Photo Credit - Adrian Snood
I noticed him right away. He sat in an airport wheelchair, the overly wide kind with my airline’s logo stamped on the back. He was hunched over, the shoulder blades beneath his shirt pushed high into the air like a kid portraying Quasimodo in a school play, but his “costume” of neon orange sunglasses and a lopsided beanie hat made him look less like the hunchback bellringer and more like a certified beach bum.
“Punk,” I thought, as I crossed the airport lobby, disgusted. A thousand people were crisscrossing the area, scurrying and panicked, getting checked in for their flights out of Los Angeles. Most didn’t notice him, but I did. Even though I wasn’t in flight attendant uniform, just being in the LAX airport awoke my instinctive need to plaster a smile on my face while simultaneously putting my brain on high alert, looking for suspicious activity. That is my job after all and despite being on vacation, I couldn’t just set aside my training and NOT notice this punk kid sitting in that wheelchair, pathetically pretending to be an old man just so he could have a comfy seat next to the one and only wall outlet in the lobby! I couldn’t help but peer closer and see his fingers poking away at the cell phone tucked between his legs.
Part of me could empathize with him. There’s never enough seating in airports. I too was hoping to sit down and the airport lobby was like a barren desert when it came to seating. Fortunately, the hubby and I found a place to rest; a ledge near the escalator that led upstairs to security. At its base was a young lady, probably only in her early twenties. She stood at her full-height, chin held high, and eyes fierce as she demanded the tickets of everyone who approached her.
“The Gate Keeper,” I observed. A very young woman, entrusted with much authority. I didn’t envy her position. A minimum wage job, probably. A job with plenty of confrontation, certainly. As the Gate Keeper, she was in charge of turning away passengers who had oversized bags. She was in charge of telling them to “make it fit in the bag sizer” or go back to the ticket counter and pay hundreds of dollars.
“She’s just a kid, really,” I decided, feeling that early twenties still warranted a “kid” title. Behind the bag sizer I saw a fabric sling purse, something I would have owned back in high school. It was colorful and bright and probably what the Gate Keeper would wear after work. I could just imagine it. She would sling the cute purse with its stripped blue and white print over her left shoulder and trot down a California beach with her friends, looking like a completely different person once she had changed out of her black slacks and hideously maroon airport vest. She would be smiling and happy and certainly not resemble the type of person who could stop you from going up an escalator.
I tried not to stare too long, but I found it fascinating to watch her and think about her life, to imagine me being one of her friends and how we would hang out at the beach together later. It was probably during one of these musings that the punk came over. I glanced at him warily. He was just a few feet away from me now, dragging behind him a rollaboard suitcase as if it were Linus’s filthy blue blanket.
“What are you up to?” I wondered silently. “Trying to find a way to sneak past this girl? Trying to find a way to get up the escalator without her knowing?”
It was strange. He was just standing by the bag sizer and looking at her. Waiting.
“Oh, no. Please don’t make a run for it when her back’s turned.” I groaned inwardly. I didn’t want to get involved, but it was too late now that I was conscious of the pending situation. What would I do if he tried to sneak past her? As an airline employee, heck, just as a concerned citizen, I felt obligated to stop this guy.
I tried to shake off my paranoia, but then during a break in the passenger traffic, the Gate Keeper turned her back. In two giant steps, which to me were the size of football fields, she walked away from her post even and then to my horror, turned her gaze around the corner and starting addressing another airport employee! That’s when the punk moved. I caught my breath. He stepped forward and completely surprised me. Instead of making a run for it, he stepped forward and then simply bent down, picked up his rolling bag, hugged it to his chest like a teddy bear, and walked away.
“That’s right. Keep walking,” I growled at him, narrowing my gaze and feeling quite certain that somehow my powerful mind had deterred the punk from doing something terrible. Of course, after ten minutes had passed without incident, the punk now completely out of sight, my earlier judgement seemed silly. I had been completely overacting. In fact, I ought to feel a bit sorry for the guy. Here I was, calling him a punk and completely judging his appearance because –
“My bag!” I looked up. The Gate Keeper was looking straight at me, the fierceness from her eyes replaced by a wide-eyed look of distraught.
“Did you see my bag?” the Gate Keeper asked me and for a moment, I was completely thrown off guard. I had been watching her from a distance almost as if she were on a television screen and so, for a brief second, I had forgotten she could see me too.
“Your bag…” I repeated, as the invisible wall between us faded. Then, it all became clear. The bag, her cute fabric sling purse that had been discretely hidden behind the bag sizer, was gone.
The girl lost her wallet, a phone, and car keys. She was devastated. We talked with the police. We rattled off the details as if we had rehearsed it, like actors in a skit.
“Probably late twenties. He was wearing, um..”
“Neon colored sunglasses!”
“Yes! That’s right. They were orange.”
