Galley Gossip: Why business class is the most junior position on the airplane (Plus a chance to win the book The Go-Giver)

I like working in business class. What I like even more are the other flight attendants who enjoy working in business. Call me crazy, but I even like business class passengers. I do!

What I find interesting about business class passengers is that the majority of them find it hard to believe that the cabin they prefer to sit in is the cabin that goes the most junior when it comes to company seniority at my airline. Which tells you a little something about business class, or shall I say the passenger who sits in business class, as well as the business class flight attendant.

Sure there are only thirty passengers seated in business class on the 767 (three class aircraft), but haven’t you noticed just how much harder the flight attendants in that cabin work compared to the flight attendants in coach and first class during the five hour flight from New York to whatever west coast city you’re flying to? Take a look next time. It’s unbelievable. Just ask those poor passengers who got stuck sitting next to the business class galley where we park our drink carts and salad carts and meal carts and dessert carts. The service is long and elaborate and the passengers can be just a tad bit difficult at times, making that never ending service take even longer than it should. There’s nothing like seeing your fellow crew members relaxing on their jump seats when you’re just pulling up the cart to the front of the cabin to begin the salad service.

After thirteen years of flying, not only do I get stuck working the most junior cabin, I hold the most junior position in the junior cabin on the 767. Okay now face the cockpit and look at the aisle on the left hand side of the airplane, and that’s where you’ll find me. Don’t tell me you’ve never noticed that the flight attendant working on the left hand side (ME!) is much slower than the one on the right?

Here’s why…

1. Boarding. What flight attendant doesn’t appreciate a smooth boarding? Remember, boarding is the most hectic time of the flight for a flight attendant, especially a business class flight attendant who has to hang up all those black and blue coats in that teeny tiny closet. When working on an aircraft with two aisles, passengers tend to use the first aisle they come to when trying to get to their seat. Unless there’s a good “greeter” standing at the aircraft door directing the passengers to correct side of the airplane, all those passengers coming down that same aisle make it difficult for the flight attendant working on the left side to hang those coats the business class passengers are impatiently holding up. Forget about re-seating passengers, delivering pre-departure drinks, helping with luggage, and answering questions about connecting flights until everyone is seated and the aircraft is about to back away from the gate. And no, Sir, I can not swim upstream to hang that coat you are still shaking at me. Sorry, you’re just going to sit down and wait!

2. Jumpseat – The lucky flight attendant working on the left hand side of business class gets to sit smack dab in the middle of the aisle surrounded by passengers, passengers who are not usually very happy to be there, while strapped into an uncomfortable foldout jumpseat on takeoff. Trust me when I tell you that this is not where you want to be for any length of time, especially if there is turbulence in the forecast and the Captain has asked the flight attendants to stay seated a little while longer until we find that smooth and comfortable cruising altitude. Because when turbulance happens, all eyes are on me, and those bugged out eyes are analyzing my every move, which makes me a little nervous, which is why I just end up staring at the floor. That’s how I know that carpet is filthy, so if I were you I’d put those shoes back on!

3. Trash compartment. Flight attendants pick up a lot of trash onboard the aircraft. When there’s a lot of trash, you need a place to stow the trash, and that place in business class happens to be on the right side of the galley. This means the flight attendant working on the left side often times gets stuck holding the trash, trying to figure out how, exactly, to get across to the other side of the galley when there are two flight attendants busy working in the confined space. Have you seen how small that galley is? And yes, that is the exact reason why you’re still waiting on your drink, because I’m still holding your trash.

4. Oven. The oven is located on the left hand side of the galley, so the flight attendant working that side is blocked by a hot oven door that swings open and shut constantly throughout the flight. That is another reason why the flight attendant is still standing in the aisle with a silver tray piled high with dirty glasses, patiently waiting to get into the busy galley where everything is located, as the flight attendant on the other side runs up and down the aisle collecting trash, replenishing drinks, and handing out meals, while the passengers on the left side watch the flight attendant on the right side and think to themselves, where’s that lazy flight attendant on my side, I need a drink!

