10 Years Later… What Does Being A Flight Attendant Mean To Me?

Today is the day, the day that I’ve been thinking about for — let’s see? — I guess 10 years. 

The day when I have officially been employed as a flight attendant for a decade. I remember back in 2008 saying, “Wow. If I’m still here in 10 years, it will be 2018 and I will be 45 years old.”

I am still a flight attendant and all those other statements are still true.

But what does being a flight attendant mean to me? That’s the question I find myself asking this morning while I sip on my coffee and feel the need to take a nap (it’s 1043a.m.) because I’m lacking sleep from staying up too late last night. No, I wasn’t drinking, or partying — or partaking in a hot MFM threesome — I was researching for my third book.

I complain a lot about being a flight attendant. I think all flight attendants complain about their job. It’s in our DNA. Some days, I wasn’t actually there, but I think the airline industry is about as volatile as Mt. Vesuvius was in 79AD.

But who doesn’t complain about their job? Everyone has to vent about something. I promise that if you stand at a Starbucks counter long enough, you’ll hear some complaining. 

I do not apologize for my bitching and complaining about my job. I’ve always said, when it’s good it’s great, but when it’s bad — IT’S HELL! I challenge any human being to manage 10 years of extensive delays at the gate — we don’t get paid for that — being talked to like we only have three brain cells by airline passengers, and standing in a hotel lobby for three hours because the airline forgot to fax in the paperwork requesting rooms for the Crew after a diversion.

It will get to you. We are only human. It gets your right in the nuts. (Or tits, you decide.)

While I am at it, I’d like to clear up something. This is for all you non-airline people reading this. You know when you’re boarding a flight, the flight attendant does not receive their hourly rate. We are paid $2.00/hr (give or take depending on the airline) during the boarding process. That’s right. I believe waiters receive more compensation — before their tips — than we do lifting up your bags.

But I don’t want to spend this entire time complaining, I’ll be doing enough of that the next time I fly. I want to talk about what it means for me to be a flight attendant. To put on those shiny wings, slap that clip-on tie to my shirt collar, and parade through the airport like I’m part of the George Michael “Freedom” music video.

I totally just called out being an old man in that last sentence.

Even though I complain, I love being a flight attendant. I’m proud to say I am a flight attendant. I enjoy telling the cashier at Trader Joe’s I’m a flight attendant. Or Target. Or anywhere else I pull out my wallet. It’s such a sought-after job, that I don’t take it for granted. When I work with someone who really hates the job (and you can tell when flight attendants HATE their job) I have no qualms about telling them they should move on as quickly as possible. Why waste a decade of your life doing something that makes you miserable?

That’s what marriage is for.  Don’t get upset, that’s just a joke.

Being a flight attendant has changed my life. I have traveled from Australia to Hong Kong and from Taiwan to London. All flying standby and paying basically nothing for my ticket. I’ve also sat in first class aboard: Hawaiian Airlines, Delta, Iceland Air, and a few others. Experiences I would have never afforded if I was a mere mortal. 

And yes, flight attendants are fucking superheroes. 

We deliver babies (Okay, I’ve never done that, but some have and we are trained to do it — so it counts). We take care of you when you are sick. We save you if you are having a heart attack. We throw you out of the airplane if it’s on fire. We hold babies for single mothers and we hold your hand when you are traveling to a funeral. And we do it all while serving cans of Dr. Pepper and unclogging lavatory toilets.

Like I said, fucking superheroes. 

Being a flight attendant has opened up a creative part of me that I never knew existed, writing. Not only have I become a writer, this job has given me the ability to write two books. That alone, makes it’s the best experience of my entire life. 

I’ve met some of the most incredible passengers on the planet. I’ve also had some of the most hateful assholes I’ve ever laid eyes on. But the greatest thing is, I have learned something from each interaction. I’ve had airline passengers who have become my friends (Hi. Ben) and airline passengers I’d run over with my car if they were jaywalking. I’ve worked with flight attendants who have challenged me in good and bad ways and I’ve met pilots who have become great friends. 

What does being a flight attendant mean to me? It means everything. It’s not my identity, but it’s definitely become an extension of myself. It’s helped me grow, mature, and has taught me to have a level of patience I never thought I’d have.

I hope I can write one of these posts when I celebrate my 20th Anniversary, but who I am kidding — I hope to be a successful writer by then. 

P.S. I am also happy to announce that I’ve been a flight attendant for 10 years and I have NEVER received a passenger complaint letter.

Now that’s incredible!