Being a flight attendant is unlike any other job out there. It’s so unique, in fact, that years later even our own friends and family don’t fully understand what we do. As much as we love flying, though, 2020 has grounded many flight attendants… at least for now. It’s bittersweet but also a refreshing chance for some of us to try something new.
Now that thousands of flight attendants are without jobs, many of us are exploring the possibility of a new career path. To all of you job recruiters out there, we know you might think that we are just flight attendants, but I promise you that there is so much more than meets the eye. Before you pass up that flight attendant in your application pile, let me tell you that flight attendants are some of the most suitable candidates out there. We are ready for anything – and I mean anything.
Here’s why you should hire a flight attendant:
While flight attendants often joke about never really knowing what day it is, we are always successful when it comes to deadlines. In just 30 minutes, we have the ability to ensure that 200 people are seated, required safety briefings are complete, and all emergency and catering equipment has been checked. With changing time zones we still always arrive on time, complete our duties, and even make sure we buckle the pilots in and feed them their lunch.
Project Management Experience
I’m not sure if you’ve ever tried to prepare dinner for 20 people in a kitchen the size of a broom closet, but we have! This is no easy feat, especially when faced with the occasional jolt of turbulence. Through proper organization and preparation, we always make sure dinner is hot and served in a timely fashion! Just don’t judge us too harshly on the quality of the food.
Works Well Under Pressure
Have you ever had someone come to you with a medical situation and immediately had to assume the roles of doctor, nurse, communicator, record keeper, and EMT? At 35,000 feet, there aren’t always a lot of options in emergency medical situations – and flight attendants are there to handle everything from heart attacks to childbirth.
Adaptable to Change
Whether it’s Federal Aviation Regulations or specific airline policies, the role of a flight attendant and the rules that we live by are ever-changing. When a new task is thrown at us, we’re ready for the responsibility. Plus, we’ll only complain about a little.
Excellent Leadership Skills
As flight attendants, we are natural born leaders who can take charge in any situation. If you put 8 flight attendants on a plane, every single one will show initiative. We’re such good leaders, in fact, that you may never know who is in charge on the crew – because sometimes, neither do they! All jokes aside, we all have an innate leadership ability but also know when to step aside and let others take the lead.
Now, we know you may still have some reservations. We’ve all seen the occasional flight attendant outburst stories on the news. Let’s discuss some things that may concern you. If you think we’re rude, we’re really just direct and making sure we deliver the company’s message with conviction. Think we just like to party? We know how to have fun so that we can maintain a healthy work-life balance. Think we’re unskilled workers? Many of us have advanced degrees, second careers, and still have time to take care of a growing family.
On any given day, flight attendants fulfill a multitude of roles both on and off the airplane. We are safety professionals, security guards, servers, teachers, counselors, communicators, tour guides, babysitters, and more! All jokes aside, we know how to lead, we know how to manage, and we will take care of anything that comes our way. Plus, we will even do it all with a sense of humor.
The first question that we get when people find out that we are flight attendants is: “What’s the craziest thing that’s ever happened to you on one of your flights?” Whether we are at a family get together, a social gathering, or even chatting with passengers on the plane, it never fails. This is simply one of the most commonly asked questions. The fact that this is the number one thing asked says a lot about where the airline industry stands today, but that’s an entirely different conversation for another time.
Traveling is already hectic enough without people acting crazy, and yet every other day we see stories on the news about passengers going off the deep end. Whether you are an airline employee, a frequent flyer, or even someone who’s only been on a plane a few times, you’ve most likely got a story or two about a crazy passenger on a flight.
While we could probably give you a million stories ourselves, we decided to sit down with some of our fellow flight attendants, including Passenger Shaming Creator Shawn Kathleen. We had some very honest conversations and shared some laughs. Here are seven passengers that totally deserve all the shame that they can get:
I was in the back of the airplane midflight and a passenger came back to the galley with her emotional support chihuaha. She asked me if there was a private area where she could breast feed her dog. I stared at her for a moment to process what she was saying, but she clearly was not joking. I looked down at the dog, with it’s crazy overbite and it’s teeth sticking out at me, and I was repulsed. Not even knowing how to respond, I finally just said to her “Ehhh, um, the lav is right there.” She nodded as if all of this made sense and then went in to “feed” her pup. The crazy thing is, I’m quite positive she didn’t have any breast milk to give the dog.
