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.
It’s 7:45am. The boarding rush has started to die down and the flight isn’t going to be completely full. I’m preparing pre-flight beverages for First Class passengers and I still have quite a few seats open. A tall black man walks onto the flight with a backpack and a rollaboard. “Good morning!” I say, while the white flight attendant standing beside me says nothing. “That’s odd,” I thought to myself, but she hasn’t been overly friendly during this trip anyway, so I don’t think much of it. He smiles at me and turns down the aisle to take his seat. He stops in First Class right around Row 2 and puts his rollaboard in the overhead bin. That same flight attendant that was silent just a second ago is now marching down the aisle and raising her voice. “This space is for First Class passengers only! Please take your bag back to YOUR seat.” The man looks at her, turns back to shut the overhead bin, and sits down right there in front of her in 2D. He responds politely but firmly, “This is my seat.” She turns bright red and looks back at me in the galley. I’m most likely giving her the dirtiest look I can muster up at this point. She furthers the altercation by asking him, “May I see your boarding pass?” I can’t take this anymore. This display of animosity has to stop. I rush into the aisle and direct her to the back of the plane. “I’ll take it from here. We need to get ready for departure, if you wouldn’t mind closing those bins.” She looks me dead in the eye, face beet red, and says “Fine.” She storms off. I lean down to apologize to the man and have an honest conversation about what just happened. His response felt like a punch in the gut. “It happens all the time. Most people don’t say anything. I appreciate you caring enough to notice, but don’t worry about it.”
Are you infuriated yet? I know I was in the moment and I still am today just thinking about it. Airplanes are packed with diversity but not immune to the racism that exists in our society today. These injustices and microaggressions are occurring at every altitude. It’s 2020 now. Things should be better than they are, but they’re not. While I consider myself to be pretty aware of my white privilege, I also know enough to know that I don’t know everything. I’m not better than anybody. As a gay man, I know what prejudice feels like, but not on the same level. This is different. Racism and homophobia share many commonalities, but at the end of the day, I’m still a white person with privilege. I don’t know what it’s like to be judged instantly because of my skin tone. But what I do know is that as a white person, it’s even more important to speak up about injustices that are NOT happening to me, otherwise our world will never see change. It’s important to hear people’s stories, respect each other’s opinions, and find a way to have a discussion.
I recently sat down with a few friends that can speak firsthand about their own experiences:
“I’ll never forget this experience. It was a simple interaction that was very impactful. While working on the beverage cart on a flight to Boise, Idaho I asked the gentleman in the window if he would like a beverage. He said, “No.” With a smile I said, “Are you sure you don’t want anything to drink?” He responded, “I don’t want YOU to pour me anything.” I was stunned and caught off guard because I quickly realized what he meant. He didn’t want someone like me to pour him a drink. My co-worker looked mortified. I told him, “Well then, no one will be pouring you a drink on this flight. “My co- worker smiled at me and we continued the service. That interaction lasted minutes but it stung for days. I remember that night in my hotel room thinking of all the things I should’ve said, but I was just hurt.”
– Kira, Flight Attendant, 6 Years
“I was working in the back on the beverage cart and there was an older white woman who didn’t want anything during the service. A few minutes later, I went back through to collect trash and that same woman looked up at me, clutching her purse to her chest. I politely asked, “Can I get you anything?” and she said “No” and looked back down. She would barely look at me or speak to me and every time I walked by, she would clutch her purse a little tighter to her body. It wasn’t until a white flight attendant went through the cabin that she suddenly was very chatty and wanted something to drink.”
– Jamie, Flight Attendant, 7 Years
“I was flying one day and a coworker asked me where I’m from. I said ‘Chicago,’ and she said ‘Oh my, so much violence. You must be afraid every day.’ I said ‘No, I don’t live there anymore and haven’t for some time now. However, when I do visit, I’m never in fear for my life.’ Then she said to me, ‘How did you manage to move out the hood?’ I was shocked. ‘Excuse me?! What made you believe I ever lived there?’ She said, ‘Most blacks are from the hood in big cities.’ I responded, ‘Actually, I am and what you just said is out of pocket. We’re at work so let’s keep it cute. Where I’m from it’s called a pass.’ Woosah! let the negative energy GO!”
