While this year has been difficult for all of us, many flight attendants have lost their jobs due to the impact that COVID19 has had on the airline industry. Many grounded crew members have taken this extra time to use their talents and create or grow their own businesses! As we approach the holiday season, let’s do what we can to support small businesses, especially ones owned by our fellow flight attendants around the world. We’ve compiled some of our favorites below, but feel free to tell us about your own flight attendant-owned businesses in the comments!
A special thank you to all of the businesses that took the time to comment on our post on social media asking about flight attendant-owned businesses back in September. We love seeing how creative our fellow flight attendants are – both on and off the plane! If you’re a flight attendant that owns your own business and we didn’t mention it here, tell us all about it in the comments below!
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.
There’s no question that Coronavirus will have a deep and lasting impact on the world that we live in. Over the last few months, we’ve seen the world all but shut down. Granted it took a little too long for that to happen in some parts of the world (here’s looking at you, America), but that’s an entirely different conversation. Businesses closed, air traffic was radically reduced, and people were forced to stay home. During the quarantine, people all over social media commiserated with each other as we faced a new crisis unlike anything any of us had ever seen before. As cliché as it may seem, it felt as though we were all really “in this together” for once. People were expressing concern for each other, showing kindness, and promising to move forward with more compassion and a positive outlook on life.
As time went on, more and more people were affected by the economic impact that COVID19 has brought to all of our lives. People slowly began to turn away from feelings of sympathy for those that we lost, to concerns that were more trivial and self-serving. Our economy needs saving, of course, but at what cost while people continue to die at an alarming rate each day? Flash forward a few months and the world is beginning to open up again. People seem to have quickly forgotten to follow through on what they once promised to their neighbors on the internet. It’s as though we have been fortunate enough to get a second round of failed New Year’s Resolutions all in the same year. (Wow. Thanks, 2020!)
As a flight attendant, I work with the general public every day in a capacity that can be difficult to describe. When passengers set foot on an airplane, a flight attendant never quite knows how they will act. Flight attendants get to see people at their best, but unfortunately, we also get to see them at their absolute worst. Last week when I went to work, my flights were empty and social distancing was done without issue. While the overall vibe onboard the aircraft was melancholy, the people that were on board were grateful we were there and respectful of each other. This week, however, I encountered an entirely different experience. The airport was crowded, the flights were full, and the passengers were rude. To be honest, it felt like a perfectly normal day of work – except this time people were wearing masks and the threat of a deadly virus still loomed in the air. As I stood at the aircraft door for boarding, I noticed something strange – the same passengers that were annoyed to be on a full flight were also the same passengers who refused to properly wear a protective mask. While some of our passengers were essential healthcare workers, a lot of them were merely trying to go on vacation. The counterintuitive behaviors passengers displayed were perplexing to say the least. I couldn’t believe this was my new normal. I stood at the front of the plane to present the pre-flight safety demonstration, looked out at a nearly full airplane and saw all eyes on me. These people looked both hopeful and terrified at the same time. They wanted to travel while also demanding six feet apart on a very expensive form of public transportation. The harsh truth is, you can’t have it both ways.
The world will go back to “normal” eventually (whatever that means) but I can’t help but think Mother Nature is trying to teach us a lesson. Don’t forget what it feels like to be trapped inside your house worried about your health, your income, your family, your friends, and your resources. None of us like the way it feels, but we all have to endure it. Over the last several weeks, we continuously have promised each other that if we could get out of this devastation that we’re facing, we would do better. But are we?
Being a flight attendant has always been both fun and exhausting but lately it’s only the latter. All of the fun parts of our job have been stripped. Normally we would enjoy engaging with passengers, meeting interesting people, and exploring new cities around the globe. Now we are expected to stay six feet away from people as much as we can, and we are stuck alone in our hotel rooms on layovers. The truth is, each of us can complain for hours about the bad things that have happened to us because of COVID19. This pandemic has affected everyone in a multitude of ways and there isn’t a single person who doesn’t have a story to tell. It’s all relative to what we have going on in our own lives. But instead of saying, “What about me?” we should take our own struggles and learn how to empathize with one another. Don’t walk onto a plane and yell at a flight attendant for something they didn’t do. Don’t go into a medical facility and yell at a nurse who is caring for you. Don’t go into a grocery store and yell at an associate for being out of eggs. It’s. Not. Their. Fault.
We can do better. The world is counting on it.
We would like to dedicate this article to ALL essential frontline workers who have spent countless hours showing up to work every day throughout this crisis and giving it their all. The truth is, none of us would have survived this without you. Thank you for all that you do.
Everyone on the plane was shocked. He quickly gathered his belongings, emptied the contents of a beverage cart liquor drawer into his bag, and launched the evacuation slide onto the tarmac. He hopped down the slide and for a few brief moments, Steven Slater was free. Little did he know in that moment that his story would be making national headlines. Slater simply wanted to make a point to his company that he had felt unsupported. He could have just walked off the plane and turned in his crew badge, but he knew that would leave little to no impact on airline culture – he had to do more. His mother had fallen ill, his airline didn’t seem to be particularly supportive, and passengers had pushed one too many buttons. All of this plus an earlier altercation with a passenger had brought him to his breaking point. Steven Slater had had enough. He needed to be heard.
In his new memoir, Wingwalking, Steven Slater recounts the events of that day as well as his life before and after his career in the airline industry. I had the opportunity to meet with Steven recently to talk about his new book. They often say that once aviation gets in your blood, it stays there – and being a flight attendant is no exception. When I met Steven at a coffee shop in San Diego, he was friendly, polite, and smiling – in true flight attendant fashion. Slater seemed confident and ready for the next chapter of his life. We sat down and had a candid conversation about his career as a flight attendant, his life on the ground, and what occurred on that fateful day.
Two Guys On A Plane: What made you decide to write a book about these events and why now? What was the writing process like for you? Steven S:I actually started writing it in a motel room; it was incredibly painful and yet liberating. I didn’t intend to publish. It started as a journal. It was cathartic and freeing to write. It helped me put things into perspective and then it took on a life of its own. My writing was raw and dark. There were times I had to step away, but it brought me a release I hadn’t felt before. Many flight attendants had come to me and said that I should share my story and that it could help people who also faced similar mental health and substance abuse issues. I initially feared it would come across in poor taste, especially given some of my experiences, but I hadn’t thought of being able to help people with my stories before – so I decided to take a risk.
TG: In your book you discuss a variety of different issues – some personal, some external – what would you say was the biggest factor in pushing you to your breaking point on the day of your notorious incident at JetBlue? SS: I call it a perfect storm. My mother was ill, and I was dealing with bipolar and substance abuse issues. I was on reserve at the time and I didn’t have the time to schedule the self-care that I needed. I wasn’t able to make AA meetings. It was a perfect storm of bipolar mania, precipitated by alcohol, and rage from situations that JetBlue had caused me – and then that woman pushed me to the edge.
TG: I noticed after your JetBlue incident that you appeared in multiple major media interviews. A lot of people have accused you of deploying the slide to seek attention, so what made you decide to speak out and appear in various media outlets? SS: At the time of the incident, my son was 17. The media was releasing information about my HIV status, my personal life, and the story was being spun in a way that was only getting more outrageous over time. I had to speak up and defend myself. There was so much misinformation out there and I needed to take ownership of my story.
TG: How did you feel immediately after the incident? Did you feel any remorse? SS:Over time, I’ve learned to advocate for myself. Looking back, I wish I’d advocated for myself better at the time to have had a better income. I didn’t know how to ask for help and I backed myself in a corner. Everything I’ve gone through has made me who I am. I’ve become a much stronger and more compassionate person, but it came at a high price.
TG: Every so often, you will see a headline in the news about a flight attendant who lashes out. Do you pay special attention to those stories, and do these stories spark anything within you? SS: At the time of the incident, I was living on the East Coast and my mother was in California. I wanted to move back to California, but I wasn’t getting the support I needed from JetBlue. I wasn’t being treated like a human. I was just a number to them and that affected me deeply. My first concern when I hear these stories is for the flight attendant. Having been in their shoes, I wonder – what is this person going through, what is going to happen to them next, and are they able to get any support? Sometimes I will even reach out to them to offer support.
