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15 Things Only Flight Attendants Would Understand

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

More by this author

Robert Locke

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

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Last Updated on March 29, 2021

5 Types of Horrible Bosses and How to Beat Them All

5 Types of Horrible Bosses and How to Beat Them All

When I left university I took a job immediately, I had been lucky as I had spent a year earning almost nothing as an intern so I was offered a role. On my first day I found that I had not been allocated a desk, there was no one to greet me so I was left for some hours ignored. I happened to snipe about this to another employee at the coffee machine two things happened. The first was that the person I had complained to was my new manager’s wife, and the second was, in his own words, ‘that he would come down on me like a ton of bricks if I crossed him…’

What a great start to a job! I had moved to a new city, and had been at work for less than a morning when I had my first run in with the first style of bad manager. I didn’t stay long enough to find out what Mr Agressive would do next. Bad managers are a major issue. Research from Approved Index shows that more than four in ten employees (42%) state that they have previously quit a job because of a bad manager.

The Dream Type Of Manager

My best manager was a total opposite. A man who had been the head of the UK tax system and was working his retirement running a company I was a very junior and green employee for. I made a stupid mistake, one which cost a lot of time and money and I felt I was going to be sacked without doubt.

I was nervous, beating myself up about what I had done, what would happen. At the end of the day I was called to his office, he had made me wait and I had spent that day talking to other employees, trying to understand where I had gone wrong. It had been a simple mistyped line of code which sent a massive print job out totally wrong. I learn how I should have done it and I fretted.

My boss asked me to step into his office, he asked me to sit down. “Do you know what you did?” I babbled, yes, I had been stupid, I had not double-checked or asked for advice when I was doing something I had not really understood. It was totally my fault. He paused. “Will you do that again?” Of course I told him I would not, I would always double check, ask for help and not try to be so clever when I was not!

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“Okay…”

That was it. I paused and asked, should I clear my desk. He smiled. “You have learnt a valuable lesson, I can be sure that you will never make a mistake like that again. Why would I want to get rid of an employee who knows that?”

I stayed with that company for many years, the way I was treated was a real object lesson in good management. Sadly, far too many poor managers exist out there.

The Complete Catalogue of Bad Managers

The Bully

My first boss fitted into the classic bully class. This is so often the ‘old school’ management by power style. I encountered this style again in the retail sector where one manager felt the only way to get the best from staff was to bawl and yell.

However, like so many bullies you will often find that this can be someone who either knows no better or is under stress and they are themselves running scared of the situation they have found themselves in.

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The Invisible Boss

This can either present itself as management from afar (usually the golf course or ‘important meetings) or just a boss who is too busy being important to deal with their staff.

It can feel refreshing as you will often have almost total freedom with your manager taking little or no interest in your activities, however you will soon find that you also lack the support that a good manager will provide. Without direction you may feel you are doing well just to find that you are not delivering against expectations you were not told about and suddenly it is all your fault.

The Micro Manager

The frustration of having a manager who feels the need to be involved in everything you do. The polar opposite to the Invisible Boss you will feel that there is no trust in your work as they will want to meddle in everything you do.

Dealing with the micro-manager can be difficult. Often their management style comes from their own insecurity. You can try confronting them, tell them that you can do your job however in many cases this will not succeed and can in fact make things worse.

The Over Promoted Boss

The Over promoted boss categorises someone who has no idea. They have found themselves in a management position through service, family or some corporate mystery. They are people who are not only highly unqualified to be managers they will generally be unable to do even your job.

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You can find yourself persistently frustrated by the situation you are in, however it can seem impossible to get out without handing over your resignation.

The Credit Stealer

The credit stealer is the boss who will never publically acknowledge the work you do. You will put in the extra hours working on a project and you know that, in the ‘big meeting’ it will be your credit stealing boss who will take all of the credit!

Again it is demoralising, you see all of the credit for your labour being stolen and this can often lead to good employees looking for new careers.

3 Essential Ways to Work (Cope) with Bad Managers

Whatever type of bad boss you have there are certain things that you can do to ensure that you get the recognition and protection you require to not only remain sane but to also build your career.

1. Keep evidence

Whether it is incidents with the bully or examples of projects you have completed with the credit stealer you will always be well served to keep notes and supporting evidence for projects you are working on.

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Buy your own notebook and ensure that you are always making notes, it becomes a habit and a very useful one as you have a constant reminder as well as somewhere to explore ideas.

Importantly, if you do have to go to HR or stand-up for yourself you will have clear records! Also, don’t always trust that corporate servers or emails will always be available or not tampered with. Keep your own content.

2. Hold regular meetings

Ensure that you make time for regular meetings with your boss. This is especially useful for the over-promoted or the invisible boss to allow you to ‘manage upwards’. Take charge where you can to set your objectives and use these meetings to set clear objectives and document the status of your work.

3. Stand your ground, but be ready to jump…

Remember that you don’t have to put up with poor management. If you have issues you should face them with your boss, maybe they do not know that they are coming across in a bad way.

However, be ready to recognise if the situation is not going to change. If that is the case, keep your head down and get working on polishing your CV! If it isn’t working, there will be something better out there for you!

Good luck!

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