I first met Heather Poole at the first travel blog conference. We got along very well and I had been reading her blog for awhile. She writes about life as a flight attendant. Recently, she published a book,Cruising Attitude: Tales of Crashpads, Crew Drama, and Crazy Passengers at 35,000 Feet, about life as a flight attendant. I, ironically, picked it up at an airport and read it on a plane. She found time her time at 35,000 feet to talk about her job and book.
Nomadic Matt: You’re a flight attendant. What’s that like?
Heather Poole: Even though the job has changed a lot over the years, it can still be a lot of fun. But patience is a must, more so than ever before. Flight attendants are the face of the airline and passengers have a tendency to take things out on us, even if what happened is not our fault. Besides being friendly and outgoing, we also have to be able to adapt to change easily. This is why we always have back up plans A, B and C, because there’s always something bound to go wrong in the airline industry. Mechanicals. Delays. Cancellations. They happen. Even on Christmas Eve. If there are kids at home this can be one of the most difficult aspects of the job. Flight attendants also are very independent. It’s not uncommon to meet a coworker for the first on a trip and then not see them again for a few months, maybe even years. The best part about the job is when we step off the airplane, we always leave the stress of the flight behind. Every flight is a new flight, which means every day is a new adventure.
How often do flight attendants work? Do they fly a lot of the same routes over and over again?
Our schedules average around 85 hours a month. But don’t let the number fool you. That’s flying time only. Most flight attendants work way more than that. Time on the ground doesn’t count towards our pay and therefore isn’t included in our monthly schedules This is why we want to spend as much time as possible in the air, not hopping from city to city with lots of time between flights on the ground. Airline seniority determines the kind of trip a flight attendant can hold. This explains why most international long haul flights are staffed with senior crews. Once we have enough seniority to hold a good trip, it’s the only trip we’re going to work until we’re senior enough to hold an even better one. Schedules are set up with a day or two off between each trip, but many of us will “trip trade” with other flight attendants to work a few trips in a row in order to maximize our time off on the ground.
Any hint on the airline you work for?
One of the big ones.
What did your co-workers think of you writing this book?
I don’t know that most of them even know I’ve written a book. And if they do know, they probably just assume I’m still writing it. I’ve been talking about writing this book for years.
Did your airline know and were there any restrictions placed on you?
I didn’t ask for their permission to write the book, and I certainly didn’t call anyone up at headquarters to make an announcement about it either. Flight attendants learn to lay low very early on in their careers. But I’ve been blogging about flying for a long time. I’m fairly certain they know who I am. Just keep in mind my book is not an airline expose. It’s about what it’s like to be a flight attendant. It doesn’t really matter who we work for, the job is pretty much the same wherever you go. Plus half of the book takes place on the ground because it’s not just a job, it’s a lifestyle. That’s what I set out to write about. Plus, there are so many misconceptions about flight attendants I decided to set the record straight.
What is one really juicy story you left out?
One story that got deleted was about a celebrity who claimed to have magical powers after a passenger fell unconscious. To this day, we still don’t know if it was his magical powers or the husband who kept nudging his wife in the arm in an effort to make her come to and see the celebrity he was excitedly talking about that made her gain consciousness again.
With so many changes to the airline industry over the years, would you recommend someone become a flight attendant?…
Yeah, that's me, the one standing in the aisle wearing flammable polyester...