TG: Do you ever miss flying? SS:I miss the dining, the shopping, the whole experience. I miss meeting new people and what flying used to be. I’m not so much interested in what the job has become. Missed what flying was, but not so much interested in what it became. I miss the camaraderie. The support from the flight attendant family has been phenomenal both after the incident and throughout the release of my book. If I didn’t have the support of the flight attendant’s around me, I don’t know what I would do. They’ve paid my rent, provided me with clothing, and even bought me food, emotional support. I’m very grateful.
TG: Do you think there would have been a different outcome had your airline offered more support to you along the way? What do you think airlines can do to prevent things like this from happening again? SS: Airlines need to look at their crew members as human beings and not just numbers. If someone had stopped to check in with me, we might have had a different outcome. It’s not to say I put all the blame on them. I take responsibility for my actions but wonder if I had more support along the way, if it might’ve been different. I might have had more time to take care of myself and not get to that point. I think airlines need to be more compassionate and humane. Substance abuse in the airline industry is rampant. When I worked for Delta, they had said it was fine initially, and then fired me after I went to rehab. Airlines need to pay more attention and offer more support after incidents happen in flight attendants’ lives both on and off the aircraft. If they failed me, then they have definitely failed other crew members, too.
TG: Now that the book has been released, what do you hope people take away after reading your story? SS:I hope that people get a little bit more of a human view of who I actually am. I’m not a two-dimensional media created caricature and there is an actual person behind the headlines. Most of all, I want to give encouragement to people that suffer. I hope it will be useful for people who experience bipolar and substance abuse. I hope that it shows folks that there is hope for life with those conditions. It is possible to transcend.
TG: So what’s the next chapter for you? SS:I’m still figuring that out. I’m settling into San Diego, I’m maintaining my sobriety, and I’m focusing on my health. I’m currently looking into education opportunities and the prospect of becoming a substance abuse counselor. I want to take the experiences that I have and use that to give back. It’s time for a reinvention. Steven 2.0 is coming.”
As aviation professionals, we live each day surrounded by people and yet often feel so alone. The combination of being away from family and friends, working with strangers, and spending nights alone in foreign cities can certainly take a toll. It’s important to find healthy ways to cope but it can be challenging. In today’s culture, there is such a stigma surrounding mental health and substance abuse issues. The truth is, it’s okay to not be okay. Steven Slater’s story is a powerful one that we can all identify with, whether you’re a flight attendant or not. Each and every one of us faces a great deal of pressure on a day-to-day basis from our jobs, our families, and our communities. Sometimes a helping hand may be all that we need to make a difference in our own lives. Reaching out for help is a sign of strength, not weakness. If you or someone you know needs help, reach out to your company or union employee assistance program, or check out some of the resources we’ve listed below.
A special thank you to Steven Slater for taking the time to chat with Two Guys On A Plane and for being so open and candid about his story. If you haven’t already, check out his new book, Wingwalking, a compelling memoir about addiction, mental illness, and his life in aviation. Available now at Barnes & Noble and Amazon!
RESOURCES FOR FLIGHT ATTENDANTS
FADAP | Flight Attendant Drug & Alcohol Program FADAP is a substance-abuse prevention program, created and promoted for and by the flight attendant profession and funded by the FAA. Phone: 855.333.2327 Online:https://www.fadap.org
RESOURCES FOR EVERYONE
NAMI | National Alliance on Mental Illness HelpLine The NAMI HelpLine is a free, nationwide peer-support service providing information, resource referrals and support to people living with a mental health conditions, their family members and caregivers, mental health providers and the public.
SAMHSA | Substance Abuse and Mental Health Helpline The SAMHSA Helpline is a confidential, free, 24-hour-a-day, 365-day-a-year, information service, in English and Spanish, for individuals and family members facing mental and/or substance use disorders. This service provides referrals to local treatment facilities, support groups, and community-based organizations. Callers can also order free publications and other information.
