Posted September 17, 2008 by Zak Patten
We in the travel media often criticize the airlines' policies, from checked-bag fees to the end of free onboard food. But we rarely take the time to consider those who have to enforce said policies. Well no more. Now that New York Times reporter Michelle Higgins has gone undercover as an American Airlines flight attendant—and lived to tell her story—it's time we all paid a little attention to what Higgins sees as possibly the least enviable and most stressful occupation of our time.
As this intrepid journalist points out, things weren't always so dire for the workers formerly known as "stewardesses." Back in the 60s, a flight attendant's career was filled with the glamour of exciting destinations, the prestige of flight (not everyone could afford a ticket when Southwest was still just a regional carrier), and the allure of "life in the air as a nonstop party."
Higgins' account of her short stint (just two days) as a crew member on American's New York-Dallas route is equal parts hilarious and depressing. The advice she gets from one fellow flight attendant to either water down a drunk passenger's drinks or make up a rule such as “I can only sell you one drink an hour" brings a smile to one's face, but tales of 4:00 a.m. wake-up calls, screaming toddlers, and obnoxiously drunk first-class flyers are sobering (pun intended). And when reading that "The average flight attendant salary today is around $33,500 a year," my sympathy level goes way up.
What about you? Do you feel for someone who has to "tell people that a two-and-a-half-foot-deep bag will not fit in a one-and-a-half-foot hole,” or do you think flight attendants need to adjust their attitudes in a more customer-friendly direction? Please let me know by leaving a comment below.
(Photo: The New York Times)
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