Galley Gossip: In Defense Of Old And Weary Flight Attendants

Wouldn’t it be nice to be served by flight attendants that are actually excited to come to work? Yes, safety training is important. But there is no reason to believe that a fit and alert 29-year-old should perform less safely in an emergency than a weary, overweight 60-year-old.” –Bill Frezza, Forbes.com

If you want to talk safety, Bill, let’s talk safety. But what’s with using “weary” and “overweight” to describe 60-year-old flight attendants? Maybe the point you were trying to make in your article about airline bankruptcy is that new labor is cheap labor. What you’ve seem to have forgotten is times have changed over the last thirty years and some airlines now deliberately hire older people in an effort to save money on retirement and pensions. And did you know new flight attendants start out making between $14,000-18,000 in the first year? Each year we’re given an across-the-board raise with most flight attendants maxing out around the 13-year mark. Flight attendants don’t cost the airlines half as much as the airlines would love the flying public to believe.

Going back to safety, Bill, let’s ask the passengers on board US Airways flight 1549 how they felt about the crew who evacuated a plane full of 150-plus passengers after the aircraft ditched into the Hudson River. The entire crew of the “Miracle on the Hudson” (including Captain Sullenberger) was over 50, leaning closer to 60. I’d say they did a wonderful job of getting passengers out safely. Personally, I’d be more concerned with my fellow passengers moving quickly than I would be about flight attendants of any age – after all, we are only allowed to work if we can pass a yearly recurrent training program. Passengers just have to buy a ticket.

Now, as for being excited to come to work, it’s true that sometimes it’s hard to love passengers who verbalize how miserable they feel about flying, especially when these same passengers go on to wonder why we aren’t younger and prettier. Last time I checked, flight attendants were people, too. I know it’s hard to believe but we, too, are allowed to grow old just like passengers. I’m talking to you, Bill!

But Bill is not alone.Chicago Sun-Times columnist Joe Crowley one-upped Bill with a few sexist tweets about flight attendants, female pilots and pretty much women in general after he became upset that his flight was delayed due to the crew being illegal to work (apparently he and Bill have differing feelings on weary flight attendants). He tweeted something snarky about the flight attendants’ mandatory crew rest followed by, “I’m more likely to see a Squatch before I see a hot flight attendant. Then again, I think the airlines are hiring Squatch’s to do that job.” Wait, it gets better. He added, “Chick pilot. Should I be OK with that or am I just a sexist caveman?”

I’m going to have to go with sexist caveman. Of course Cowardly – er, I mean Cowley, deleted his twitter account soon after he got into it with a female journalist over the comments.

In my book, “Cruising Attitude,” I mention that ageism is not only alive and well at 30,000 feet but those who still hold these outdated beliefs have no problem expressing them to the very people they’re talking about. Once, right after I told a passenger that my mother was also a flight attendant (she’s “junior” to me, meaning she started flying AFTER I became a flight attendant), he informed me he found it unsettling to stare at postmenopausal women pushing beverage carts for three hours – as if buying an airline ticket entitled him to eye candy. Of course, he wasn’t much to look at either. But I’d take nice, thoughtful passengers over good-looking, younger ones any day!

Bill wraps up his outdated rant against flight attendants with this: “Take a good look at the superannuated attendants next time you board a legacy airline. They are as tired of flying as those of us that have been doing it for thirty years, but it’s the customers who pay the price.”

Maybe it’s the recession, because people always find this one tough to believe, but it’s the customers who are NOT paying the price, since ticket prices are cheaper than they were twenty years ago. This is why service has gone downhill. This is also why there are less flight attendants on board to help passengers. And if I or one of my more senior colleagues looks tired or weary, I apologize. Keep in mind it might have something to do with the airlines cutting back to save money. They’ve decreased my layover time in an effort to save money on hotels. Most domestic layovers average 9-10 hours these days. Add a delay and it’s 8 hours behind the locked door. That’s barely enough time to eat, sleep AND shower. Personally I think it should be illegal to work flights that are longer than our layovers, but hey, that’s me. What do I know?

[photos courtesy of santheo and alexindigo]

Video of the Day: Southwest hotpants

We came across this Southwest Airlines ad from 1972 and, well, we’re pretty speechless. It’s simple and to the point.

Remember what it was like before Southwest Airlines? You didn’t have hostesses in hotpants. Remember?

No wonder Southwest Airlines doesn’t charge to check bags. Luggage doesn’t take up much space when your clothing is that small.

Galley Gossip: Flight attendant interview – The pros and cons of speaking a second language and how it affects reserve

Dear Heather, I am hoping to become a flight attendant soon (have a face to face interview next week!) and have a question about reserve status. I speak Japanese fluently and was wondering how different things are for flight attendants who speak a different language. Are they on reserve for the same amount of time? Is anything different? – Natasha

For the first time in history being a flight attendant is considered a profession, not just a job. Fewer flight attendants are quitting, turnover is not as high as it once was, and competition to become a flight attendant has gotten fierce. Ninety-six percent of people who apply to become a flight attendant do not get a call back. In December of 2010 Delta Airlines received more than 100,000 applications after announcing they had an opening for 1,000 flight attendants. Even though it is not a requirement to have a college degree, only the most qualified applicants are hired. Being able to speak a second language will greatly improve your chance!

The only thing that affects reserve status is company seniority (class hire date). Seniority is assigned by date of birth within each training class. This means the oldest classmate will become the most senior flight attendant in your class. Seniority is everything at an airline, and I mean everything! It determines whether you’ll work holidays, weekends and when, if ever, you’ll be off reserve. So it’s important to accept the earliest training date offered.

While speaking another language doesn’t affect how long you’ll serve reserve, it will have an impact on your flying career.