As someone who has dated flight attendants both before and after becoming one myself, I can tell you that it is exhausting. We are always tired, we can be hard to reach, we’re constantly switching time zones, and we’re distant – in every sense of the word. But on the flip side – our patience level is high, we are incredibly attentive to the needs of others, our sense of adventure is unmatched, and we always know where to find the best food in just about any city. We’re not easy to love, but we’re most definitely worth it.
One of the most common questions we get as a couple of married flight attendants is, “How do you make it all work?” Between hectic schedules and working for different airlines, no one seems to understand how we keep our relationship going strong. We admit, being away from home as often as we are can make it difficult to maintain any sense of normalcy, but who wants to be normal anyway?
We keep our lives intertwined and yet separate. It keeps things from getting stale and monotonous. We have plenty of things in common, but we also celebrate the fact that each other has different interests outside of our relationship and our careers. If one of us wants to explore a new hobby or activity, then the other will cheer proudly from the sidelines. If one of us needs a night out with a friend, we don’t feel left out or bothered by it. These experiences only make our time together that much more full of life, laughter, and conversation.
We absolutely love traveling together but traveling separately for work has its advantages, too. They say absence makes the heart grow fonder and they’re not wrong. As in any relationship, “me time” is so important so that you don’t lose yourself. You never want to wake up one day and realize you’ve lost sight of who you are. With overnights in hotels in cities across the globe, “me time” is basically built into our schedules as flight crew. You can put on a robe, pour yourself a glass of wine, and watch all sorts of trashy TV or movies that your significant other may not want to indulge in with you. By the time you get home, you’re missing your significant other and are ready for a romantic evening – that is, of course, right after you don’t talk to anyone for a couple of hours. Everybody needs to decompress after a trip.
If you can’t celebrate a holiday on the actual holiday, choose a different date and commit to it to make it just as special – except for New Year’s Eve because yelling “Happy New Year” on January 2nd is very anticlimactic… trust us, we’ve tried it. Plus, your neighbors will think that you’re insane anyway.
When ‘Two Guys On A Plane’ first met – we were living in two different cities, so we had to deal with long-distance and you know that doesn’t always work out. We had two options: put in a ton of effort to spend time together or simply not see each other at all. We both quickly realized that going the extra mile was far more worthwhile than not being a part of each other’s lives. Putting in that much effort and planning into every single date made things challenging but helped us see that what we were doing was worth it. While I admit having flight benefits made things easier for us than most couples, long distance can work if the two parties are willing to meet halfway – literally and figuratively. There were times when I was trying harder to see him, and times when he was trying harder to see me, but the important part is that we were both trying. Neither of us had felt like we were risking it all just to be together. We were both being vulnerable and putting ourselves out there. There were never expectations that one of us would be forced to give anything up; we embraced who the other person was, respected what their life looked like already, and either we fit into each other’s worlds or we didn’t. It was that simple. When it came time for our relationship to take the next step, things began to fall into place and our decision became quite clear: do we want to be together or not? It was far less complex than you’d think dating would typically be, and it’s continued to be that way ever since.
Communication in any relationship is paramount, and even more so when you’re apart from each other so often. Relationships aren’t easy, but as humans we love to complicate things when we don’t have to. We talk to each other about what works for us and what doesn’t, we find ways to keep life exciting, and we make sure that neither one of us ever wakes up and thinks, “Where did I go?”
It doesn’t matter how crazy, ridiculous, or off the wall your thoughts may be, if you can’t be honest and open with your partner about what’s on your mind, you ain’t gonna make it. Schedule date nights, schedule time apart, talk on the phone, FaceTime, text, sext, do whatever works for you to keep the magic alive. Throw out any ideas of “normal” relationships that you may have in your head and spice it up a little. Take some time for yourself and live your own life, it honestly could be exactly what your relationship needs… and our best piece of advice: never, ever stop “dating” each other.