Once a Flight Attendant, Always a Flight Attendant

Once a flight attendant, always a flight attendant. It’s like the Marines. That might sound crazy to some people. It’s true though. Only another flight attendant can truly understand what the job is like. It doesn’t matter which airline we work for, we all have the same experiences. At times, it might seem difficult or bizarre, it’s also totally amazing. There’s no other job like it.

“Don’t ever quit,” is something flight attendants tell each other all the time, even when times are tough, like during the middle of a pandemic.

Take a leave. Work part-time. Never quit. We all know former colleagues who quit and then regretted it.

After 9/11 my best friend quit working as a flight attendant. Her husband, a pilot, noticed how much she missed going to work, and suggested she become a teacher when the kids got a little older, since she’s so good with kids.

“I don’t want to teach!” she said over the phone to me one day. “I only want to serve Coke.”

To hear your best friend cry about wanting to serve Coke is heartbreaking. It’s also funny. Only a flight attendant can understand this. You see it’s not just a job, it’s a lifestyle, and that lifestyle involves a lot of cans of soda.

Many people think it’s easy serving Coke and picking up trash for a living, but nothing could be further from the truth. I guarantee you 99.9% of the population couldn’t handle this job. Either on the plane…or off. Most flight attendants either last only a few weeks on the job — or an entire lifetime.

It takes a special person.

When I wrote my book, Cruising Attitude: Tales of Crashpads, Crew Drama, and Crazy Passengers at 30,000 Feet, I was determined to make it different from the many other books about travel. I wanted it to be more than just stories about flying and the madness of modern airline flight. That’s why half of it takes place on the ground. Most people don’t realize just how much the job affects your family lifelove life, every single little thing in your life. You can’t escape it.

If someone who wants to become a flight attendant gets to the end of my book and still wants to be a flight attendant, they might actually have what it takes to do the job. The job isn’t for just anyone, no matter how much you love people and want to travel.

Because of my book, and all the articles I’ve written about the job over the years, I get asked a lot of questions about travel. My number one piece of advice for anyone who thinks they might want to be a flight attendant is, GO FOR IT. When I’m asked specific questions about the job, I tell them there’s no way to know if you’ll like it, if you’ll be able to make it work, until you do it.

My second piece of advice is, DON’T QUIT. Give the job at least three months before you quit. The job affects your life so much it really does take some getting used to.

While it takes me a few paragraphs and pages to describe certain aspects of our livesKelly Kincaid, author of Jetlagged comics, does the same thing in a single cartoon. They’re brilliant. Take for instance my favorite one, the one I share on social media every Thanksgiving and Christmas. In this Jetlagged cartoon there’s a Turkey on the table and a family sitting down to eat a festive meal. Off to the side, next to a window, behind a curtain, is an off duty flight attendant holding a plate of food. Somebody sitting at the table asks where she is. “Behind the curtain again,” someone else says.

A regular person might think, huh? Why is she standing behind the window curtain eating a turkey leg. But anyone who’s worked as a flight attendant knows what it’s like to eat a majority of their meals standing up. Only a flight attendant has to hide when they want to eat. Only a flight attendant understands what it’s like to scarf down a meal in a half a second just to avoid being interrupted by passengers who want something, like a place to stretch, which reminds me, the galley is not the place for pilates. I can’t tell you the number of many times I’ve eaten a sandwich with a stranger’s butt mere inches from my face. There’s a Jetlagged cartoon illustrating that too.

It’s not a job, it’s a lifestyle that only certain people (who may or may not be standing behind curtains dreaming about soda) truly understand. It’s a lifestyle that bonds past, present and future flight attendants for life.

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