– Tasha, Flight Attendant, 6 Years
The reality is that these situations are happening every day, in every industry, around the world. While it can be so much easier to stay in a bubble and deny that racism exists, not everyone is afforded that same freedom, so challenge yourself. Start a conversation with someone who might be different than you are. Step out of your comfort zone and start trying to understand other perspectives. Be aware of your thoughts, your words, and your actions.
At the beginning and end of every flight, flight attendants arm and disarm the aircraft doors. If the door is armed, the evacuation slide will inflate once the door is opened. If the door is disarmed, the door may be opened without inflating the evacuation slide. In order to do this effectively, most flight attendants follow a procedure to cross-check each other and verify that the process has been complete. The purpose of this is to make sure the task is performed safely and that no errors occur. If a mistake is made, the slide could inflate inadvertently and seriously injure or kill someone on the ground. The potential consequences could be quite grave. Take this same process out of aviation and apply it to your life. Discrimination exists everywhere. The next time you see someone and you judge them instantly based on skin tone, take a moment to disarm your racism. Cross-check your beliefs.
Now this isn’t about white guilt or shaming anybody. It doesn’t matter what your race is; we can all do better as humans if we stop judging people, fight against any preexisting biases we may have, and start listening to each other. People’s lives depend on it. As Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. once said, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”
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!
… That is the question. When it came time to plan our wedding, there were a LOT of questions – both from ourselves and from society. You’ll find that the world somehow has a lot to say about YOUR wedding. When you first get engaged, you’re just full of excitement. Plus, you have a hundred Pinterst boards and you’re going to incorporate them ALL! (Spoiler alert: you won’t.) Then, when the initial high wears down a little, you realize that you now have to figure out how to plan a wedding without breaking the bank. You’ll browse through wedding checklists for things that just aren’t important to you. Plus, if you’re two guys getting married, you’ll be even more stressed because you’re trying to cut costs all while navigating where you fit in this very heterosexual wedding industry. A lot of traditional ideas and themes may not even apply to you, like a garter toss. Or, since it’s 2018, you boys out there may want a garter toss, and that’s totally cool because this wedding is about you so do whatever you want. The point is, don’t lose sight of who you are as a couple. It’s your day.
Given that we are Two Guys On A Plane, we will mainly be discussing issues facing LGBTQ couples in this article. With that being said, to all our lovely readers that do not happen to be gay, we promise a lot of this will apply to you, too! We had a lot of fun planning our wedding because we got to throw so many old ideas out the window and start fresh with what we really wanted.
Who asks who, you ask? Before we got engaged, we had several conversations about how we would go about the proposal. We both agreed that it would be fun to get proposed to but also just as fun to pop the question. Rather than deprive one of us the experience, we decided we would both propose to each other. At this point in our relationship, we obviously knew that the other would say yes, so each proposal was more about creating a romantic gesture for the other person. We both popped the question at different times in our own individual way and it made for a special experience for both of us. We jokingly refer to this as Proposal Wars.
Engagement at Centennial Park – Nashville, TN
We didn’t see the need to have both engagement rings and wedding rings, so we decided to propose with something a little less traditional. When we first met, it was on an airplane. Andrew gave Rich his phone number on a boarding pass. When it came time for Rich to propose, it was with a boarding pass that said “Will you marry me?” When Andrew proposed, it was with a ring pop. We’re fun people who don’t take life too seriously and we highly recommend you do the same! Plus, it’s a really fun story to tell.
The rings, save-the-date, invitation, and boutonnieres!
In this day and age, this one isn’t so much of an issue anymore since nontraditional wedding venues are becoming increasingly popular. You don’t have to have a church wedding with a country club reception anymore if that’s not what you want. Find a place that really fits you as a couple and go with it. Whether it’s a library, a brewery, a coffeeshop, a bar, it doesn’t matter. If it has a story that you connect with, do it. It never hurts to think outside the box. While nontraditional may be fun, keep in mind there might be a little extra work involved with choosing a unique venue if weddings aren’t their norm. Our venue, for example, doesn’t typically do weddings so we had a few extra site visits to explain what we wanted to the venue and the caterer. Fortunately for us, they were very open to new ideas and helping us create the perfect day. We are both flight attendants who happened to meet on an airplane, so we couldn’t think of a better place to get married than in an airplane hangar! We had our ceremony by a DC-3 and the reception by the US Airways 1549 Airbus. It was cool, it was different, and most importantly – it was us.