PROS

1. MORE MONEY. “Speakers” earn more per hour than non-speakers. Unfortunately it’s only a few dollars on top of what a regular flight attendant is paid. Remember most flight attendants make between fourteen to eighteen thousand a year the first year on the job, so every dollar counts.2. GOOD TRIPS. Speakers on reserve are assigned trips to foreign countries where people speak their language. No offense to cities like Phoenix, Pittsburgh or Portland, but a layover in Paris is just a tad bit more desirable. Not just because it’s a foreign city with exciting things to do and see, but because international routes pay more per hour (on top of speaker pay).

3. DAYS OFF. An international flight usually ranges between eight to fourteen hours, while domestic flights rarely go over six hours. Because flight attendants are paid for flight hours only – all that time we spend on the ground is not considered flying time, which means the flight attendant greeting you at the boarding door is not being paid – it takes domestic flight attendants a lot longer to get in their hours each month. Flight attendants who work international routes work what is considered “high-time” trips and high-time trips equate to more days off.

CONS

4. BAD TRIPS. Speakers get what is called “bid denied”. What this means is they get stuck working the same trip until they have enough seniority to hold something else. I know a number of speakers who became so tired of working the same route week after week, month after month, year after year, they chose to drop their language qualification altogether. In the beginning of ones flying career, a thirty-six hour layover in Paris might sound great, but even Paris gets old after awhile.

5. LESS FLEXIBILITY: The best thing about being a flight attendant is the flexible lifestyle. Because we’re paid only for the hours we work, we’re free to manipulate our schedules however we like. We can work high-time one month and not at all the next month. We can also “back up” our trips. Most flight attendants are scheduled a few days off between each trip. By trading trips we’re able to adjust our schedules so that we can fly several trips in a row in order to get a big chunk of days off to go on vacation or just hang out at home. Speakers have a harder time doing this because they can only trade, drop, and swap with another speaker that has the same qualifications.

6. PROBLEM FLIGHTS: On domestic routes problem passengers have no trouble letting us know what’s wrong. At my airline international routes are only required to be staffed with one speaker per cabin. If we don’t speak the language, we have no idea there’s a problem or if we do know there’s a problem, we have no idea what the problem is, and the flight goes on as peacefully as it had been. Unfortunately those who do speak the language get stuck handling all the problems.

Photo courtesy of Dmytrock’s

Nine groovy retro flight attendant uniforms

flight attendantsGood looks never go out of style, but (thankfully, in some instances) “air hostess” uniforms do. The Los Angeles Times travel section has published this great photo gallery of swinging stews from the “Style in the Aisle” exhibit at Seattle’s Museum of Flight.

The exhibit, which runs through May 30th, features flight attendant uniforms from the 1930’s through the ’70’s. Couture designers of the day, including Emilio Pucci, helped put fashion forward in the airline industry. Because no one should ever have to serve pretzels without the sartorial security of Go-go boots and a cape.

[Photo credit: The Museum of Flight Collection]

Galley Gossip: Funny flight attendant book – Betty in the Sky with a Suitcase!

Ever since reading the book Betty in the Sky with a Suitcase: Hilarious Stories of Air Travel by the World’s Favorite Flight Attendant, written by Betty N. Thesky with Janet Spencer, I’ve been tempted to do a spin in the middle of the aisle as soon as I’ve finished serving my three rows to alert the flight attendant working on the other side of the cart that I’m ready to move. Normally we’ll patiently wait for our partner to finish serving or we might fill a few cups with ice, restock the cart or offer to make a few drinks, but in Betty’s hilarious book two flight attendants add a touch of disco pizazz to the boring beverage service routine. One of these days I’m going to do it – the spin.

If you’re looking for a book full of funny stories about flight attendants, pilots, ground crew and even passengers this is it! Reading it is like going to dinner with your favorite crew on a fun-filled layover. The crazy stories just keep on coming! While the book is full of laughs, there’s a lot to learn, too. Throughout the book Betty answers common questions asked by passengers every day. For instance…

The reason you have to stow your carry-on items and put away your computers is to avoid the possibility of having them act like airborne missiles.

The reason you have to return your tray table to its upright and locked position is so you won’t impale yourself on it if the plane crashes

The reason you have to return your seat to its upright position is to make evacuation easier in event of a disaster, to minimize whiplash, and to prevent you from slipping under your seat belt in the event of a sudden stop.

By far my favorite thing about the book is all the interesting facts at the bottom of each page, and there are 139 pages!

10 FUN FACTS FROM BETTY’S BOOK…
1. Around 25% of first class passengers pay full fare. The rest are upgrades, frequent fliers and airline employees.

2. Airlines update the fares in their computers about 250,000 times daily.

3. 12 million free tickets are issued annually due to frequent flier miles.

4. Airplanes take off and land every 37 seconds at Chicago’s O’Hare Airport.

5. The first airplane toilets were simply a hole in the fuselage of the plane through which one could see the countryside passing below.

6. The Unclaimed Baggage Center in Scottsboro, Alabama, sells about 10 million items from lost luggage annually.

7. One of the biggest planes is the Boeing 747. If set upright it would rise as high as a 20 story building

8. Air travel is the second safest mode of transportation. Only the elevator / escalator is safer.

9. Tolerance for alcohol drops by about 30% when you’re at 30,000 feet, so a few drinks will go a long way.

10. The longest flight in the world is the nonstop flight from New York to Hong Kong which travels 8,439 miles over the North Pole in 15 hours and 40 minutes.

Betty N. Thesky is a flight attendant who works for a major airline and the host of the popular podcast Betty in the Sky with a Suitcase. You can read more about Betty on her website BettyInTheSky.com