“Bright orange! Neon! And he was sitting in a wheelchair earlier…”
“Yes! The ladies over there had to kick him out of it. He was a real jerk about it.”
We had paid attention. We had done our jobs. We had both noticed the most suspicious person in that airport lobby, but in the end, he got away with it.
This time, I failed. Next time, I won’t dismiss my instincts.
The type of crime I witnessed is known as Slider-Theft. Learn more HERE.
Stay safe out there!
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Jenn at Crew Member Self Defense Training
Sometimes it’s hard to feel my work is important.
I was walking through the aisle picking up trash when it happened. The middle-aged man with eyes completely glued to the movie on his iPad floated his hand in a trance-like motion toward the outstretched garbage bag I held firmly stretched between my two hands. Instead of dropping the half-full cup of orange juice into the trash bag, the distracted man planted it upside down against my thigh and a second later I felt the sticky, sweet juice dribble down my right leg and pool into my right shoe, thus ending the unwanted leg-bath of Vitamin C. The fact that it took the man a five full seconds to pry his eyes away from his movie and then mutter a barely-intelligible apology before turning away again was infuriating, making me want to smack the silly piece of technology right of his tray table and give a mother-worthy reprimand of, Look at me when you say you’re sorry, young man!.
It’s hard to be taken seriously when people think you’re just a sky waitress. Some people seem to think that once I’ve served them a Diet Coke, I’ve fulfilled my role on the flight. My job is finished, right? The times have changed and long gone is the era of the stewardess. Today, being a flight attendant is all about safety. We are paid to be there in case something bad happens. We are not paid to cater to the every whim of passengers. Nope. We are there for safety first and if possible, comfort second. We are trained to take charge during medical emergencies, evacuations, and other life-threatening scenarios. Fortunately, such situations are quite rare and so most of what we train for is never used. In two years, I’ve only had one serious medical scare and it was resolved without needing to divert the flight. Nevertheless, emergencies do happen and they have happened to co-workers I know.
Of course, when it comes to keeping people safe, the scariest risk is terrorism. When I signed up to be a flight attendant, I signed up to be the last line of defense between lunatics and the flight deck door. It’s a huge responsibility and I think about it every day. Here in the United States, we will never allow something like 9/11 happen again. Period. When I signed up for my job, I knew I had signed up to put up a fight and sacrifice myself for others should that type of situation arise. Perhaps not all flight attendants take their duties seriously, but I do. If the time should come, I will be ready to save lives and if necessary, put the lives of my passengers ahead of my own – including the life of Mr. Orange Juice Dropper.
Many of my co-workers cringe when they hear the words Minneapolis Layover! They would rather sit on a sunny beach in Miami than face the chilly weather of Minnesota. I, on the other hand, was delighted to pick up a few twenty-four hour layovers in Minnie this past February! The weather was surprisingly comfortable! I had a chance to visit family and was able to explore The Mall of America!
The Mall of America is probably best known for its indoor amusement park. When I visited the Mall as kid, this playland was known as Camp Snoopy and the attractions were decorated with themes from the Charlie Brown comic. Today the amusement park is called Nickelodeon Universe and the rides feature characters such as the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Dora the Explorer, and Transformers. My co-workers highly recommend trying the SpongeBob SquarePants Rock Bottom Plunge! This rollercoaster sends you flying toward the ceiling at ninety degree angle, careening toward the carousel ride (see photo!), and then zooming back along a closed-loop track. You can see a video of the ride HERE.
I enjoyed my time at the mall doing some serious window shopping with my sweet mother-in-law! We marveled at the Crocs store. Did you know that Crocs makes sandals and even dress heels?! I also had my eye on a funky tanktop with a print of a sloth climbing the Empire State Building (see photo!). Of course, Mom and I had to stay hydrated as we walked so we made a trip to Caribou Coffee (a must-see while in Minnesota!) and later, the Tea Garden to get bubble tea!
There is just so much to see and do around the Mall of America! They even have an indoor aquarium and a wedding chapel for marriage ceremonies!
Here are some fun photos from my visit to the largest mall in the United States.
"Must be willing to work holidays." Every flight attendant job application will include these words in bold font. There's no getting around it. If you're going to be in the airline business, you're going to miss family gatherings. It's unfortunate, but someone has to be there to help other people get to their loved ones.
Growing up, my family hardly ever celebrated holidays on their calendar date. With dad working as an airline pilot, we learned to be flexible. We might celebrate Christmas the weekend before or even as late as the first week of January. We couldn't reschedule the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, but our Thanksgiving meal featuring mom's delicious cooking and our cousin's famous mashed potatoes - that we could rearrange for a time when my father was home. The only celebration we couldn't reschedule was the 4th of July. (The city's fire marshal wasn't keen to let us shoot fireworks weeks well past our country's Independence Day celebration.)
Now I'm grown up and married and somehow being away on the holidays is much, much harder than I expected. The holidays don't stop or rearrange themselves when I'm gone. There is enormous guilt in knowing that your loved one will be home alone going to Easter church services or that your spouse is unwrapping gifts Christmas Eve with his family while you're stuck doing a Miami turn. Working on the holidays is certainly one of the LEAST glamorous parts of being a flight attendant.
Below is a photo journal of the working holidays I've taken since beginning my career as a flight attendant almost a year and a half ago.
I hope you all had a blessed Easter this past Sunday!
Jesus Christ is risen! He is risen, indeed!
~ Jenn Grahams
I got stuck with in Washington D.C. with an afternoon Chicago turn assignment. In the morning, I went to a church service before heading out. I found these beautiful cherry blossoms on my way to the church!
Easter 2015. Cherry blossoms in Washington D.C.
I was assigned a two day trip with a San Diego layover. My co-worker and I decorated the beverage cart with Christmas lights. :) Unfortunately, I can't post any pictures of myself in uniform, but here are a few snapshots from that trip.
The galley flight attendant who used the aircraft prior to me was nice enough to leave a fully stocked insert. :)
My sister-in-law left me a delicious post-Christmas dinner in the fridge! She even had it gift wrapped for me!
I had a pretty amazing three day trip with a LONG layovers in Miami, Florida and Vancouver, Canada! Since Canada's Thanksgiving is celebrated on a different date than in the United States, all businesses were open! My co-worker and I splurged for a delicious steak dinner on the water at the Flying Beaver Bar & Grill
Thanksgiving 2014 in Vancouver!
This was a very depressing day for me. I was stuck in New York City at my crashpad sitting "on reserve" which basically meant the only reason I couldn't go home was because I was the "back up" flight attendant on call. I wasn't even assigned a trip. My flatmate tried to cheer me up by buying me some chocolates. :)
Easter 2014 at my crashpad in New York City
I was on reserve in New York City, but I had company! My dad snagged a NYC layover and my mother and sister flew in standby so we were able to spend the day together! We attended an amazing Christmas Day church service at the Korean Church of Queens
. Even though the songs were sung in Korean, we could recognize the tunes of the classics such as "O' Come All Ye Faithful" and "Joy to the World". Also, the pastor included a translation of his sermon on PowerPoint slides. In was actually a really amazing experience! That night we visited the Christmas market in Bryant Park!
Christmas 2013 - Korean Church of Queens in NYC
Christmas 2013 - Empire State Building in New York City
I've been having major ear problems recently. :(
“Never fly if your ears are blocked!” my instructors told us at flight attendant school.
I took their warning seriously especially after one guest speaker swore he sat on the jumpseat next to a flight attendant whose eardrum ruptured and caused blood to “pour out of her ear” as she “screamed in pain”.
Not wanting to suffer the same fate, I’ve been cautious this year when I’ve fallen ill. I don’t usually get sick, but this year I’ve somehow caught three bouts of either the flu or a sinus infection. The too-busy-to-talk walk-in clinic doctor didn’t think it was necessary to diagnose me and quickly prescribed medication that “would cure either thing.” (Ohh-kay??? Thanks, doc?)
Due to my health and ear problems, I've had to drop two trips so far which will cost me a lot of money and make my next few paychecks look pretty pathetic. I’m feeling better now, but started second-guessing my decision to stay home instead of "toughing it out". (I wasn't contagious when I dropped the second flight, but I still had an earache.) To assuage my fears and clear up myths about flying with clogged ears, I’ve done a little research and I’m happy to share my findings with you! I’ll post them below in a Question and Answer form.
Have YOU ever had a problem with your ears during flight? What helped you?
Hope to hear from you! Happy travels!
Can an eardrum rupture inflight due to pressurization problems? Snagged this pict when I saw the doctor.
Yes. According to this article at Patient.co.uk, in rare cases a person’s eardrum can rupture when the middle ear is unable to adjust after a sudden change in air pressure (like when the plane is descending). A perforated (meaning ruptured) eardrum causes hearing loss, but fortunately, the ear will heal itself over time in most cases.
Could the story about the flight attendant’s bleeding ear be true?
Yes, but it’s more likely an embellished story. According to many medical articles (including THIS one at Entnet.org), a perforated eardrum usually results in a liquid discharge – NOT blood. In some rare causes, blood may be included in the discharge, but only if the ear is injured internally. In our story, the flight attendant would have needed to perhaps bang her head on something or have injured her ear in some way - perhaps by poking something forcibly inside it.
What sort of medical examinations are required before becoming a flight attendant?
In the United States, the FAA mandates medical exams for all airline crew members. At my airline, I was required to take (and pass!) the medical exam BEFORE I was admitted into flight attendant school. The flight attendant physical exam is less stringent compared to the requirements for pilots, but there are certain visual and hearing criteria that need to be met before someone can qualify to be a flight attendant. As part of my exam, I went into a soundproof room and took a hearing test in which I pressed a button every time I heard a beep. The beeps changed pitch and became progressively softer. A nurse also stuck a probe in my ear that supposedly registered whether or not my ears could properly pressurize inflight. (She had trouble getting my right ear to give a passing reading so perhaps I’ve always been doomed to have these ear problems.)
What causes ear pressurization problems? How can I unblock my ears inflight?
This well-written article titled “Ears and Altitude” explains the problem thoroughly and describes the most common methods for unblocking your ears.
Surprisingly NOT mentioned is the method where you place a cup of hot water next to your ear (making sure to keep the water from splashing INSIDE the ear)! The steam supposedly helps relieve the pressure. I tried it once when I had a bad cold and it seemed to work although the timing could have been coincidental.
When I’m flying, I have to pop my ears numerous times a day. With practice I’ve gotten to the point where swallowing hard or yawning will usually do the trick.
While doing my research, I discovered that several businesses are selling ear popping devices. I have no idea whether or not these are actually useful (or safe?), but if anyone knows please write me in the comments below.
Do passengers often complain about their ears?
Have you ever had an inflight medical emergency where a passenger could not pop their ears?
I get a handful of complaints and worried passengers every month that can’t pop their ears right away while inflight. Usually it’s a panicking mother with a toddler. I can’t offer much assistance other than quote the different methods I know for unblocking ears. (We aren’t allowed to use the steam method because that’s a lawsuit waiting to happen! Think turbulence and boiling water…not a good combo.) We would never divert a flight or land early if a passenger was experiencing ear problems. If the pain was extreme, we might seek out medical assistance, but we won’t divert or land a plane early unless it is a true medical emergency. The passenger would unfortunately have to endure the ear discomfort for the rest of the flight. Fortunately, blocked ears usually cause only minor pain.
Interesting Fact. If everyone on the plane starts having ear discomfort / ear blockage at the same time, it means you're probably about to experience a rapid decompression so get ready to grab your oxygen mask! Just another fun thing you get to think about all the time when you're a flight attendant. :) My ears usually only "pop" on ascent and descent so if it happens inflight, I always tense up, turn to my crewmate and ask, "Are your ears popping?" Thankfully, the answer has always been no.
Do we become more cynical with age? I haven't hit thirty and yet I find myself becoming more jaded with time. What happened to my upbeat Midwestern sweetheart personality that fit me so naturally as a teenager and a young adult? Why is it so hard for me to maintain an cheerful heart?
This month I've had some dreadful trips (lots of delays, cancellations, rude passengers, etc.) and the disastrous flights have thrown my mood into a downward spiral. The less-than-pleasant experiences put my focus on the negative aspects of my job. In short, I've been having a very "glass half empty" attitude all month.
My pessimism was obvious and completely transparent when I wrote my husband an email last week complaining about an unexpected equipment change. Being the witty writer that he is, my husband responded perfectly and in such a way that it completely brightened my day!
03/06/2015 - 7:13AM - My Flight
Ughhh. Today isn't any better. My back is sore. We were supposed to deadhead but they changed it so we are working and I'm the forward galley on a 767! Haven't done this big plane in a long time. I have to organize 2 carts and direct service for 30 business class passengers. Yuck.
03/06/2015 - 12:02PM - RE: My Flight
Yuck? That sounds exciting! That's almost like a small restaurant's worth of people and you're in charge! And it's a big plane so lots of room to stretch your legs and it will probably be a smoother flight. And, it will still be light in Florida when you land so you'll get to watch the sunset in a place 40 degrees warmer than it is at home right now. Then tomorrow night you'll be welcomed home to furry chinchillas!
Or maybe you weren't looking for encouragement, but something more like commiseration. In that case:
That really sucks dear :-( What an awful "surprise" to dump on you. And you're still only halfway through the sequence. Tonight it will be windy and too far from the beach to do anything, then tomorrow you will have to get up early for two more flights. Double yuck :-(
My husband's response helped remind me of something very important:
We have a choice. We can choose to be miserable or choose to be happy. The decision is in our hands. I'm not saying it's easy to be joyful when everything life throws at you is dreary. Nevertheless, I think optimism is something for which we should strive. Helen Keller thought so.
While completing her college studies in 1903, Helen Keller wrote an essay on optimism. In her paper, the deaf-blind woman firmly asserted her belief that optimism is necessary for good to prevail. I've posted below a few excerpts from her work. I hope you'll find them as inspiring as I did and if you have time, you can read her entire essay HERE! If you have more advice on how to stay cheerful in spite of everything, please share your idea in the comments below. I'd love to hear from you! :)
Helen Keller Quotes from her essay "Optimism"
"Every optimist moves along with progress and hastens it, while every pessimist would keep the world at a standstill. [...] Pessimism kills the instinct that urges men to struggle against poverty, ignorance and crime, and dries up all the fountains of joy in the world."
"I try to increase the power God has given me to see the best in everything and every one, and make that Best part of my life."
"...there are still great evils which have not been subdued, and the optimist is not blind to them, yet he is full of hope."
The flight attendant life is fairly transient. Between working and commuting, this month I’ll take an average of six flights each week for a total of twenty-seven flights in March! Maintaining that average, I could possibly take over three hundred flights in 2015! (And I’m considered a “low time flier” by most flight attendant standards!)
When friends and family hear about my flight attendant schedule, some shake their heads and say I’m crazy. They can’t imagine maintaining such an “unstable” lifestyle. In all truthfulness, it really isn’t as frantic as it may seem at first glance. In fact, I feel like my life is pretty grounded! Although I travel A LOT and spend much of my time bouncing around in airplanes, I always return to one of my homes - either my permanent residence with my husband in the Midwest or my sister-in-law's apartment in my base city (Washington D.C.). Now, try to imagine a life where you didn’t have any home!
I recently stumbled upon some truly adventurous people who take their passion for travel to an entirely different level! Let me introduce you to some individuals who live a life that is filled with constant travel. These are full-time travelers who have chosen to break free of traditional norms and live a nomadic life where their only agenda is to see the world and experience its riches! How do they do it? How do they have the funds to travel endlessly? Surprisingly, they’ve all accomplished their travel goals in different ways! I am amazed at their courage and I know you’ll find their stories fascinating!
Used with permission from SuitcaseStories.com.
Paris, Costa Rica, Barbados, Spain, Fiji – these are just some of the places Australian couple Nicole and Michael have visited since starting their journey. A few years ago, they took the plunge to quit their jobs, sell nearly all their possessions, and set off on the adventure of a lifetime! Last December they celebrated over 1,000 days of being on the road. Used with permission from SuitcaseStories.com.
What surprises me most about Nicole and Michael’s story is that they haven’t been spending their nights in run-down youth hostels. In fact, most of the time they’re staying in beautiful fully-furnished houses! Their secret? They’ve had over thirty house-sitting jobs!
When house-sitting, this couple is responsible for taking care of the property while the homeowners are away. This involves fairly simple tasks such as keeping the walkways cleared of snow during winter (in some countries!) and taking care of the homeowner’s pets. The best part is, they’re paid to sleep at the person’s home and given ample time to explore the city where they are staying! Michael and Nicole have written an ebook – House Sitting | A Travelers Guide – to share their secrets. Ebook sales, travel blogging, and their house sitting jobs have allowed the couple to keep traveling and they don’t plan on stopping any time soon!
Follow them on Twitter @Suitcases2
Think back to your family’s camping trip you took as a kid. Maybe you rented an RV camper – one of those giant rolling mobile homes? Now imagine a life where that RV is your home! Until recently, this was the life for Americans Sara, Matt, and their daughters who traveled across the United States for four whole years while living in their RV.
A look inside the Janssens' mobile home! Photo used with permission.
Used with permission from HappyJanssens.com.
Sara and Matt felt inspired to live a simpler, greener life and to teach their kids to cherish the most important things in life – God and family. One day they sold the majority of their belongings, left a few boxes of keepsakes at a family member’s home, and took off into the sunset in their mobile home which they nicknamed “The Rig”. While roaming North America, they marveled at the beauty of nature (visiting sights such as the Redwoods in California and the Rocky Mountains in Colorado) and met diverse and interesting people. To fund their journey, both parents took up odd jobs along the way. Matt offered his services as a handyman to fix and remodel other RVs while Sara worked as a freelance photographer and graphic designer.
With the arrival of a third daughter and two dogs, the couple finally decided to buy a “real” home in Colorado, but they didn’t stay for long! Sara’s posted in her blog last September that they are renting out their house and taking off for another 9 months of traveling in their new RV! Talk about living the life of adventure!
Follow them on Twitter @happyjanssensman and @nestinggypsy
Jonny working as a steward on a car ferry!
Jonny Blair in Kharanaq Iran! Used with permission from DontStopLiving.net.
This Northern Irishman tops the charts when it comes to traveling the longest! Twelve years ago Jonny Blair left his home in Northern Ireland and he has been traveling ever since! This true nomad has seen a vast portion of the world and experienced many things. To fund his travels, Jonny has taken on all sorts of odd jobs including teaching English to Kindergarteners in Hong Kong, working as a bartender in Australia, and milking cows in Colombia to name a few! Currently though, Jonny earns most of his travel money as a travel writer and successful online blogger.
Jonny admits that during this twelve years he has stopped on occasion to stay for longer periods of time in cities such as London, Hong Kong, Bournemouth, Parramatta and Poatina. Nevertheless, he estimates that he’s “traveled properly” for about seven of the twelve years! In his fascinating blog, you’ll read Jonny’s amazing tales of backpacking in Azerbaijan, climbing mountains in Borneo, skinny dipping in Antarctica, and discovering new, tasty beers in Andorra, New Zealand, and well…nearly every place he’s visited! ;) Jonny in South Korea!