Carolinas Aviation Museum – Charlotte, NC
Walking Down The Aisle
This is one thing that we struggled with the most and there is so little out there about how this is done at a gay wedding. The possibilities are endless… which is a good thing and a bad thing. Both of you can walk in together or you can walk in separately. One of you can stand up front while the other walks in. Since we had a small wedding party, we decided to have each person walk in by themselves. Then, each of us walked in separately, escorted by our mothers. It was a sweet moment and it made both of our mothers happy to be part of the day in such a special way!
Rich and his mom, Judi (Left) – Andrew and his mom, Kelly (Right)
For better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, until death do us part… It’s not that we didn’t want to promise those things to each other, but we wanted to make it more personal and more fun. Our friends Brittney and Chris got married about six months before we did and they did something we haven’t seen before. They each wrote a personal letter to the other and then had alternating vows. They shared their letters with each other first. Then he vowed something, she vowed something, and they went back and forth in what felt like a heartfelt conversation. It was a touching way to include the wedding guests in their relationship and there wasn’t a dry eye in the crowd. When it came time to make this decision for our wedding, we decided to do the same and write personal letters and present alternating vows. We vowed everything from “I promise not to eat all the french fries” to “Making sure that you wake up every single day knowing how much you are loved.”
The end result when your vows are incredibly personal!
You know how in middle school you have those awkward slow dances where you just stand on the dance floor swaying back and forth not knowing where to put your hands? Well, we still dance like that, so the idea of a first dance was terrifying. We decided to get creative. For our wedding song, we chose Say You Won’t Let Go by James Arthur. A friend of ours, Carl Michaels, is an amazing DJ in the Philadelphia area so we reached out to him to create a little remix of our song. We wanted the first portion of the song to be slow, so we could have our moment together, but then immediately turn into a dance track so that our friends and family could join in. This created minimal awkward dancing time for us as newly married husband and husband while also eliminating the uncomfortable task of getting people out on the dance floor.
Flowers can be incredibly expensive. After trial and error with a few Pinterest ideas, we decided to go with paper flowers. We committed to a travel theme for our wedding since it was in an airplane hangar, so we made all of our flowers out of maps. They were all beautiful, but it took a lot of work! Andrew and his family spent countless hours on the paper flowers but the outcome was exactly what we wanted. We used these for the bouquets, centerpieces, corsages, and boutonnieres. There were a LOT of map flowers. When you DIY something for your wedding, think about the amount of work versus how much money you will save. It may or may not be worth the hassle to do it yourself! The flowers, in this instance, saved us a lot of money. Plus, we didn’t have to worry about the flowers dying so everything could be arranged ahead of time.
We all love cake, there is no question about it, but how much are you willing to spend on a cake for your wedding? When you add the word “wedding” to anything, the prices skyrocket. Wedding cakes cost anywhere from $400 to $2000+. We just couldn’t justify spending that much on a cake so we explored alternatives to fit our budget. We went to Public (a grocery store) the day before our wedding. We asked for one small white round cake – to put the wedding cake topper on. We never once mentioned the word wedding. Then, we bought a bunch of small round cakes from the fridge that were already made, ranging between $8-$10 per cake. At our wedding, we had our caterer – the incredible Samuel Futcher in Charlotte – put together a beautiful display of cakes for our guests. We placed a sign on the table that said “We went wedding cake tasting and couldn’t decide, so the choice is yours!” We left it up to our guests to decide what the wanted for dessert and they ate it up… literally and figuratively. In the end, we spent a total of $75 on something that we still to this day receive compliments on. This is one area where it is definitely worth looking past the age-old traditions.
The Cake Table!
The Wedding Party
What do you call bridesmaids at a wedding with no bride? Whatever you want! A lot of LGBTQ couples refer to everybody as attendants, but that felt too formal for us. We opted for groomsmaids since brosmaids didn’t quite fit our personalities. We each chose one of our brothers and a female best friend to be in our wedding party and just called all four of them groomsmaids. They were all cool with it. You know you’ve chosen the right people for your wedding when they’re willing to go along with whatever fits you as a couple! We didn’t do it intentionally by gender, but the symmetry of it all was admittedly quite satisfying.
The Grooms & The Groomsmaids!
Looking back on our wedding day, it was everything we wanted and more. We relied on our friends and family to use their talents and skills to help make our day perfect. Regardless of what gender you and your significant other identify with, throw away stuffy old traditions and create your own fairytale.
What did you do for your wedding? Let us know in the comments!
Hosting holiday parties can be so much fun but it can also be quite stressful! But who knows about hosting tons of people at once better than flight attendants? That’s why we took the time to come up with twelve of our absolute best hosting tips to make your life easier this season. We hope you find each one of these tips was thoughtfully put together to assist you and yours. Happy Holidays from Two Guys On A Plane!
Romantic comedies make dating look alarmingly magical. A few perfect dates in and it’s time to get married, but that’s not realistic, is it? We know what you’re thinking, aren’t these ‘Two Guys’ married? Well, yes, we are – but we owe it all to being happily single! Every time people say to us “I wish I had what you two have” – we both smile. We smile because of all the experiences you could have in life, it’s completely okay to put romantic relationships on the back burner. First and foremost, it’s so important to be in a committed relationship with yourself, because chances are there’s a better version of you that you’re working towards. Spend time with that human and love them unconditionally before allowing someone else to be a part of your life. As cliché as it may be, RuPaul said it best: “If you can’t love yourself, how in the hell you gonna love somebody else?” Put you first, and then you’ll suddenly find space to allow someone else into your little world. Then, conveniently, that person will somehow find themselves drawn to you… trust us. It’s a whole universe thing. You’ll see.
My husband and I are each other’s person through and through, but we also know how crucial it is to just be true to yourself and still maintain your own identity, especially when in a relationship. Long before we knew each other, we both spent many years of our lives losing ourselves while being involved in toxic relationships. When we first met, neither one of us wanted anything to do with commitment, oddly enough, and yet that’s when it came to us in the absolute best way. It was so unintentional and carefree that it was honest, and it was blunt. By the time we both caught on to the fact that we had feelings for each other, they were much deeper than either of us realized. Sure, we were dating, but neither of us had any expectations or put any pressure on ourselves. The beginning of our relationship was organic because neither of us were trying too hard or worrying about messing things up. We were both putting in the same level of energy, and it’s because neither of us were “looking” that we got exactly what we were looking for.
So now back to you, how does that translate? It’s actually pretty easy. Sit down, figure out what you want for yourself, and go live your best life! Be afraid of absolutely nothing – except maybe spiders. That’s a valid fear. Burn your house down and move. Otherwise, take risks, travel to new places, and try new things. The worst thing that could happen is you realize that you simply don’t like whatever it is you’ve tried doing. You’ll be much happier with yourself for doing it anyway before you find yourself trapped in a relationship having no idea who you are at the core. Don’t let age get in the way of this journey, either. Don’t say you’re either too old or too young for something, because it’s simply not true. Don’t compare yourself to people around you and what they have, because their journey is exactly that – their journey.
Sometimes, the best travel companion is you! Go see places by yourself. And don’t tell yourself you can’t afford it, either. Pack a backpack, some peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, and go stay in a hostel for a couple of nights somewhere. If you want to make it work, you will. This isn’t the time for excuses. You don’t have to go to Indonesia for three months alone, start smaller than that. Go to dinner or a movie, spend time dating yourself first, and getting to know who you are. Take a little road trip or weekend getaway, or even just a day to pamper yourself. You don’t necessarily have to “Eat. Pray. Love.” it – just hang out with you because you’re awesome! You’ll be surprised by how much there is to learn about yourself.
Now, we’re not advocating for the single life forever, but just learn to be independent, so when you find your person, you can continue that journey along and be authentically you. If your person is out of town, go out and have fun! If they’re not okay with you living your life to the fullest, you’re with the wrong person and you need to run anyway! Maybe you don’t want to go out without them, that’s okay, too. You’re not looking for someone who completes you, you’re looking for someone who complements you. Your significant other should be someone who adds value to your life. That’s right, we’re Marie Kondo-ing it. Does this person spark joy? No? Get rid of them. Life is too short to be anything but happy.
So as we enter coupling season, do yourselves a favor – catch flights, not feelings! Don’t go chasing someone simply to have a relationship because you’ll end up annoyed or heartbroken, or both. Take the adventure you’ve always dreamt about. You’ll get to a point where you are finally happy with yourself and where you are in life. You’ll be grateful for what you have and yet at the same time, grateful for what you don’t have. And sometimes, when you least expect it, someone will walk into your life and add value to your journey. You never know where your life will take you. Say hi to your seat mate on your next flight, they could be the one! Or, they could be a weirdo. Feel it out. Trust your gut. But sometimes you get lucky.
… 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.
