200 passengers on board and 4 flight attendants to care for them, maybe you should put yourself in there shoes for a minute.

  12. Very few men have the guts & commitment to date a FA.
    It is a difficult gig….and worth more than a bad relationship.
    Thx for your insight!

  13. I have the greatest respect for the job however I find many of them are just rude and lazy.For those f/a’s who haved worked with these types will understand. I dated a flight attendant for years and her biggest complaint was how her coworkers were lazy and rude to the passengers.

  14. Wow. As I’m married to a fantastic woman who happens to be a “longtime” ” not stewardess” I can only add this.
    Upon your partners arrival home make sure you do the following –
    1. Pick them up from the airport. 2. Listen intently until the horrors,laughs, frustration of the trip have been shared. 3. Handle their heavy luggage at all times for them. 4. Have the home neat and tidy. 5. Make sure the white is chilled or the red is open.

    The job has its many rewards but it is very true the common ignorant air traveller has been far from appreciative.

    On a more heavy note, the exclusion of the airline crews from 9-11 commemoratives was a shocking disgrace and the niceness from passengers immediately after that infamous day was but temporary.

    As my very humorous wife says ” be nice to those mean flt attendants”!

    The culture needs a major adjustment from top to bottom but it starts with the individual.

  15. You couldn’t say it better. But aviation it is an addiction. Once you have a taste of it there is no other job that can top that. It is not lemons all the time. As life it is not what it is… It is what you make of it. You choose how your day it is going to be…

  16. Im married to a Flight Attendant !!! Best ,down to earth gal I know. Goes through hell commuting to a base half way across the country to start her grueling day. Usually leaves the day before her trip to get to the crash pad with numerous other people living in the same place. Oh, so much fun. To their spouses, listen when they talk, respect there quiet time. Love ya Jannie.

  17. I am a retired NYPD Lieutenant, as well as FBI graduate (male). I am currently waiting to be called for a flight attendant position. My Choice and I do not have to work again so it is my choice. I prefer a tough job it builds character. I have been delaibng with the public for 20 years plus and never not one complaint. It is all about attitude (don’t have one). I would imagine there is rudness on both sides of the aisle (get it lol). It is part of most jobs in america. I can tell you one thing if you do not like a job or postion QUIT (your choice) trust me 100’s will take it from you. When you take any job you make that choice going in so what’s the issue here? Stay or better yet quit for those who complain and hate this profession, I am waiting for your spot.

  18. As a 12 year Flight Attendant, I enjoyed reading this. I think however, you left out the word “not” in the following: “Ignore the fact that they are getting paid at that point and essentially every flight attendant I’ve ever met has chronic back and knee problems.”
    Believe me, working for one of the airlines that has the Flight Attendants clean after every leg, I assure you, we are NOT paid for that either!!

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