A cursory look at life as a flight attendant
Text & Images: Chloe Palang
I AM sure anyone would tell you in a heartbeat that the flight attendant life, the #crewlife if you must, is synonymous to ultimate travel goals. On the other hand, if you Google hard enough, you’ll also find that there are more “ows” than “wows” to the job. But I won’t play Capt. Obvious here. Instead, I’m sharing a few insights about life on and off the ground as a flight attendant.
Social media goals
Marketing yourself in this day and age is one upload away. And there is nothing more dynamic than a feed with travel. A flight attendant can stay in different cities more than three times a month (and if she chooses to, she can spend days off in yet another city). Winter in Paris, then a bikini shot in the Maldives. Dinner in London, then a “tuktuk” ride in India in 10 days. Unreal. But truly #ATM.
What day is it?
Ever since I started flying, I can no longer relate to memes about looking forward to weekends. What is a weekend anyway? We look at the calendar by dates, not by days and we definitely don’t follow holidays. Today isn’t rest day Sunday; today I’m flying to Cairo and back. This actually explains why I have NEVER seen a TGIF post from the crew, ever. Unless of course we’re thanking God for fries and not Friday.
International snacking and shopping
When flight attendants bring snacks and share them on board, you’re sure to get a variety of answers to “Where did you get this?” I’m pretty simple, so I usually expect a certain supermarket as response, and yet I always get, “Oh this? London,” or “I got this really cheap in New York,” if not, “I might buy more of this in Paris.” The really nice ones say, “I have Munich next week, I can buy for you,” and the list goes on. So when I am offered snacks by my colleagues I usually savor it because I am 100 percent sure they got it from somewhere else.
‘I would cross time zones for you’
True story: I operated a flight from London to Riyadh, unpacked and repacked, flew from Riyadh to Dubai, from Dubai to Hong Kong, and from Hong Kong to Cebu. Time is of the essence in traveling (especially traveling home), which is why the flight that gets you home the soonest is key — crossing time zones is a small price to pay, especially when you do it for a living.
Special lanes, priority handling
First to board the plane, and first to step out the airport exit. After spending more than six hours in the aircraft, wide awake and moving (plus counting the hours during preparation, briefing and security check), special lanes become my best friend. Some think this is privilege, but really, I think it is the least that can be done before someone actually collapses.
We all love to have connections. As a flight attendant, I have made good friends with ladies who would gladly welcome me in Luxor, Egypt, beautiful Kashmir and Jordan, among others. And listening to them speak of their own countries with pride is one of the best forms of learning.
Paid to be pretty
Being a flight attendant is like perpetual pageantry. I’ve already gotten over the awkwardness of passengers staring at you as you pour them coffee and as you bend slightly forward to serve them their meals with their faces just a few inches away from you. No wonder hiring officers rigidly check you for “immaculate grooming.”
For a lover of culture like myself, the life of a flight attendant takes you to a variety of cultural experiences both awe inspiring and interesting. It is one thing to experience culture on ground and an entirely different thing in the aircraft. Stereotyping and racism, although not openly acknowledged, is a practice in the industry. This is why some flight attendants avoid certain destinations not because of THE destination, but because of people heading there. Regardless, when you are immersed in an environment that challenges your idea of comfort, you are sure there is something to be learned.
I always thought the misunderstood glamour of the flight attendant life is because flight attendants are the best in masking the realities of their profession. And now it has become what it was always meant to look like: a dream job (for a lot).
I wouldn’t need to tell you of the struggles we endure on a daily basis — only look at those globe-trotting photos, four-star hotel shots, or OOTDs in front of international landmarks, and you will see that it takes a lot of sparkle to cover up such dullness.
Don’t be fooled, but be fooled. The same illusion that everyone sees is the same illusion we live for everyday.