Kelly Kincaid creates and produces original artwork, please share her work and support her business as a patron on Patreon! Every little bit helps her to continue creating the cartoons that make us all laugh so much each and every day!
Each year on the 11th of September, we are met with a well-known phrase everywhere we go. ‘Never Forget.’ Stand in an airport security line or board a flight any other day, and somehow it all seems to be forgotten. I was working a flight recently from Philadelphia to Seattle. About halfway through the trip, a passenger marched up to the forward galley to use the restroom. She immediately began pulling at the door handle, but someone had been using the lavatory at that time. I informed her the restroom was unavailable and kindly asked that she step back until the lavatory became available. She immediately questioned me, while standing just a few feet away from the flight deck door. “Why can’t I stand here?” I responded, “For security purposes, I ask that you please move back. We just can’t have too many people up here at one time.” She immediately became angry with me. “I’m a paying customer and I should be able to do what I want. Who are you to tell me what I can and can’t do?” she barked at me. My mind immediately went to 9/11. My situation in that moment was undoubtedly different than the ones faced by flight attendants like Betty Ong and Amy Sweeney, but I asked myself – is it really that easy to forget? Do people not think about 9/11 because it has simply slipped their minds or is it easier to block it out rather than imagine the unthinkable?
It doesn’t matter how many years pass, September 11, 2001 is a day that will sit heavy in each of our hearts forever, but especially heavy in the hearts of flight attendants. Whether you realize it or not, your flight attendants are thinking about 9/11 far more frequently than you would imagine. Flight attendants remember the tragic events of that day quite often not just because it hits close to home, but because part of our job is to make sure that it never happens again.
On the morning of September 11th, 2001, a flight attendant named Halle Cameron woke up to a confusing phone call from crew scheduling. They asked why she was late to work for American Airlines Flight 11 from Boston to Los Angeles. As it turns out, there was a mix-up since she had called in sick the night before. She hung up the phone and the airline scrambled to replace her. Crew scheduling then called 24-year-old reserve flight attendant Jean Rogers, who was sitting standby at Boston Logan International to work the flight. Jean rushed off to the gate while Halle shrugged off her interaction with crew scheduling. Later that morning, Halle stood in front of her television and learned that the very flight she was originally scheduled to work had been hijacked and crashed. Her heart dropped and so did she. Halle knew Jean. That could’ve been her. Somehow, a higher power in the universe had other plans for Halle. Since that day, the guilt caused by something out of her control has mostly faded but the memories are as clear as ever. People continue to call her “lucky” but the only thing that makes her feel lucky is the comfort in knowing that her friends and family didn’t have to grieve over her. Twelve years after 9/11, Halle returned to flying but this time with US Airways, which coincidentally merged with American Airlines. If you ask her how the job compares to what it was before 9/11, she says it’s different to say the least. While flight attendants were once issued white service gloves, they now are equipped with handcuffs during training. Even with everything Halle has been through, she still feels that being a flight attendant is the best job she’s ever had. There’s truly no family like a flight attendant family.
We don’t remember these stories because we want to live in the past, we remember them to honor the lives of those that we lost and to remind ourselves to remain vigilant when it comes to safety. Flight attendants are aviation’s first responders. The accounts of flight attendants like Betty Ong, Amy Sweeney, and Jean Rogers are not simply stories, but reminders of the critical role that flight attendants play. The flight crews of American Airlines Flight 11, United Airlines Flight 175, American Airlines Flight 77, and United Airlines Flight 93 each performed their duties to the best of their abilities and took risks. These men and women are unsung heroes and as flight crewmembers, we honor their memories every day when we take to the skies.
Immediately following the attacks of 9/11, the world was completely transformed. A lot of these changes didn’t happen slowly over time as one might think but they happened almost instantly. Planes were grounded. Airport procedures were reformed. Security was completely changed not just in airports but in schools, office buildings, post offices. Everywhere you went, the world felt different. There was a sense of trust that had previously existed in the world that was now completely gone. People don’t often realize the wide-reaching effects of 9/11. Everyone from the pilot of a commercial airplane down to the administrative assistant who works in an off-site warehouse for UPS had to completely change their way of living. The reality was harsh, but everyone knew that change was inevitable.