I was doing a cabin walk-through on an evening flight that was pretty much wide open. Everyone was spread out and had their own rows. The seatbelt sign had come on and the Captain had told us it would be getting pretty bumpy so we should take our seats. As I was doing a seatbelt check, a passenger waved me down and asked to go to the restroom. I kindly informed him, “The Captain asked everyone to stay seated, including the flight attendants, because we’re about to hit a rough patch of turbulence.” He was clearly pissed off. I said “I’m sorry, but the seatbelt sign is on, and I need to take my seat.” About 30 minutes later, I went to walk through the cabin again and noticed a smell. It wreaked of feces. I get to the same row that that gentlemen was sitting in to see if he was okay, but before I could say anything, I gasped. There was literally a piece of shit on the floor next to his seat. I said, in as professional of a tone as I could muster up at this point, “Sir, what exactly is going on here?” His response? “You told me I couldn’t get up and I needed to take a dump.” Needless to say, he didn’t enjoy talking to the authorities when we landed, but you can’t just go around pooping on the floor at 35,000 feet.
Picture this: Boston to LA. We’re on a 737. About halfway through the flight, a passenger comes to the back to tell me about a man who is distracting other passengers. She tells me his seat number and goes to sit down. At this point, there are a million things running through my mind of what it could be. I’m halfway down the aisle when I hear a buzzing sound. Seriously, what is that? I approach said seat and look down to see this man using an ELECTRIC RAZOR TO SHAVE HIS FACE OVER THE TRAY TABLE! Before becoming a flight attendant, I would have assumed that shaving your face over a surface where people dine seemed like an obvious no, but apparently I would’ve been very wrong. I literally had to hide my disgust as I tapped the guy on the shoulder to tell him that he had to stop immediately because it was distracting and gross. Everyone around me cracked up and I gave the man wipes to make sure he cleaned up every last hair left on that tray table.
I was working my second trip ever and we were boarding a 757 out of MIA. We were towards the end of boarding so the gate agents were checking bags. A lady got to her seat and was beyond pissed that she had to check her bag as there was a space left in the overhead bin above her seat. She then threw a complete temper tantrum unlike anything I’d ever seen. She started screaming at the top of her lungs at me and the other flight attendants and began cussing us out and calling us liars. She caused a huge scene. The gate agent came on to help out and got in between us and the woman yelling. She said “You better apologize to the flight attendants and calm down right now.” The woman then ran away from the gate agent all the way to the back of the airplane to hide. The agent followed and said, “Are you just going to run away from me?” At that point, our lead flight attendant made the decision to kick her off the flight for her behavior. As she exited the plane, the passengers began singing together “Na na na na, na na na na, hey hey hey, goodbye!” I couldn’t help but laugh.
I was a fairly new flight attendant, maybe a few months into the job, and I was working an “all-nighter” which consisted of flying from MCO to LAX and then back all in the same night. Lovely, right? I’m sure you can already guess how this story is going to go. From the beginning, boarding was a mess so I knew I was in for a rough night. Once we were airborne, after the service, I dimmed the lights and sat down in my jumpseat. We were now about 2 hours into the flight when a young girl came up to the forward aircraft door with a coat on and her carry on rolling up behind her. She said to me, “I’m ready to get out.” I laughed as I thought she was joking. It was clear from her face that she was unfortunately was not. I didn’t want her anywhere near that door so I offered to grab her bags and stow them as I explained that we had about 4 hours left in flight. I returned her to her seat and the surrounding passengers were rolling their eyes and laughing but clearly this lady was on another level. At this moment I knew, I had entered the twilight zone.
While I had hoped the flight would calm down, it only continued to get worse. We later discovered a woman was moving around the airplane sitting with different men and trying to seduce them. She even accused one of them for touching her inappropriately. Needless to say, the cops met us at the gate as those situations are taken very seriously. And as if things couldn’t get any weirder, we had a woman at the end of deplaning who simply refused to get off the plane. Based on the look in her eyes, something was definitely off. We brought the authorities back for a second time to take her and when they arrived, she claimed that I – the flight attendant – was her husband. The police looked at me and I assured them that I was not, and then off in handcuffs she went. The best part of that night? I still had to work the flight back to Orlando. Pro Tip: Don’t fly red-eyes!