The first month I held coach on a widebody I thought it was a fluke. But oh how I took full advantage of that fluke, enjoying every single relaxing minute of it. The second month I held coach I chalked it up to summer travel. Our senior flight attendants have a tendency to take the summer off. And then something strange happened. I held coach for a third consecutive month, not a summer month, and while I was glad to be able to hold it (for dropping purposes), I had begun to get a little bored. I know, even I couldn’t believe it. But I actually found myself missing the hustle and bustle of business class as I sat on the jumpseat in the back of coach after a quick and easy beverage service.

There’s something to be said of being proud of your job, which is directly related to the kind of service you provide. At least I think so. Years ago when I flew international routes, I felt proud to be a flight attendant. There are times I even feel proud when I work in business class on the domestic trips. However, I don’t feel so proud when I run out of food in coach, which causes me to constantly apologize because we don’t have this and we don’t have that to a flight full of miserably cramped passengers. It’s not my fault!

Also, there’s something kind of nice about actually getting to know the passengers I serve, even the demanding ones, which is something that does not happen very often in coach. I don’t know why. I try. All of this made me wonder, am I a “Go-Giver”? I’ve been reading The Go Giver: A Little Story About A Powerful Business Idea, a book about how to achieve success by changing your focus from getting to giving, by putting others interests first, which ultimately leads to unexpected returns that lead to a successful and filled life.

According to the book, there are the five laws of stratospheric success…

  1. The Law of Value: Your true worth is determined by how much more you give in value than you take in payment.
  2. The Law of Compensation: Your income is determined by how many people you serve and how well you serve them.
  3. The Law of Influence: Your influence is determined by how abundantly you place other people’s interests first.
  4. The Law of Authenticity: The most valuable gift you have to offer is yourself.
  5. The Law of Receptivity: The key to effective giving is to stay open to receiving.

The five laws of stratospheric success actually describes just about every flight attendant I know, but it especially describes the flight attendants who actually enjoy working in the premium cabins. What a lot of people don’t know is just how successful a lot of flight attendants truly are. Sure most of the time they’re just serving drinks on the airplane, but ask them what they do when they’re not standing behind the two hundred pound beverage cart and you might be pleasantly surprised.

Just last week I flew with a flight attendant who only flies on the weekends because during the week he’s a psychiatrist at a hospital in New York. Though I’ve never met the man, there’s a doctor, a general practitioner, who works part time as a flight attendant when he’s not dealing with the sick on the ground. I know (and love) a flight attendant who owns a very successful event planning company, planning parties for well known celebrities. And what better place to find fantastic help for those parties than on the airplane? Of course we have tons of cops and nurses, as well as a few actors and published authors, and a couple musicians, and quite a few jewelry designers. I could go on and on. So the next time you’re on a flight and feeling a little bored, try getting to know your flight attendant. We’re actually a very interesting group.

Do you know a Go-Giver? I’d love to hear all about it.

Post a comment (any comment) by Friday, November 17, by 5pm and you’ll have a chance to win a copy of the book The Go-Giver: A Little Story About A Powerful Business Idea, by Bob Burg and John David Mann. Two winners will be chosen. Regardless of who you are and what you do to earn money, there is something for everyone to learn in this book. The principles taught will not only move you forward in business, but also in your personal life. Good Luck!

  • To enter, simply leave a comment below.
  • The comment must be left before Friday, November 14, 2008 at 5pm Eastern time
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  • Two Grand Prize Winners will receive a free copy of The Go-Giver: A Little Story About A Powerful Business Idea, by Bob Burg and John David Mann.
  • Open to legal residents of the 50 United States and the District of Columbia who are 18 and older.
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Photo courtesy of: (passengers seated in business) Garyhymes, (flight attendant in the galley) Irishflyguy, (flight attendants on the jumpseat) Re-ality