After our interview with a commercial airline pilot, it seemed a good idea to get the perspective of another vital member of an aircraft’s crew. Skyscanner speaks to Richard, a former flight attendant with a major British carrier.
Is it a glamorous job or not?
The flying part isn’t glamorous in the slightest – it’s hard work and you have permanent jet-lag. However, on the flip-side, when you get to spend your layovers in five star hotels in interesting and exciting places all over the world, then yes, it certainly had its moments.
But you get lots of time off don’t you?
For safety reasons, there are strict regulations as to how many hours you can work, so I was probably flying for two weeks out of every month.
You mention safety – I assume this is a key aspect of your training?
Very much so. As well as the passenger comfort and promoting the airline’s reputation, our key role was keeping our passengers safe.
So cabin crew will remain cool, calm and collected in an emergency then?
I’d like to think I would have done, but you can never tell till it happens. I certainly know of some of my colleagues who between them were scared of going down the emergency slides, got claustrophobia in the smoke hoods and some could barely swim.
On my first flight, I was sitting next to the over-wing emergency exits with a similarly inexperienced crew-member on the other side of the plane, and we both realised more or less simultaneously, that neither of us had the first clue how to the open the doors. Our training planes had been rather different but fortunately, our ignorance wasn’t tested.
Did you often encounter troublesome passengers?
Very infrequently. In my experience, it is alcohol which causes the most problems on planes. I did have to restrain a drunk passenger once, employing the highly technical martial art technique of sitting on him and shouting for help.
Any tricks for placating the enthusiastic boozer?
Putting mixers in first and floating a splash of alcohol on top so the first mouthful feels like a deceptively strong drink. To be honest, it wasn’t often an issue since the people that drink heavily tend to fall asleep after a while.
Any hairy moments when flying?
Not as cabin crew, no. All the oxygen masks fell out during one flight after the First Officer made a mistake, and the ground crew in Lusaka couldn’t get them back in so we had to fly for hours with these things dangling around. The only other nervy moments were when Captains forgot how many “dings” on the intercom meant what. We used to get some who would inadvertently signal that there was a major incident onboard the plane, and that would always get the heart-rate going a little.
Do you get to choose which part of the plane you work in?
This usually comes down to seniority – the more senior you are, the first pick you get.
I assume First Class with the supermodels and A-listers is where everyone wants to be and not with us plebs at the back?
Yes and no. First Class passengers were sometimes extremely demanding since they (or more likely their company) had paid a lot of money for the ticket, and they were determined to get their money’s worth. Economy class passengers on long haul flights were generally quite a cheerful bunch since they were resigned to their fate.
Do cabin crew do any of the cooking onboard or is it all pre-prepared food which is reheated?
Mostly it was the latter but we did make the odd thing. Scrambled eggs in First Class were made to order and I can recommend adding champagne to make them light and fluffy. It never occurred to me that some people do not drink alcohol for health or religious reason.
Are there any good perks to being cabin crew?
We sometimes got presents from First Class passengers – a member of the Saudi Royal Family gave us all Rolexes for example. I was provided with a chauffeur to show me around by a super-rich Ghanaian chap whilst he was busy in two days of meetings.
Another time, a few of us were also invited to the estate of a Venezuelan businessman whilst we had a stop over. I also remember a member of cabin crew being given flying lessons by the Captain as they flew an empty plane back to the UK. It always fills me joy to look upwards and wonder if the plane going past is being flown by someone with a license.
Skyscanner’s Top 5 Flight Attendant Videos
1. Well shizzle my nizzle – in at number one it’s “MC David” from Southwest Airlines with the “safety briefing rap”. Word.
2. This hostess sees fit to announce that if you can’t do up your seatbelt – “you’re a moron”. A touch harsh, but she’s probably right.
3. Everything is “awesome” with another one of the Southwest Airline’s flight attendants who gives us a little country ditty:
4. Spicing up the announcements with a bit of comedy:
5. This poor female air hostess gets a mention purely for coping so professionally with the drunken idiot of a passenger who insists on shouting throughout the entire safety demonstration. Had it been me – he would have been kicked off pronto: