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15 Things Only Flight Attendants Would Understand

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15 Things Only Flight Attendants Would Understand

If you thought that being a flight attendant was easy or even glamorous, think again. According to one source, it is one of the worst jobs out there because of the high stress levels, miserable pay and poor job prospects. Some airlines have been called the slave ships of the air! The minimum salary is $24,000 and maximum might reach $73,000 for senior staff. There may be some good perks such as hotel and car rental discounts and some free travel. But the everyday grind of dealing with difficult and demanding passengers makes you wonder why you chose this particular job. Here are 15 things that only you will understand.

1. You hate the rowdy, drunk passengers

Of course most passengers are polite and fairly well behaved. The problem is that there are always those who step out of line and are downright unruly and difficult. Passengers who expose their smelly feet and drunken passengers are the worst. They all get a mention on the Passenger Shaming page on Facebook which now has over 333,000 likes! Watch the video here just in case you think all this has been exaggerated. Not exactly pleasant working conditions for the poor flight attendant (FA).

2. You have a difficult social life

Another challenge you face is that because of your crazy schedule, you are the one who has to reach out and organize your social life when you are actually on the ground. There is no point in waiting around for friends to call you because they never understand or even try to memorize your schedule which is continually changing anyway.

3. You have a really complicated timetable

Getting up for an early flight could actually mean 1am in the morning! You may have to do long haul flights which inevitably means upsetting your body clock and you have problems with jet lag. You may be on the infamous ‘red eye’ flights and that also means disturbed sleep patterns.

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4. You have to handle the scared passengers

It has been estimated that up to 30% of plane passengers are on the nervous flyers spectrum. A much smaller number will actually have aviophobia and you think that they should be given a refund and told to go by train or ship! But, of course, you are empathic and skilful in dealing with these special cases.

5. You are in the front line if hijackers strike

You have had to go through all that training and you know exactly what to do. This is scary if a terrorist manages to get on board and create havoc. The pilots are okay because they will always remain locked in the cockpit, no matter what happens. You are in the front line and you are responsible for any decisions you take. Nevertheless, you are glad you did that training because you feel more confident.

6. You are the scapegoat

You are the one who gets it when anything goes wrong. It could be flight delays, bad weather, pricing, seat allocation, leg room, tray tables, reclining seats, and the food. Passengers tend to think that you have decided all these things. You are only trying to make their stay on board a pleasant one so you get really angry when they blame you for everything.

7. You did not walk into this job

Yes, passengers think that you just walked into the job and there was not that much competition. You would like to tell them that when Delta advertised 1,000 openings some years back, there were 100,000 applicants! Looks like getting into Harvard is easier than this. You also had to invest time and money in learning another language because that can really increase your chances.

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8. You really had to train hard after you got the job

Passengers who think that the FA is just a glorified server or salesperson is totally wrong. You are responsible for their safety and well-being. That means you had to go through rigorous training as regards emergencies, safety, evacuation and first aid. You wonder how many of them would actually know what a defibrillator is and how it might work to actually save their life.

9. You wish they knew your schedule

I bet that many passengers do not realize the cruel scheduling that you have to put up with. Just imagine a 2 hour working day followed by one of twelve hours. You get to work five days in a row and do a world trip while doing that. Doing six cities in 48 hours is not so unusual. Everybody thinks the job is great as you can stay in luxury hotels and surf on the beach. At the start when you are on reserve status, you cannot even enjoy your 10-15 days leave as you have to be on call and that means you might have to leave at just a few hours’ notice. Many people do not know that reserve status can last a few years in some cases.

10. You get passengers’ germs as a bonus

Dealing with all these people in a small space with recycled air means that flight attendants get exposed to all sorts of viruses, germs and bacteria. Not surprising that the rate of minor illness such as colds and flu in our group is pretty high. There are sick-day policies so you can take sick leave but sometimes you just cannot afford that. If you call in sick at the last minute, you are going to get reduced pay. That makes you feel even worse! But there are other health risks and FAs are more likely to suffer from bronchitis, skin cancer, mental health issues such as depression and anxiety than the general population.

11. You never get to work with the same colleagues

Imagine walking into your office and working with a different set of colleagues every day! This is what most flight attendant have to get used to. One small advantage is that you will never meet that obnoxious colleague again! But you never get to work again with really nice co-worker and that is a shame.

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12. You risk back injuries

When you have to help a passenger to lift an overstuffed carry-on into the overhead bin, you risk putting your back out and you might even have to take time off. Not to mention all the walking you have to do up and down the aisle pushing the heavy beverage cart. You do the cabin every fifteen minutes and that all adds up.

13. You may risk a FAA fine

It may seem unbelievable but if the flight attendant breaks a rule by giving someone a glass of water after the safety demo, they risk a fine of up to $1,100 if a FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) inspector happens to be on board. You often wonder why the FAA does not leave you in peace. You rightly feel that they should charge much heftier fines for those air-rage passengers who disrupt flights and make life hell for everybody on board.

14. You have to keep your emotions under control

You can spot a difficult passenger the moment they step on board. This is the one who will have problems with their carry-on luggage, the seat will not recline because it is on the exit row and of course s/he will not be able to order a snack because they are sold out! You have to make sure that you are not threatening them by your body language, you have to shut up and just listen, you cannot let emotions take over and you have to stick to the facts. You feel great though when you have managed a really difficult passenger well.

15. You hate screaming babies and unruly kids

You know the scene only too well. A passenger rings the call bell because there is a toddler who is kicking their seat. Yes, it is really irritating when a passenger’s seat gets kicked. But when you have to act as a temporary parent, it is very risky. Being the disciplinarian sometimes backfires and the parents get angry. As for screaming babies, the changes in pressurization are causing their ears to hurt, so they cry. But try telling that to the nearby passengers! All you can do is to make sure that the parents have everything they need to calm the baby.

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The next time you work as a FA, pat yourself on the back that you are doing a great job and that very few passengers really know what it is like. You just hope that 95% of them know how to act like a gentleman or a lady.

Featured photo credit: WI: Midwest Airlines flight attendants candlelight vigil July 8, 2008, Milwaukee/ Bernard Pollack via flickr.com

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Robert Locke

Author of Ziger the Tiger Stories, a health enthusiast specializing in relationships, life improvement and mental health.

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