“We who fly do so for the love of flying. We are alive in the air with this miracle that lies in our hands and beneath our feet”– Cecil Day Lewis.
As it seems to be becoming a regular occurrence, I’m not even going to bother starting this post with an excuse as to why I haven’t written anything in a while. The truth is, I just haven’t felt like writing for ages, but after some time away I realised that the only reason I started this blog was simply because I enjoyed it. It gave me a creative outlet, so I shouldn’t really have ever tried to commit to writing and posting regularly. So without further ado, here comes a post filled with things that actual real life people have assumed about my job. All of the following statements and questions are things that either my friends and family or just random passengers have said to me at some point in the last year.
1. “You just get to go on holiday all the time!”
I’ll start with the most obvious and frequent thing I hear. I would like to clarify a few things that apply to me and my fleet. I can’t speak for other airlines or even other fleets within the company I work for, but my base is actual a shorthaul and longhaul base. So yes, whilst I do go away a lot, I also do a lot of ‘there and backs’ all over Europe, from short 35 minute flights to Jersey, to the dreaded Tenerife which is over 4 hours away. Places like Tenerife and Paphos are 12 hour duties, not including my 66 mile commute to Gatwick before, and then another 66 mile commute home. On shorthaul we literally get passengers off, the cleaners run on and blitz the plane, and then on come the return passengers. Before you know it we’re flying back home without even taking one step off the aircraft. Sometimes we have steps to disembark the passengers, so we might get a quick glimpse of the airfield and a breath of fresh air before we go, but that’s the most I’ve ever seen of some places that I REALLY would love to visit, such as Rome, Venice and more. You wouldn’t belive the amount of people that get off a shorthaul flight and say ‘so how long are you here for then?’. A whole 55 minutes love, then I’m going straight home. On the flipside, I’ve also been asked if I’m flying straight home after flying all the way across the Atlantic for 10 hours. Or when I land back at Gatwick after the night flight home and someone says ‘so are you flying somewhere else today?’ Like, when was the last time you did a 20 hour+ shift? Also, even on longhaul, it’s not quite the same as a holiday. For one, the majority of the time our layovers are about 24 hours, meaning we arrive in the afternoon, have that night there and then fly back the following day. Sometimes you get lucky and get to spend 2 nights somewhere, or if you’re really lucky 3, but these trips are really not as common as our so called ‘3 day trips’. By the way. If you hear me say I’m on a 3 day, the first day is the day we fly out, we leave on day 2 and then arrive home in the morning of day 3 (as we fly home overnight). So 3 day does not mean 3 actual days away. It means 24 hours. I don’t know about you, but I’ve never gone on holiday for a single night where the flight itself takes at least 8 hours. Also, you always have in the back of your mind that you have to work the night flight home. Whatever you’re doing, you have to make sure you’re back in time to get ready and pack all the stuff you’ve thrown around your room, and be rested enough to work. And if you spend your trip doing lots of stuff, you best believe you can feel it on that night flight home! Honestly, on these short layovers we spend most of our time sleeping!
2. “You work for such a big airline, you must get paid really well!”
I get this one a lot! Now, I’m not saying the pay is terrible, but it’s nowhere near as good as people think it is. Lets just say I’m not earning anywhere near enough to pay back my loan to Student Finance. Some low cost airlines actually pay quite a bit more than I get, but their crew work a lot more than us, as they don’t do longhaul, so never get layovers. Personally, I chose this job for the lifetstyle, as I wanted to travel and see new things, so I have to remind myself that even getting paid £3 an hour to sit in the Maldives is sometimes much better than the alternative – paying thousands of pounds to go on holiday there.
3. “So, are you part of the mile high club?”
