The Postmodern Flight Attendant in the Friendly Skies


Screen shot 2022-02-28 at 11.31.55 AM.pngOver the long years of traveling oversees myself, I have met with one of the most enthusiastic and authentic flight attendants possible. My interest in conversing with Kate was both to get to know her and to get a sense of what her profession meant to her. We laughed almost all the way through this conversation. Nevertheless, in her job, Kate helps willingly and passionately all those who fly under her watch, not because she has to, but because "she was born that way".

How did you get interested in this field?

Saw that they were hiring and applied for it. I always wanted to travel the world; it was a dream of mine. This was an opportunity.

Did you always want to become an air flight attendant?

I thought about it from time to time. I used to day dream about it because when I used to live in Montreal, I always used to see them at metro Lionel Groux. I just dreamt about it every now and then. So yeah it did cross my mind before. I used to work for the bank it paid more but this job is much better. My plan was to collect money while working at the bank and go to the destinations I had in mind.

So you didn't always dream of becoming an attendant?

No of course not! [chuckles] I did always want to go explore the world, but never thought it would be this way. Although I am glad it turned out so.

What is the process you had to go through to get this job?

First you have to apply only if they are hiring. My information is valid only in Canada I don't know about others. You go through three interviews, a medical and a drug exam. There is an intense two months training. You are on probation for six months once you start working, if you mess up you are fired. And after that you are in for life.

Don't they have specifications?

No I think u have to be 5'1" so you can close the cabinet head. Not like Panam [ US. TV series about flight attendants] in the 1950s. I worked with ladies super short. Pretty much anyone should be able to do it. I know Panam all girls weigh about 50lbs or something, if you were bigger than wanted waist measurements they would send you home to lose weight. They don't do that anymore. Don't even know if they ever did that in real life.

Would you say it is important to have contacts to get a job like this?

No not at all. I didn't know anyone. I had a friend but he didn't help out. 

Tell me about a day at work.

So you basically get to the gate from where the flight will take off.  You never know who you are going to work with. It's always new people, you only find out who they are after showing up at the gate. Just imagine they are all strangers you have never worked with before. Get on the plane, the in-charge flight attendant (like the boss) briefs everyone and we all choose positions. Depending on how long the flight is we start with drink service or give food right away. Once service is done, all the attendants just hang out and eat food. But everyone usually gets along really fast, I guess because we all have similar experiences.  

Is that all there is to it then?

I guess that's really the most there is to do. Like we just chill at the back and eat food. Maybe gossip every now and then. Talk about the best places we have seen and stuff.

In your opinion, what is the best advantage associated with this job?

Best advantage is being able to travel and getting paid at the same time. It's like shooting two apples with one stone. I can't pick only one benefit like I love the flexible schedule and the life style. You spend your whole life traveling.  My family gets to benefit too, which is cool. I also get to eat a lot of food on air, it's fantastic! The places I get to travel... seriously I am living my dream.

What kind of people do you meet with?

So many different kinds of people from all over. Some old people taking the last flight of their lives. I saw an omish girl the other day. I see pregnant people. I did an L.A. flight and everyone [flight attendants] knows they will be strange people. They ring the bell thinking you are their slave. Very demanding. They are little princesses and Vancouver is like that too, very demanding. Sometimes they ask you to come pick up small things, put their tray away. But if you go to Halifax some of them are super friendly. You start to get a sense of what type of people live where.

Do you keep in touch with them?

With passengers? No I don't. I haven't. Some man gave me his phone number... Some older man gave it to the in flight person to give it to the tall girl (me) because she is good with kids but there were no kids.

That's awkward.

I was hoping I wouldn't see him after.

What would the people you work with think of this?

We just laugh it off. The back cabinet is like a back street alley where we talk it off. You know like at a coffee shop when a weird customer leaves they would just talk about them. It's the same thing.

Where have you travelled to while at work?

I've been to London about 10 times. Barcelona, had a 52 hour lay-over, been to Munich, Japan...  I used to live in London so I still have friends there; whenever I go I always go out with them. There's like San Francisco and New York.

Have you been to Australia?

No, because I'm based on flights in Toronto I could never go there because those flights are based in Vancouver.

Which place was the best?

Honestly it really depends on so many factors. Say when I had a lay-over like in Orlando or Florida I was working with a super nice crew, it was warm so we all agreed to go out; I had a good time. Not like when I went to Japan: the crew sucked so I couldn't really enjoy Japan as much as I wanted to. It is such a great place. But I want to go back.

What about culture, did you observe anything different?

I really liked Japan, it's such a different culture; people are so polite. I like to try different foods in all the countries I go to and the craziest thing I've had was chicken hearts in Japan. That was exciting. In Munich people spoke in English they were helpful, but people were drunk on Oktoberfest [laughing] everyone was super nice though. It was the most fun I had. In Barcelona people didn't speak English at all. They were all Spanish thank God I was with someone who spoke Spanish. We took a tour bus together to see around, went out for dinner with other members, but seriously if I wasn't with her I would've been lost. I actually went out when she went to sleep to get food, and I was just pointing out trying to explain what I wanted: people thought I was crazy.

Would you recommend this job to other people?

Yeah I definitely would. If you feel like a person who doesn't feel like having a 9 to 5 job and not super down in school, like those who would be working crappy jobs. If you are the type who go to work and just wait for the week end, you should consider this job. It's for people who are free spirited and who don't conform.

Did you ever have an emergency on air?

I have not, knock on wood right now. I don't want one! I had some one feel sick. Had people almost fight once and that's it. I know people, like I've heard stories about some crazy passenger yelling super homophobic things to attendants, there were so many gay attendants. The guy was so drunk so they just told him 'we are going to de-plane you'. He was de-planed and didn't get back his ticket money. His friends were still on board and they didn't say a word.

Were you nervous when you first started?

O my god! I couldn't eat or sleep, I was so nervous. I was living with people that I was training with. We were all so lost, in training they teach security but they don't tell you anything else. Like what codes to use for gates. I used to tell everyone that I'm new when I would make mistake. It took me four months to not be super nervous when I fly.

Are you flying tomorrow?

Actually I am on call right now. It is the most spontaneous thing ever.

Well, I want to thank you very much for taking the time and talking with me, would have any closing remarks?

Umm... to infinity and beyond!?


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