Flight attendants aren’t trained solely for the purpose of serving drinks and snacks, but we are also trained to protect passengers and ourselves from any potential threat whether that be mechanical issues, fires, decompressions, or even terrorist attacks. What remains unseen to the regular passenger’s eye is that while a flight attendant is on duty, nearly everything we say or do is safety-related. We are trained to be alert and maintain a healthy level of suspicion regarding everything that occurs on the aircraft. We look for potential in every passenger not because we want to assume the worst, but because safety and security is of the utmost importance. Whether you get up to pull something out of your suitcase, take a trip or two to the lavatory, or even readjust in your seat, chances are one of the flight attendants is watching to make sure the behavior is as innocent as it seems. On 9/11, the events that occurred in those attacks happened so quickly that there is simply no such thing as being too prepared.
The next time you board an airplane, you may find yourself upset about the lack of legroom or inoperative Wifi. Your flight attendants likely have so much more on their minds, especially if you’re flying on September 11th, all while trying to address your concerns and provide you with a safe and comfortable flying experience. Even if we weren’t working crewmembers on 9/11, each of us still feels the effects from that fateful day as we honor our fellow crewmembers that were lost. 25 flight attendants, 8 pilots, 3 customer service agents, and countless other souls not in the aviation industry were lost that day. All across the nation, members of the aviation community were supporting each other all while caring for stranded and scared passengers. The aftermath of 9/11 was harsh, unforgiving, but important. The next time TSA asks you to remove your shoes or a flight attendant requests that you to return to your seat, remember the important role of aviation safety professionals today and every day.
While the events of 9/11 may slip your mind from time to time, one thing is for certain – your flight attendants will never forget.
A very special thank you to our friend and fellow flight attendant, Halle Cameron, for recounting her experiences from 9/11 and allowing us to tell her story.
It’s Monday morning and you are about to roll out of bed. What’s the first thing that you do? Well, you snuggle with your dog and fall back asleep for another hour. Later that day, you go to brunch, maybe go for a hike followed by dinner with friends, and then stay up late Netflix binging Parks & Rec because you don’t leave for Rome until late the next day. Why? Because you’re a flight attendant and Mondays don’t suck anymore!
One of the best things about being a flight attendant is the flexibility. You can essentially work as much or as little as you want, even choosing the days of the week that you would prefer to work, all while maintaining a full-time job. While there can certainly be downsides and difficulties to the job, there are also some amazing perks and even more that come with seniority! Some would say it is the best job in the world, and some would say it was not for them, but it all comes down to who you are as a person and what kind of career you want for yourself.
With that being said, it’s not always easy to become a flight attendant. Statistically speaking, becoming a flight attendant is often more difficult than getting accepted into Harvard University. Don’t believe me? When over 100,000 people apply for fewer than 1,000 jobs, you’ll quickly realize that not everyone can walk in the door and receive an offer. Don’t let that scare you, though, because you may have just what it takes! Plus, we’re here to help! Between the two of us here at ‘Two Guys On A Plane,’ we’ve been both hired (and rejected!) over the years by several different airlines. We know first-hand how stressful the process can be, so we’ve come up with a few tips and tricks to help you land your dream job!
BEFORE YOU APPLY
Ask yourself a few questions, such as why you are applying and what you hope to get out of this career. These are answers you’re going to want to have not only for your sake but for your interviewer when it comes time to meet with them. This will also help you identify what type of airline you want to work for. Each airline will provide you with very different employment experiences just as each airline will be looking for something different in you as a candidate. Whether you plan to go for a regional airline or a mainline carrier, make sure to research the company you’re applying for first because they’ll expect you to know about their brand. Next, make sure you’re fully prepared to begin the process. You don’t need a college degree (although it’s preferred), you don’t need airline experience as they’ll train you, but you should have top-notch customer service skills.
When airlines open up the online application, they usually don’t keep it open for long so have everything ready to go. Additionally, the length of the application process can vary from a couple of weeks to a few months, so you’ll want to be prepared for each step of the way just in case. Gather the required items that you’ll need such as a passport, resume, cover letter, ten years of work history, references, etc. You’ll also want to start putting together your best looks for the next steps in the process!
You’ve done all of your prep work and you know what you want, so now it’s time to go and get it! If you’re part of one of the flight attendant career social media groups, you’ll probably already be aware of who is hiring. If not, each airline has some sort of “Careers” section online, so visit the websites of airlines you’re interested in to see if they have the flight attendant position posted. If the airline(s) you’d like to apply for appear to be hiring, we recommend that you go for it as soon as possible! As we mentioned earlier, these job postings don’t last for long since the volume of applicants they receive is typically quite high. You won’t want to miss your window of opportunity!
