I have given my word to Jacelyn* (not her real name) to allow her to remain anonymous as her contract with the airline she is still working for, does not allow her to air her grievances online. This might only be her side of the story and does not represent the entire airline industry but it does throw some light into what you are getting yourself into if you want to work as an airline crew.
Hello, Jacelyn! Thank you for taking time to talk to me and share your experiences with us.
Thank you, Kally!! I love your website and I try to read as much as I can but it is hard to keep up when you have published so much.
I am an air stewardess with 10 years of experience with two different airlines. I have seen a lot to be cynical and jaded with the industry but that doesn’t mean that I don’t love my job, it just means I now know the good and the bad sides of it. Unlike other occupations, an air stewardess is advertised as glamorous and get to fly anywhere in the world, it is hardly the case here. I just want to let young girls (and boys) know that this is a hard job, a job that can make you cry, homesick and sometimes make you lose sight of who you are.
Tell us more about the glamorous part.
Well, you know the smart uniforms with equally beautifully coiffed ladies with the perfect postures and smiles. Yes, it’s rather a bias industry, although they made improvements over the years in trying not to hire based on looks. When you see a beautiful face, it doesn’t mean that the person is beautiful inside as well. Many of us (I included) can be superficial and catty at times. We’ll never last a normal job for more than a month with our attitudes.
That being said, we stroll along with our leather luggage, smiles and giggles in a pack along the airport pathways, we always know we can turn heads and little girls will always look at us in awe.
But you do get perks on the job, don’t you? Like travel anywhere in the world?
That is so overrated! You might think I’m gloating over my good fortune to be able to travel everywhere. It doesn’t happen right out in the first year. Newbies are always thrown the domestic flights where our allowances are pitiful and we have to fly a couple of trips in a day. The lucky ones get a break and do the long haul after a year. They almost always pick the prettiest ones. Of course, you can always increase your chances if you speak more than one language.
You might think travelling is fun and glamorous when all you want to do whenever you land is to crawl into an unfamiliar bed and nurse your jet lag, in order to be able to perform your job the next day. Some of us do parties, some of us went on a shopping spree but it gets tired after three years into the job. Some of us do grow up after all!
The homesickness? Do you miss home as much?
Yes, don’t get me into that. We missed out on birthdays, special occasions and festivities as well. Usually, it’s the youngest air stewardess and stewards miss the comfort of home. A hotel isn’t the same as your own bed, you know.
And sometimes, we don’t get a break at all when we are back home. We are on standbys which mean no alcohol, no going out in case we get called back when someone is ill. That is quite frequent because it is hard for us physically to be able to be in a cold country one day and in a humid place the next. Airplane food, long flight hours and homesickness don’t help at all.
Can’t you take leave to enjoy your own birthdays?
We get ballot each year to pick our own rest days. That’s in advance for a year. So if you pick a rest day for August in January, you can’t change it if your partner happens to be away. Sure, you can swap with someone else but it is terribly frowned upon. You don’t get into your seniors’ good books if you keep swapping your shifts. Everyone wants to be able to get their off days on their birthdays or celebrate their wedding anniversaries but it is just not possible.
Why do you need to get into your seniors’ good books?
You get assigned to shitty jobs like cleaning the toilet or cleaning a sick child all the time if you piss your seniors off. You can be isolated and ignored throughout the whole flight and back. Words get around pretty fast if you are uncooperative so you get dirty looks for the next few flights you work in. Bullying is pretty common so is blackmailing.
Like I said, I can be catty at times but it is only to protect myself from the bitches. You do get nice colleagues but when the nasty ones ganged up against you, you’ll be so miserable that you’ll want to quit right away. I have seen newbies cry and resign over petty squabbles and total ignorance from the whole airline crew.
You do love your job nonetheless, right?
Of course! You don’t last 10 years without loving some of it. I love that I get to meet people from all over the world, I get to hear their stories. You do meet a lot of interesting people and you are able to tell if someone is feeding you bullshit or they downplaying their status.
First class seats don’t always have the best passengers, sometimes they can be downright nasty on borderline abusive. They think they can get away with anything in first class. I have my fair share of bad come-ons and soliciting by weird passengers. You learned to grow a thick skin, put on your brightest fake smile and reject them nicely when you just want to give those creeps a tight slap. Once, I had a lewd invitation to share his bed in front of his poor wife, I almost want to splash his glass of whiskey in his smug face.
Yes, I do count my blessings that I am still employed, earning a good salary while travelling around the world but I’m no longer a young adventurer at heart. All I want to do is to find a good man and settle down with a kid or two of my own.
About the passengers, you do meet nice ones that leave an impression on you.
I remember I had a nice old lady who gave me her scarf because she says it matches the colour of my eyes. And I do get cute little hugs and kisses from absorbable young passengers that made my day. I love it when someone proposes during the flight although it might sound old and clichè, it still warms your heart when you see the lady teared and say yes.
Will you do this job for another 10 more years?
No way! I’m tired and cynical. I’m planning to throw the towel in a couple of years. Maybe get myself a degree before I figure out what I want to do for the rest of my life.
Many of the flight attendants live for today, meaning they splurge on branded goods and parties. Some of them resigned without a good tidy nest egg and end up working as a secretary or salesperson.
What other jobs can we hold? A common joke around is that we are just high paying on flight waitresses. Many of us do not have degrees and without job experience, why use do we have in the real 9 to 6 desk jobs?
The only saving grace is that we are poised and pretty. Too old to become a model, too young to retire. We don’t know our Excel from our PowerPoint. So many girls will want to land themselves a wealthy fish before they put their feet firmly on the ground for good. And many of them I heard don’t have good marriages.
I want more than that in life. I want to be more than just a pretty doll. The wise ones are those who scrimp and save when they quit flying, they usually set up their own businesses from the network they gather throughout the years. Those are the ones I look up to.
Thank you for sharing with us, Jacelyn. Any last advice before you go?
If you really love travelling and meeting new people, this job will give you plenty of opportunities to do so. You need to be tough to survive. You do get jaded with so many hypocrites around you, yourself included. It’s easy to lose sight of what’s important. I’ll say make an exit plan, have fun for a few years, save your money and learn a new skill.
Thank you, Kally, for having me on MiddleMe. I hope by sharing this, many youths will learn from my experiences.
Best things in life are meant to be shared, start spreading MiddleMe around, after all, sharing is caring.