I am truly amazed by all these individuals who have found ways to live a life of endless travel! After reading their stories, I know I've felt tempted to trade out monthly home mortgage payments and rooms full of possessions for a nomadic lifestyle that would feed my wanderlust! At the same time, I know I'd cave pretty quickly to homesickness! For now, I'll stay put in my "white picket fence" home and live vicariously through these astounding adventurers! What about you? Do you think you'll try to follow in their footsteps?
I am a flight attendant, but NOT a stewardess. Although many people use the two job titles interchangeably, many flight attendants view the word stewardess as offensive!
I vividly remember the moment someone first brought the flight attendant/stewardess controversy to my attention. It was a summer’s day back in 2012 and I was attending my first interview for a major airline carrier in the United States. (I didn’t get the job, by the way. I was eventually hired by the third airline for which I applied.) I was a nervous wreck and felt completely intimidated seeing the fifty other confident-looking, well-dressed people against whom I was competing. I stuck like glue to my only friend – a woman named Sandra whom I had met on the bus.
Sandra had years of flight attendant experience on her resume. She had left her job at the age of thirty to become a full-time mother, but with her kids grown, hoped to get back into the airline business. To be perfectly honest, I had a bit of a “girl crush” on this woman. She seemed so completely put together! She was sassy and quick-witted and very knowledgeable. It was therefore a huge stab to my ego when Sandra laughed at me when I used the word stewardess to describe the position for which we were applying.
“Stewardess?” Sandra had repeated, crinkling her forehead and wrinkling her nose as if the spoken word had emitted an unpleasant smell. “That is so outdated. No one says stewardess, hon. It’s flight attendant.”
War of Words - Why Flight Attendant is Politically Correct
Sandra was right. No one in the airline industry – within the United States, at least – uses the word stewardess. Why was the name changed?
The name change reflects how the job itself has changed drastically in the past few decades! In the past, stewardesses in the USA had to be female, unmarried, and meet specific appearance and weight regulations. Now flight attendants can be either male or female. Physical requirements are limited to height (Flight attendants must be tall enough to reach safety equipment in the overhead bins!) and airlines can no longer discriminate against applicants on other physical appearance aspects.
The job of a stewardess in the 1950s was focused on passenger comfort. Flight attendants today put passenger safety as their number one priority. Flight attendant training schools spend less time on image standards and etiquette and instead devote their curriculum to teaching employees how to handle medical emergencies (such as passenger heart attacks), fires, emergency landings, and a whole array of other safety-related topics!
Airline Lingo and Flight Attendant Culture
I can’t speak for flight attendants around the world, but within the United States I know that flight attendants despise the word stewardess. I inwardly grimace every time someone calls me that! Although I would never correct someone for accidentally saying it, hearing someone call me stewardess feels degrading.
Unfortunately, the word stewardess in today’s modern society is a bit tarnished. The word harkens back to a time before modern feminism really took hold. It reminds us of when the women working a flight were intended to be eye candy and a time in which advertisers used flight attendants as explicit sexual icons. The Braniff International ad campaign in the 1960s featured flight attendants in Playboy magazine and highlighted inflight outfit changes known as the "Air Strip". Even commercials such as National Airline’s “Fly Me” ad campaign back in 1971 gave the perception that flight attendants were "easy" women who were there to please.
Within my company, flight attendants today only use the word stewardess jokingly. Here are a couple of common phrases my co-workers will say:
“Well, aren’t you just a super stew?”
This is usually said in a derogatory, sarcastic manner and refers to a flight attendant who is being too meticulous about something whether it be their personal appearance or passenger comfort.
“Yeah, she’s a sassy stew.”
“He’s the best stew I know.”
A light-hearted comment about a flight attendant whose personality or work habits are memorable. In this case, stew is just being used as a fun nickname.
Flight Attendants Around the World
Hopefully I’ve emphasized well enough that the information in this article applies to flight attendants within the United States. I can’t speak for airlines in other parts of the world, but I have observed that most Western cultures recognize the word flight attendant as the internationally accepted term for my job. (In German you see the word Flugbegeleiter or Flugbegeleiterin more often now than Steward or Stewardess.)
In the United States, we tend to get a bit overly zealous for using the “right” word for things. Outside of the English-speaking world, it’s hard to say if this battle of words is happening. In many Middle Eastern / Asian airlines, the words Cabin Crew Member often refer to flight attendants. I’ve also heard the term Air Hostess used.
In some foreign countries, airlines still enforce rigid appearance and gender requirements. Here are a couple of online job postings for companies that filter out candidates by appearance, gender, or age:
Oman Air has restrictions on gender, age, and weight.