When filling out your application, be as detailed and honest as possible. You will likely have to fill out a series of personality questions, too. Answer them genuinely rather than trying to fit into a mold. If there are scenario questions, take a moment and think about what you would actually do rather than what you think they want from you. The airline isn’t trying to trick you, they are trying to get to know you. Since they receive so many applicants, you want to make sure you stand out. Highlight your personality as well as your customer service skills and background. They want to see that you’re not only professional but have just the right personality to handle the varied experiences flight attendants encounter each day. Whether you’re serving drinks, assisting in a medical situation, or evacuating an airplane, your leadership skills and flexibility will be required for all of it – trust us!
THE VIDEO INTERVIEW
This can be a major source of anxiety for people but don’t let it scare you! Go over some basic interview questions ahead of time so you don’t end up staring blankly at the computer screen. Some common questions include: “Why do you want this job?” “What would make you a good flight attendant?” “Tell us about a time when you helped someone.” “Tell us about a time when you messed up and what you learned.” “What are three words your friends would use to describe you?” When you sit down to record your interview, dress as professionally as you would for a face-to-face interview. You may not necessarily need a tuxedo or ball gown but displaying a professional look will tell the recruiters that you take this process seriously. While you don’t need to dress up like a flight attendant, a simple suit will go a long way, so the recruiters can envision you proudly sporting the airline’s uniform.
Be extra careful during this step of the process as a lot of candidates are automatically written off early in their video because of a few key mistakes. Make sure the camera is steady and the quality is clear, adjust the lighting in the room so it is bright but not so much that they can’t see you, and clean up the background behind you so it doesn’t look messy or unprofessional. Additionally, display your face and torso straight on for the camera so the interviewer can see you as if you were sitting across from them at a table. Be clear and detailed with your answers and always look directly into the camera. Lower the brightness on your screen so that you’re not tempted to look down at your face while you speak. Avoid these faux pas before you sit down for the actual interview and you’ll be on your way! Remember – if you feel and look professional, then you will project that through the screen and they’ll want to see you in person!
This is your time to shine! At this point, your confidence should be building as you were chosen out of thousands to come in for an in-person interview. Before you arrive, read all of the information that they send you word-for-word so that you do not miss a single step or forget a required item such as your passport. Preparedness, attention to detail, and the ability to follow directions will be a major deciding factor in whether or not you get hired!
If you haven’t been to a face-to-face before, it is typically a process that takes place over the course of several hours. The interview will typically include various group activities, information sessions, meet and greets, group interviews, and a one-on-one with an individual recruiter. Again, each airline has their own personality so an airline like Delta is going to try to sell you on their brand with bells and whistles while Southwest really just wants to get down to business and know if you will perform the job according to their standards. No two interviews will be the same! Our best piece of advice? Be cognizant of your behavior from the moment you set foot on the property because there will be many recruiters keeping an eye out on each of the candidates throughout the day. Be confident but not arrogant. Be talkative but not overbearing. Be prepared but not rehearsed. Be excited but maintain composure. Be a leader but show you can listen and be part of a team. Most importantly? Be authentically you. You’ve got this!
A lot of candidates ask if they will receive an offer on-the-spot at the interview or if they’ll hear from the airline after the fact. From our experience, you typically would receive a conditional job offer (CJO) at the end of your Face-to-Face interview but there have certainly been a few exceptions where people have heard good news after the fact. If you don’t get the job, typically they’ll send a “Thanks, But No Thanks” (TBNT) a few weeks later rather than tell you that day. They like delivering bad news just about as much as you like receiving it!
Whether or not you get the job this time around, don’t be discouraged! Each and every recruiter that reviews your application, video, and in-person interview is looking for something different! It’s important not to be too harsh on yourself because sometimes they see things in you that someone else may not have and vice versa. A friend of ours applied for Delta Air Lines seven times and finally got hired while others have gotten the job on their first try. You simply never know what they are looking for specifically, so it’s always worth going back for another try or with a different airline if you want it bad enough!
Special thanks to our flight attendant friends for letting us feature their fabulous on-the-fly photos! Check them out on Instagram by clicking on their photos in this article!
We wish you the best of luck with the flight attendant interview process and hope to share a jumpseat with you someday! If you have any tips for aspiring flight attendants, leave them in the comments!