An hour before our flight from Miami to Raleigh-Durham was scheduled to depart on Thursday, my coworker — a fairly new flight attendant — yelled “Mom!” into her phone as she stood in the airport. She looked upset as I passed by with my rolling bag and continued on to the gate where an agent checked my crew ID, and then let me down the jet bridge and on to the plane.
We were setting up the galley in first class when she told me her mother had asked if our pilots were sane.
And so it begins.
The questions about sanity. Long discussions centered around psychological testing … mental disorders … “crazy” pilots.
Years ago, there was an air incident that had reporters talking about pilot fatigue. For the longest time after, passengers would come on board and ask us if the cockpit had gotten enough rest. They were genuinely concerned.
“How would I know, I didn’t sleep with them,” another flight attendant once said. I might have laughed.
Of course, I know it’s no laughing matter when something as serious as pilot fatigue, depression, or anything else leads to a horrific crash.
I know that. If anyone knows that, it’s me. But sometimes it’s all we can do to go on. At least for those of us who work on the planes, those of us who continue to put on the uniform and do what we love, with a smile on our face. The job is hard enough when we don’t have to think about these things.
And now, with the Germanwings crash, the focus is back on our pilots. Rest assured everyone is going to be staring at the pilots, thinking about the pilots, asking questions about the mental state of our pilots.
Is it wrong to feel offended? To want to protect these people I know so well? The pilots are the very people who keep us safe, from point A to point B, on so many flights each and every day.
It doesn’t matter where an incident might happen, whether it’s Germany, Egypt or Asia. Those of us who work in the airline industry feel it just the same. Doesn’t matter which airline uniform we put on, there’s something about this job that brings us together in a way other jobs don’t.
Maybe because it’s more than just a job, it’s a lifestyle. A lifestyle most people couldn’t handle, a job most people don’t understand. This job, this strange nomadic life we live, makes us family.
Doesn’t matter what we’re serving, bento box or a pasta salad, or the kind of airplane we’re serving it on, 737 or Airbus, or the logo on the tail, British Airways or Spirit — we all pretty much do the same thing. We share the same experiences.