Thursday, June 9, 2016

Working as a Flight Attendant - Pros and Cons

From my scrapbook 
"Once the requisition is open for hire, it's not uncommon to receive more than 100,000 applications I am told it's harder to get invited to the Delta Flight Attendant training center than to get into Harvard University." Danny Elkins, a 35-year veteran FA. 1

It's been decades since I applied with the airlines, but it's still easy to remember the day I interviewed for a job as a flight attendant. 2 That's not something you soon forget. Of all the jobs I've held since that time, it still remains among my top favorites.

Sure, my tenure was short-lived, something I always regretted. I should have resisted the urge to lift that guy's brick-laden carry-on bag to stow it in the galley. But I didn't. In our quest for on-time performance of take offs and arrivals, we had no time to spare. I grabbed the bag, half dragged it to the empty area where prepared meal trays usually filled the storage cabinet and shoved it inside.

Later, during the flight, I began to experience lower back pain. I chalked it up to wearing heels as we prepared to start beverage service with the plane rising in its lift pattern. As the flight wore on, the pain got worse. At the hotel that evening, I took a couple of OTC pain relievers and joined some of the crew who wanted to see the Grand Ole Opry. We were on a layover in Nashville. Of course, I wouldn't have missed that for the world.

During the performance, I began to have difficulty getting off my seat to give the performer on stage an ovation. By the end of the night, I was nearly immobile. We shared a taxi back to the hotel and the senior FA made sure I was comfortably settled in my room for the night. The rest of the crew had an early flight scheduled the next morning. Mine was not until later in the afternoon with a different crew.

Working a flight prevented me from taking any strong medicine. I managed to finish the series of commuter flights and make it to my next layover in Wichita. Fortunately, the hotel was one of the nicer ones and there was a hot spa next to the swimming pool. I alternated between the hot and cold water for a couple of hours before retiring. Sometime in the middle of the night, I woke up screaming in pain as I reached for my travel clock to check the time. My assigned roommate gave me a pain pill from her personal supply and I went back to sleep.
The next day, as the pain grew worse, I continued to work the flight. As a reserve, I was assigned by the senior to work coach, which meant running meal trays and serving beverages to over a hundred passengers each leg of the journey. My crew mates let me work the galley so I wouldn't have so much walking, only some bending and standing, which I could manage.

I was thrilled when we finished the final leg of the multiple destination puddle jumper flights Braniff was known to offer - BNA to MEM to LIT to FSM to MCI. When I arrived at my home base in Dallas and called scheduling to check in, they assigned me another flight - a short one-hour flight to Houston and back. At that point, it was clear I needed medical attention and I refused the trip, heading instead for the medical center at the airport for an examination by our company doctor.

He grounded me for three days and prescribed some strong pain killers. During my recuperation, I stayed in the apartment and never left my bed. When the break-of-dawn phone call came from scheduling assigning me a new trip, I headed out again, destined for another long day. (to be continued)

1 What it's Really like to be a Flight Attendant, Rachel Gillett, 9-12-2015
2 My Former Life as a Flight Attendant, Peg Cole, 11-11-2009


  1. Did you ever come across anything interesting left behind by a passenger? A wallet full of out of circulated cash? A forgotten sport coat with a cryptic note in the pocket? A carry-on bag left behind and filled with foreign soda? I always thought a stewardess solving mysteries between flights and locations would make a fascinating series!

    1. That's a great idea for a series, Sean C. No, I didn't find anything of major value left behind. Any clothing or items were turned into the gate agents who would try to connect the lost items with their owners.
      What I did find were interesting people, who, in times of duress, like a mechanical delay or upon hearing a scary noise aboard the craft, would share their personal stories.