This is something an actual passenger asked me and 2 other girls on the way back from Heraklion. To really paint you a picture of the scene, it was about midnight, most of the cabin was asleep apart from a couple of guys on their way back from their lads holiday in Malia. Because we’d finished the service, and there was still about 2 hours of the flight to go, all of us were sat in the back galley in our cardigans, doing the times crossword puzzle and sudokus to keep ourselves awake. Cue this gentleman, wandering in and asking us this. We all looked up from our puzzles, and gave him the most incredulous look I think I’ve ever given. We could not have looked any less likely to be doing that sort of thing at that point. I get asked this quite a lot and always think that for one the toilets are really gross and two, I’m actually quite busy at work. I’m not sure how many jobs are ok with their staff just popping off for a quickie in the middle of their shift. Also, we’re in a big metal tube in the sky, someone would definitely notice if a crew member just disappeared half way through the flight. Add that to the fact that the majority of crew, myself included have partners, I would have to say that it’s a strong no from me.
4. “It’s such a glamorous job isn’t it?”
Another comment from this same gentleman, who to be fair to him, had had a couple of drinks, and at that time was faced with a crew of beautiful young women. I blame that old Virgin advert where Richard Branson walks through the airport surrounded by models dressed as cabin crew for this assumption. Don’t get me wrong, we do stay in nice hotels which can seem quite glamorousand I do sometimes feel pretty glam when my hair and makeup go right, and I’m strutting through the airport in my heels, but this job can sometimes be far from glam and exciting. There’s times where we have to help someone clean up their sick, or when people somehow manage to miss the toilet when doing their business and we have to wipe it up. Even if nothing gross like that happens, its important to remember that planes are public transport, so really I’m just working on a glorified bus, surrounded by lots of people coughing and sneezing while the air gets recycled around the plane. Honestly, just eww.
5. “You’re basically just a waitress on a plane”
This one really grinds my gears, and unfortunately as crew you hear words to this effect quite often. Whilst I am there to make your flight enjoyable and serve food and drink, this is probably the smallest and least important part of my job. The captain even says in his PA, ‘The cabin crew are primarily here for your safety’. I’m there to get an entire plane full of passengers off the aircraft in 90 seconds or less if I have to. I’m there to treat the person who has a heart attack halfway across the Atlantic, or save a toddler that’s choking (something I have actually done). I’m there to put out a fire, when someone can’t go a few hours without smoking and drops a lit cigarette in a bin full of toilet paper. Luckily things like this happen very rarely, but this doesn’t change the fact that the reason I did 5 very full on weeks of training for this job was not so I knew how to make the perfect cup of coffee. To put it into perspective, over those 5 weeks, we did about 4 days of service training, the rest was all safety and medical. Also, on a slight side note, its not actually my job to put your bag in your locker for you. I can assist, but if I injure myself lifting a bag and have to take time off work then I’m not getting paid for that. I’m also 5 foot 3 and not very strong, I can’t actually physically get your huge suitcase that high above my head.
6. “So can you get me cheap flights?”
Another one I get quite a lot. Again, I can’t speak for other airlines, but I personally get 2 spaces on my staff travel, which can only be changed every 6 months. And staff travel is not a guaranteed seat, its a standby ticket, meaning you only get on if there’s seats left that haven’t been sold. Meaning you can’t really use them during the summer, unless you fancy getting stuck for 6 hours in an airport in Barcelona waiting to see if you can get on the next flight (yep this has happened to me after a hen party while I was extremely hungover). And no we don’t get ‘free’ tickets. Because even when we do, you still have to pay taxes, which as anyone who actually looks at the cost breakdown of their plane tickets would know, makes up most of the price. And again, these are just standby tickets. So unfortunately no, I can’t get you and your 8 mates flights to Ibiza for your lads holiday. Sorry about that.
I realise some of these things make me sound like I hate my job, but honestly this couldn’t be farther from the truth as I do believe I have one of the best jobs in the world. However, there’s a lot more to being cabin crew than meets the eye, and I do sometimes wish that people wouldn’t just assume they know everything about it when really they have no clue, but then again I can’t blame them, as I had no idea what I was getting myself
Until next time angels,
3 thoughts on “Fact vs Fiction – What it’s really like to be Cabin Crew.”
I always thought I’d love to be a flight attendant. Now I’m not so sure. Thanks for revealing the reality of it. I bet you’ll have some great writing material with all the characters you meet on planes.
It’s a great job, it’s just not as easy as you think it’s going to be! X
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Interested post…your too bright for this job…hope your well…Andrew