I was working as a flight attendant in the back of the airplane and one of my duties was to confirm the amount of passengers on board. The flight attendant up front called back to confirm that I had the same number that was listed on the paperwork, which included an infant. As I was walking through the cabin, I didn’t notice any babies on board. We notified the gate agent and then went to double check with the passenger who supposedly had an infant with her. Her response was, “You asked us to stow everything in an overhead bin.” When I opened the compartment above her seat, I found a mound of blankets and toys and sure enough, there she was – the baby in a bin. Somehow, the mother couldn’t seem to understand why babies aren’t allowed in the overhead bin. Don’t worry, we had a nice long conversation with her about why babies and suitcases cannot be stowed the same way.
It was the last day of my trip, boarding was almost over, and all I wanted to do was go home. A man came on in a wheelchair and sat in 1D, right across from my jumpseat. He was probably in his mid-fifties, long-ish hair, seemed to be a disheveled mess as coins were falling out of his bag onto the floor. I leaned out of the airplane door and kind of mouthed to the wheelchair assist, “Is something wrong with this guy?” He shook his head no and left, but I still thought something was off. I crouched over and asked to see this passenger’s boarding pass, to try and see if I could smell alcohol or anything like that, but there was nothing. At this point, I’d done everything I could to try and find an issue with him before take-off but nothing was coming up. We secured the cabin for departure, and since I was the lead flight attendant, I made my routine call to the Captain to let him know that we were ready. I called and said “Cabin secure. We’re ready for takeoff. If anything happens, it’s the guy in 1D.”
The flight was overall pretty uneventful and it was time to start our initial descent. I was in the back of the airplane at this time. One of the flight attendants went into the bathroom and the other was cleaning up, so I decided to do a trash pick-up from the back of the plane. It was nighttime so the cabin was pretty dark by this point. As I walked into the aisle, maybe two rows deep, I looked up and saw a red light flashing at the front of the plane. I couldn’t even hear the alarm because the plane was so loud. I ran up to the forward galley and noticed the smoke alarm. I grabbed a fire extinguisher, preparing for the worst. I went up to the lav and suddenly the door flew open, this man stepped out, and the whole front right side of his head was singed. Well what do you know, it was 1D. His hair was basically smoking and you could smell it burning. I had assumed he was smoking a cigarette and something went wrong, but as it turned out, he was bent over lighting a crack pipe when his hair caught on fire. I told the Captain what was going on and we had the authorities meet the flight. As we were taxiing in, the man had the nerve to say to me, “Am I going to make my connection?” I advised him that it was best not to say any more at this point. The funny thing was, I knew the whole time that he’d be an issue, but I guess I just didn’t know how much of one he’d become. Of all the jobs I’ve had, the one job that strengthened my intuition the most was definitely being a flight attendant!
What are some of your crazy passenger stories? Drop a note in the comments or tell us on Facebook!
Special thanks to Shawn Kathleen, creator of the Official Passenger Shaming Instagram, for sitting down with Two Guys On A Plane and sharing her favorite story with us!
… and other frequently asked flight attendant questions!
Bartenders, musicians, teachers, astronauts, and flight attendants… what’s one thing we all have in common? No one seems to have any idea what we actually do! If you spent the day following a flight attendant around at work, you’d quickly learn why we feel it is one of the most misunderstood gigs in the world. People are constantly asking questions about things that have become second nature to us, so forgive us when we get a little sassy with our responses. We compiled several questions that are most commonly asked by passengers on board the aircraft. We’re here to clear the air!
What is your regular route?
This isn’t a thing. We are not assigned a specific route like the movie “View From The Top” might have you believe. Thanks, Gwyneth. While some flight attendants do prefer to fly the same routes over and over, others prefer variety and will fly a mixture of different types of trips and routes. Plus, seniority plays a huge role. When you first start flying, you barely get a say in where you go and when you go. It’s not until later in our careers that we can even hold specific routes. It certainly keeps the job interesting!
Is this a full flight?
We’ll let you know as soon as we’re airborne! All jokes aside, we may have this information but we might not disclose it to passengers right away. There could always be last minute changes due to cancellations, overbooking, or even weight and balance requirements for our airplane. If you are looking to move to a different seat, we’ll do our best to let you know if that is a possibility, just keep in mind that every airline has different policies and procedures about changing seats so it may not be an option!
What’s your schedule like?
Chaotic and confusing to the untrained eye! Very few flight attendants like to stick to a Monday-Friday type of work week so it’s easier to think of our schedules by month, since that is how we bid. No two weeks or weekends look alike for us! The average flight attendant has probably somewhere between 12-20 days off a month. Some people fly one day trips so that they’re home every night while others are gone anywhere from 2-6 or more days in a row. Again, it’s all about variety and every flight attendant you meet will likely have a very different schedule!
What’s your favorite place you’ve been?
It’s a tie between Greece… and my bed! To be honest, we spend so many days on the road sometimes all we really want to do is go home! With that being said, we are fortunate to see some of the most beautiful destinations in the world. It can be nearly impossible to choose just one!
Do you have to pay for your own hotels and transportation?
Of course not! We get this question a lot but as with anyone that travels for business, the company coordinates and covers all of our transportation and lodging expenses. Would you be a flight attendant if you had to pay for your own hotel? No, thanks!
What are we flying over?
I have absolutely no idea. Rarely do flight attendants have the answer to this question. We’re either busy tending to passengers or simply don’t know enough about the flight plan to provide that information. If you’re nice, though, and the pilots don’t seem too busy – we might just be able to go find out for you!
Can you get me, like, free flights or something?
The short answer? No.
The long answer? Still no. Just kidding, kind of. It’s no secret that flight attendants have what is called “buddy passes.” These buddy passes are non-revenue standby tickets that are sometimes (but not always) cheaper than a regular confirmed fare. Each airline employee is only allowed to give out a specific number of passes, depending on the company. Your priority for standby on a buddy pass is pretty low and flights are so full nowadays that these are almost never worth it. You’re probably better off buying a confirmed ticket. Plus, you won’t have to worry about the risk of not getting on at all. You may be thinking to yourself, “Hmm… my sister’s college roommate’s cousin is a flight attendant. I should hit her up on Facebook for a buddy pass.” Well, don’t. We can assure you that trying this will most likely not end well for you.
Can you turn that noise down?
If you’re referring to the engines or the air whirling around our aircraft at 500mph… we’re going to stop you right there. Airplanes can be quite noisy! There isn’t much we can do about that without putting our safety in jeopardy, so we recommend packing earplugs or some noise-cancelling headphones!
Do you all live together in a house?
Not exactly. This isn’t the Real World. And if it was, it would probably never air because flight attendants are a thousand times crazier than the people on that show. What you might be thinking of, however, is a little something called a crashpad. Airlines only operate crew bases in specific cities based on their route network. If you don’t live in one of those cities, some flight attendants and pilots choose to “commute” to work via airplane. While this may sound absurd to a non-airline person, it’s quite common! Some flight attendants and pilots even commute from other countries! Imagine flying from Paris to New York any time you had to go to work? It’s totally casual. Since getting a place of your own in your base can be expensive and unnecessary, flight attendants and pilots opt to stay in a house together with other crew members to crash for a few nights a month before they go to work. It can be a little hectic, but it’s far more cost-effective. Crashpads aren’t specific to the airline industry, either – think travel nurses or corporate housing! Anyone who works in a city other than the one they call home typically has some sort of alternate housing set up.
Can you call ahead to my connecting flight and tell them I’m coming?
They don’t trust us with cash, you think they trust us with a satellite phone? In all seriousness, flight attendants don’t have that kind of power, but they already know you’re coming, trust us! With technology these days, the folks working your connecting flight have all of your information and know you’re on your way! The silver lining is that if you miss your flight, they will automatically rebook you on the next available flight! Life is a journey. Enjoy it.
What is the craziest thing a passenger has ever done?
Every flight attendant has their own story for this one so keep asking, but until you see a flight attendant in person next, we’ll go ahead and share ours:
Rich: I was doing a cabin walk-through on a late flight that was pretty much wide open, everyone was spread out and had their own rows. It was quite nice. The seatbelt sign had come on and the Captain had told us it would be getting pretty bumpy so to go ahead and sit down. A passenger waved me down while I was walking through and asked to go to the restroom. I kindly informed him, “The Captain asked everyone to stay seated, including the flight attendants, because we’re about to hit a rough patch of turbulence.” He didn’t seem happy, but I kept walking. About 20 minutes later, I went to walk through again and noticed a smell. It wreaked of feces. I get to the same row that gentlemen was in and asked if he was okay, but before he could respond, I gasped. There was literally a piece of shit on the floor next to his seat. I said, in as professional of a tone as I could muster up at this point, “Sir, what exactly is going on here?” His response? “You told me I couldn’t get up and I needed to take a dump. So here we are.” Needless to say, he didn’t enjoy talking to the authorities when we landed, but you can’t just go around pooping in public.
