I am going to assume that you are a well put together flight attendant when I ask this question…Can you honestly say that you have never been embarrassed to walk through the terminal with any of your flying partners? You know the ones. They don’t starch their shirts–or worse, they wear “the dress” because they think it doesn’t need to be ironed (even on a 4 day). If they wear a jacket, the elbows are shiny from wear. The shoes have never seen a bottle of polish and they have “cart toe” so bad you’re not even sure what the original color was. Hair is halfway down her back and in desperate need of a comb–or perhaps she’s sporting the “cheerleader” ponytail (complete with whispies) that is just oh-so professional. And don’t even get me started on the ones with the skirt up to THERE and the 4 inch jumpseat heels.
Be assured, I am far from the 115 lb petite beauties of yesteryear. Honestly, I am short and pudgy–but my uniform is always clean and pressed (even on reduced rest layovers), my hair and make-up (the minimum amount) are clean and tidy. My shoes are clean and polished. (I usually block between 100 and 120 hours per month doing domestic–so there’s a lot of mileage on me, but I keep it together.) It doesn’t take that much effort to look professional–and I think that is really what this whole discussion comes down to.
It’s not about being attractive (except maybe to Big Daddy)–many of our fellow US based FAs give the appearance of being haggard and tired and…well, unprofessional. I recently worked a trip with an FA who was a damned good FA–exactly the person you want in the jumpseat with you in an emergency. However, she was an unholy mess in the appearance department–wrinkled dress, scuffed shoes, fly-away hair.
I couldn’t figure out why I was so run-down on this trip until I realized–the PAX asked me for EVERYTHING! She would go through w/ the trash cart and a minute later I’d walk the aisle empty handed and everyone would try to hand me their trash. She would be doing a water walk and PAX would wander back to the galley to get water from me. She is an amazingly warm and outgoing person, but to the PAX she was unapproachable and did not convey confidence-just because of her appearance.
I am not as well put together as I’d like to be, and that’s the honest truth. I’m working on it, though, and it’s because of you, Mary, that I’m working on it. I received your letter a month or so ago and it has haunted me ever since. Whenever I get dressed to go to work I look in the mirror and think of you. I look at my shoes and think of you. I’m not kidding, I’ve been through two pairs of in-flight shoes because of you. My comfortable navy blue Aerosoles, the ones I bought just last month, only lasted five days of flying back and forth from New York to Los Angeles before the dreaded cart toe began to appear. Of course I thought of you. I’m always thinking of you!
CART TOE / HEEL – happens when the leather on the shoe gets worn down from constantly locking and releasing the break on the food or beverage cart during the service and from kicking the cart door shut – Bam! when the service is over.
While I prefer to wear the uniform dress to work, because it’s easier to pack and I don’t have to iron after I hang it up to dry, I do not wear it for four days straight. I haven’t checked the elbows on my navy blue blazer, but I do not believe they’re shiny (gulp.) As far as my hair goes, it is long so I wear it pulled back in a low pony at the nape of my neck. Because it’s naturally curly I tend to get frizzies when I’m flying in and out of the Miami airport. Umm….yikes…do you think maybe we’ve flown together?
As for the short skirt up to THERE and the six inch heels, I hear you Mary, I hear you loud and clear. There’s nothing less attractive than a Cockpit Connie. Will someone please tell these ladies that the Heather Locklear look from Melrose Place went out of style in the early 90’s! Today the sky high heels and long fitted blazer that hits the thigh an inch above the hem of the skirt just looks dated and…well…kind of desperate. Not to mention, I really do not want to see THAT! As Cockpit Connie reaches up to close an open overhead bin. Trust me, I’ve seen it – THAT – several times and every time it gave me nightmares.
You mentioned you fly over 100 hours a month and you still manage to look good. I give you props for that, Mary. I really do. I only fly around 35 hours a month. That means I fly six days straight trying to get as many hours as I can in a week of flying back and forth across the country like a lunatic, and I’m here to tell ya, I don’t feel so great by day four. I’m exhausted. I’ve got dark circles under my eyes. Half of the time I don’t even know whether I’m coming or going. I can’t always remember what passengers want to drink. But I try. I get up an hour before pick up time to do my makeup, curl my hair, and slide into the blue suit. I always drink a ton of coffee and though I may not look as fresh as I did on day one, there’s only so much a flight attendant can do when they’ve been logging in the hours with an eight hour layover in-between trips.
Tell me, Mary, what’s your secret? I need to know!
Now back to messy coworkers. I’ve seen them – the guy who refuses to tuck in his shirt or forgets to wear a belt and the gal whose bun is not only wet, but sits on her head at an angle. But do you truly believe that passengers avoided your coworker, the damn good flight attendant, because she was a mess? Maybe it had more to do with you than her? I know my coworkers who look great can walk down the aisle and no one will ask them for a thing, but the moment I head to the back of the airplane I’m stopped every few rows. My face just says, ask me! Even when I’m not smiling and my hair is frizzy. The same thing happens when I use mass transit or while I’m out walking around a foreign city on vacation. Some people are just more approachable than others. I’m afraid we might be two of those people. And that’s a good thing! I think.
If you have a question email me at Heather DOT Poole AT Weblogsinc DOT com.
Photos courtesy of (doll) Mimihau0507, (blonde flight attendant) Tom Purvess, (male flight attendant) avgapfel