This Korean Air posting limits gender, marriage status, and age.
Air Arabia restricts applicants by age and weight.
Flight Attendant Jobs in the Future?
So, what happens next? Will the flight attendant position get another name change when we begin commercial transport into space? Time will tell!
In the meantime, if you’re traveling in the United States and want to refer to that person who just told you to shut down your laptop for landing, try calling them a flight attendant and not a stewardess. ;-)
Is there a secret to efficiently packing shoes in a carry-on bag? If there is, I haven’t discovered it.
My husband says I have a shoe problem and that the reason why my rolling suitcase is always bursting at the seams is because I pack too many shoes. Whether I’m leaving the house for a simple two day trip or heading out for a whole week of back-to-back flights, I always pack five pairs of shoes.
Each pair of shoes has a specific purpose and I haven’t found a way to eliminate packing any of them!
Buying a new pair of the perfect work shoes at a Payless in New York City!
My five pairs of shoes! :-)
In order of appearance from left to right, my shoes are as follows:
Shower Flip Flops: These I bring on the doctor’s orders! My podiatrist advises that anyone using a hotel shower should wear flip flops to avoid exposure to viruses and fungi that could cause warts or athlete’s foot.
Black Flats: These are my main layover shoes. They’re comfortable enough to wear for a long walk to the nearest IHOP for breakfast and cute enough to be used for a night on the town with my crew.
Tennis Shoes: I'll be honest. Sometimes these collect dust sitting in my suitcase, but I always bring them along with the good intention of hitting the hotel’s treadmill on my layover! If I don't bring them, there's NO chance of me working out, right?
Inflight / Work Shoes: Every airline has its own requirements on footwear. My company requires a heel. Many of my co-workers will wear 2-3 inch heels in the airport and then switch to “in-flight shoes” once we’re on the plane. The in-flight shoes are usually comfortable flats or ballerina-type shoes. I prefer to skip the “stewardess shoe dance” and just wear the same shoes the entire time.
These are the perfect combo in-flight / work shoes! I call them my baby heels. They are perfectly “in regulation” for my company, but comfortable enough to wear all day long. I put a new pair of Dr. Scholl’s inserts in them every few months. The shoes will last for about a year if I polish them occasionally. When they’re starting to look a little ragged, I buy a new pair from Payless. They’re not too expensive.
Beach Flip Flops: You never know when you’ll get diverted to Miami! This is the one shoe I could probably eliminate (especially in the winter), but I love having something cute to wear on the beach! Plus, having them encourages me to get a pretty pedicure!
Now you’ve had a glimpse into the fabulous footwear of a flight attendant. Don't you feel informed? ;-)
Unfortunately, four pairs of shoes (assuming the fifth one is on my feet!) takes up a ton of space in my suitcase! If anyone has suggestions or ideas on how I could fix my shoe problem, please write me a comment below and I will sing your praises all day long!
Thanks and happy flying!
It’s easy to see the bad and not the good of airline travel. This concept applies to passengers as well. Media centers itself around the poor behavior of fliers on websites such as Passenger Shaming. Fortunately, there’s another side to the flying public and those are the untold stories of fascinating passengers I meet every day. Every few months, I’d like to tell you about some of the amazing people I’ve met. Here are three of their stories.
The Woman with An Accent
I’m working in the Main Cabin and the woman at the bulkhead has an intriguing accent when she orders her drink.
“Diet Coke, please.”
Three little words, but that’s all I need to hear to guess she’s from somewhere in Eastern Europe. I put my money on Poland. I believe you can tell a lot more about a person by their accent than by their physical appearance. I’ve spent several years training my ears to pick up the subtle cues that identify a person’s nationality.
When the woman comes back to use the lavatory, she has to wait in line which gives me the perfect opportunity to make small talk. We exchange a few more words and her accent taunts me again so I finally say, “You have a beautiful accent. Do you mind me asking where you’re from?”
She smiles a bit sheepishly. “Originally Ukraine, but now I’m a psychology major at (college) here in the United States.”
I give myself a pat on the back for being pretty close with my guess, but then my face scrunches up in worry. It’s July 2014 and there is a war going on in Ukraine. The death toll has been increasing. A commercial airliner headed to Amsterdam was recently shot down by rebels in Ukraine, killing 298 souls on board.
“Oh! Ukraine,” I say with seriousness. “Do you still have family back home? Are they okay?”
Her eyes go big for a second as she nods. “Yes, but they are okay now. We live in the city and one night, terrible violence broke out between the fighters. It was horrible for them. There were guns firing and explosions. My family just ran. They took all the possessions they could in just a few backpacks and fled across the border to Russia.”
“Is your family originally Russian? Do they support the rebel troops?”