Andrew: I was working as a flight attendant in the back of the airplane and one of my duties was to confirm the amount of passengers on board. The flight attendant up front called back to confirm that I had the same number that was listed on the paperwork, which included an infant. As I was walking through the cabin, I didn’t notice any babies on board. We notified the gate agent and then went to double check with the passenger who supposedly had an infant with her. Her response was, “You asked us to stow everything in an overhead bin.” When I opened the compartment above her seat, I found a mound of blankets and toys and sure enough, there she was – the baby in a bin. Somehow, the mother couldn’t seem to understand why babies aren’t allowed in the overhead bin. Don’t worry though, we had a nice long conversation with her about why babies and suitcases cannot be stowed in the same way.
Do you turn around and go right back or do you get to stay a while?
Depends on the type of trip and the type of flight. If we’re flying from Philadelphia to Athens, do you really think we “Turn around and come right back?” Of course we stay there! It’s usually only for a day or so, but we can’t really work back-to-back 10ish hour flights without a nap! Our layovers vary anywhere between 10 hours and a few days! It just depends on the airline’s operational need and how far we’re traveling. Now, if we’re flying from New York to Washington, DC, sure – go ahead and ask how many flights we’ve done today. It’s probably a lot!
Have you ever joined the mile-high club?
Uh, as flight attendants, we’ve seen the way those lavatories are cleaned so it’s not even something we’d consider honestly. Also, do you go around and ask people if they have sex at work, or is it just crew? This doesn’t occur nearly as much as you think it does and it is far too romanticized in the movies. Spare yourself the hassle and embarrassment and save it for the hotel!
What is a reserve?
Like many other industries, airline’s have employees on-call. While each airline operates their scheduling systems differently, they all have what is called reserve flight attendants. Reserve schedules can be confusing, but it’s more straightforward than you might think. Reserve flight attendants know which days of the month they are working and which days they are not. The catch is that they don’t know where they might be traveling to or if they’ll be traveling at all. If someone calls in sick, their car breaks down, or the airline adds a new flight last minute for some reason, crew scheduling will call in a reserve to work the flight. If the company has no need for the reserve, then they continue to remain on call at home. Typically reserves have a limited amount of time to get to the airport in order to help keep the flight running as close to on time as possible. Whether the reserve works or not, they still get paid a guaranteed number of hours. Every airline’s reserve system operates differently. A lot of this applies for pilots, too!
Why were you late for work?
We weren’t! Delays happen often in the airline industry. It’s just the nature of the game. Despite what announcement you may or may not have heard, the crew was likely not “late” and if they were, it typically was out of their control. Chances are, someone called out sick or didn’t make it to work last minute because of something like a broken-down car, and a flight attendant has to be called in quickly. That flight attendant is called a reserve and is usually sitting either somewhere in the airport or within a couple hours driving distance. Or, we could be working multiple flights in a day – one right after the other – and we started off with a delay for some reason now causing the rest of the day to be off schedule. Another scenario could be that the day prior to a crew’s flight was so delayed that they needed extra rest. Our rest is regulated by the Federal Aviation Administration and there are requirements set for flight attendants and pilots. We need to be as alert as possible in order to operate on board the aircraft in case of an emergency. They’ll get there as soon as they can, but none of this is their fault, so at least be nice to them! They’re really just saving the day!
Do you get to travel a lot?
Believe it or not, we’ve answered this question more times than we care to count. Yes, of course we travel a lot, and no, we don’t think you fly more than we do!
Do you think you’ll ever get a real job?
Not sure what you’re implying here, but being a flight attendant IS a real job! We get to see the world for little to no money. On occasion, we get to fly in First Class without actually having to pay for it. We can take up to three weeks a month off without having a scheduled vacation or losing any pay. We have some of the most amazing coworkers that make feel like family. Many flight attendants have master’s degrees or doctorate degrees, run their own companies, practice law, work as nurses full-time, and so much more! People from all walks of life take to the sky everyday because they have a passion for aviation. It’s the greatest career in the world and is very much a “real job.” Now, if by getting a “real job” you mean being chained to a desk for forty hours a week… we’ll pass!
When all is said and done, the people that need to read these answers the most may never see them, and keep asking these questions, but we’re doing our part to spread the word about this weird, quirky, fun world that we call being a flight attendant! So do us a favor, and go share this article and tell all of your infrequent flyer friends what they need to know! Oh, and it wouldn’t hurt to remind the frequent flyers, either.
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