Welcome to the first in my series of interviews with travel professionals. I’m excited to kick this off with an informative look into the world of being a flight attendant. This Q&A is courtesy of Olivia of A Girl Catching Flights.
Q: Have you always been interested in the travel sector and how did you decide to become a flight attendant?
A: As much as I love to travel, I never thought about being in the travel sector until I applied to be a flight attendant. When I applied to become a flight attendant, it was actually because I needed a job and it was the first one to offer me one after being unemployed. I quit my previous job to backpack around Europe for a few months.
Q: How long have you been working as a flight attendant?
A: I’m a little over 2.5 years.
Q: What was the training process like?
A: The training process is honestly so incredibly stressful and not what anyone thinks it is. As a flight attendant, you are not guaranteed a job until you have passed training, so there is a lot more pressure to do well. Every week we have an exam on all the safety information we had just learned and you have to pass each week to make it to the next week. My training was only 5 weeks, but some airlines have longer training periods.
Q: What is the most rewarding part of your job/best memory so far from this job?
A: There are a lot of great memories of my job but I think the best memory is all the friends I have made. That sounds cheesy but some of these people will be in my life forever.
Q: Do you get free/discounted flights on your days off?
A: Each airline is different on how their discount flights work but I get free flights on my airline and have to pay a small fee for other airlines.
Q: What is the hardest part of the job?
A: Being away from my family and friends is difficult, but the hardest part is having a relationship. A lot of my friends are understanding, and my family gets it because I went away for college so they are used to me being gone, however, having a relationship is really tough. Especially when starting a new relationship, it takes a lot of patience for someone to date a new flight attendant.
Q: What is your favorite destination/route to fly?
A: My favorite route is the State of Alaska. We do a route called the Milk Run where we fly up and down Southeast Alaska and it’s some of the most beautiful flying you will see.
Q: How many days a week/hours per week do you typically work?
A: It’s a bit more complicated than that. I’m a reserve flight attendant, which means I don’t have a set route, but I have set days which I fly. I am on call for 18 days out of the month and have 12/13 days off. The days I’m on call vary depending on what days I need off, but I normally work Monday/Tuesday then have Wednesday off and work Thursday/Friday then have the weekends off.
Q: Do you ever get bothered by the turbulence?
A: I only get bothered by turbulence when it means I can’t deliver drinks or food and passengers are getting annoyed. Otherwise I don’t mind it at all.
Q: Have you worked a flight where the oxygen masks needed to be used or another emergency occurred?
A: No, thank God.
Q: What is the longest flight route you work?
A: I think Seattle to Ft. Lauderdale or Orlando is one of our longest routes in the system.
Q: Why aren’t planes boarded from window seats first, then to aisle or from back to front instead of by zone number?
A: The attempt of the zone number is to board the plane from the back to the front, but it never works out like that.
Q: What is your biggest pet peeve about passengers?
A: When passengers don’t come prepared. We are limited in supplies and what we can carry. When passengers get mad because we run out of food and they’re at the back of the plane. I get it, it’s annoying! However, it also isn’t my fault. We don’t have room to stock enough food for everyone.
Q: What are your must haves on each flight that you pack for yourself?
A: I always pack hand sanitizer, hand lotion and ginger chews. When flying you often get bloated so eating ginger chews helps reduce bloating in your stomach and gut.
Q: Do you normally eat airplane food or bring your own?
A: I bring my own food because I can’t expect there to be any airplane food leftover for me to eat and if I don’t eat I’ll get hangry haha.
Q: What is one stereotype or misconception people have about flight attendants that you would like to address?
A: I think that people think we are just customer service. We are actually trained to be first responders in every situation. I know how to evacuate a plane in 90 seconds, I can do CPR and first aid and I know how to take down an assailant. While I’m so glad I’ve never had to do any of that, it’s just a reminder that we aren’t just here to pour you Coke.
Q: What is the rule with the middle seat armrests – is there etiquette as far as who gets to use them?
A: I believe the middle person gets the armrests but that’s because I’m always in a middle seat so that’s my preference haha.
Q: What piece of advice would you give to those who have anxiety about flying?
A: Bring headphones and watch a movie, or listen to a podcast. Doing something to distract you will help you forget you’re flying.
Q: Do you typically work with the same group of flight attendants and pilots or does it vary each day?
A: It varies per flight, per route etc, but we usually switch pilots every flight and the flight attendant crew stays together.
Q: How often are air marshalls present on your flights?
A: A lot of it depends on location. However, I’m not allowed to disclose that information.
Emily again! I really enjoyed learning about what life as a flight attendant is like. Were there any things that surprised you? I will definitely be looking into bringing some ginger chews on my next flight! Stay tuned later this month for my next interview with a nomadic family who has been traveling the US in an RV for over a year!
A Girl Catching Flights is a blog written by a flight attendant and her experiences as a flight attendant, working in the industry and exploring the world. She also runs a food Instagram account – A Seattle Foodie.