“Oh, no!” she replies immediately. “No, my family is from Ukraine. I don’t know anyone who supports the rebels. There are lots of people in our area who are from Russia, sure. Still, I don’t know anyone, none of our neighbors, who want Ukraine to be part of Russia. We see Ukraine as independent.”
It’s hard for me to imagine living in such an unstable country plagued by civil war. I am surprised and fascinated that the girl’s family has run to hide in the country which is attacking them, but survival, not politics, was clearly the most important thing for them. I remind myself to say a prayer for the girl’s family and for all the people in Ukraine who are impacted by this on-going violence.
A young-looking Caucasian man in his mid-thirties was one of the first people to board our flight. He came hobbling on the plane with crutches. A giant, black boot encased his leg from knee to foot.
The flight attendant next to me smiled as he approached us and said, “It was sure sweet of you to jump out of that burning building and save all those puppies! Am I right?” she grins, nodding at his leg.
The man laughed. “Actually the story is just about as fantastic!” He continued to maneuver slowly onto the plane as he explained, “My friend and I were driving and got t-boned by a kid driving sixty miles an hour. Sixty miles an hour! I was in the passenger seat and the car was totally wrecked, but I came out with just this; a broken leg. That’s it. Otherwise, not a scratch on me!”
“Wow,” I breathed, shaking my head in wonder.
“God had something planned for you, my friend,” my co-worker said.
“Well, in fact...” the man grunted while pausing to adjust his crutches.
Before he finished, I already heard the three words in my head.
“...I’m a pastor.”
A tiny jolt shocked my heart as my prediction came to life.
“How did I know he was going to say that?” I silently asked myself. The man’s story reminds me of a similar near-miss traffic accident in my own life. It’s a story that deserves its own telling, but to abbreviate, I have always believed that the accident was avoided because the man in my vehicle was meant to serve God’s mission later in life.
During the flight, the pastor showed us pictures of the accident. The cell phone picts show the tangled wreckage of a white van. The metal is twisted and deformed around the spot where the pastor was sitting.
“So, the driver and I went to this young man’s house and let me tell you, he had nothing. He lived with his mother and they were just really having a tough time and God gave us an amazing opportunity to speak with these people and get to know them. We agreed to not press any charges and in fact, we were able to give them some money back from the insurance settlement. The best part though – the best part – was that we got to tell them about Jesus and bring them to the Lord.”
Don't Mess with Mama
The New York City to Los Angeles flight is usually over six and a half hours long. In nearly the same amount of time, you could cross the Atlantic and get to London. Understandably, passengers tend to get a little cranky during this long haul. One of the most upset passengers I ever met was a woman I’ll call Kathy. This mom was traveling in the Main Cabin with four daughters who ranged in ages from nine to seventeen. Kathy went through an emotional rollercoaster when she discovered that our transcontinental flights do not include meals. We offer a limited amount of food for sale products and that’s it. First, Kathy was unbelieving.
“Don’t you have free peanuts? Maybe some pretzels?” she pressed.
“No, ma’am. I’m sorry, but we just have food for sale products and free drinks.”
Then, she became aghast. After a minute of babbling her confusion and disapproval, her attitude changed again and she became outright nasty. She demanded to be served a meal. Her voice was loud enough to capture the attention of people sitting five or six rows ahead of her. I tried my best to remain cordial and calmly explain that her demand was impossible to fulfill as there were no meals for Main Cabin catered on the plane. My co-worker on the other end of the cart, a hardened chick from New York City, finally cut in after a few minutes and said, “Listen, ma’am. Like she said, we don’t have any meals on this flight. If you see something you wanna order off the menu, let us know.” Then, she hit the release pedal on the cart and urged me to follow her backwards a few rows away from the irate woman.
At the end of our service, Kathy came back to the galley. As I recognized the woman, my back stiffened and I prepared myself for another verbal assault. Surprisingly though, Kathy stood with her arms limply folded, as if hugging herself.
“I....I’m sorry that I acted so rudely to you,” she said carefully, her eyes fleeting between us. “I don’t usually make a scene. It’s just...my daughter I was worried about. The oldest one, you may have seen, is sitting at the window and she’s...she’s...”
Kathy’s face quivered and soon, there were tears squeezing out the corners of her eyes. Kathy explained that her teenage daughter was struggling with self-image and Kathy had recently discovered that the girl was anorexic. A doctor’s appointment revealed that the child was terribly underweight and wasn’t getting proper nourishment. Her starvation tactics were self-implemented all for the sake of wanting to look thinner. Kathy was trying to help her daughter get back on track to having a better self-image and eating a healthy diet.
“I just thought there was a meal and so I didn’t bring any snacks and I know it’s not your fault....”
She handed us a credit card, but my co-worker immediately waived a hand and filled Kathy’s arms with enough food products to feed a small army.
Kathy’s story stuck with me and I remember her every time I have an upset passenger. I remind myself to be patient and to speak kindly because there's no telling what that person is going through.