Observations from a New Hire Flight Attendant

Flight attendant

As I’ve mentioned several times before and – let’s be honest – certainly will again, after more than a decade of almost no hiring at the legacies, “new stews” are a big deal to us.

Perhaps my favorite thing about them (besides possibly, finally pushing me off reserve after 16 years. THAT JUST HAPPENEDChampagne is in order!) is how they take me fondly back to my own newbie experience. The excitement and nerves. Truly learning how utterly strange humans are. The fun of being the new guy/girl on the block.

Given that you mostly get the perspective of someone who’s been at it a while I thought you, too, might enjoy the observations of a newcomer. One kind New Hire (who wishes to remain anonymous) listed some of his early impressions for me, and has awesomely permitted me to share them here. I’ve put my favorite ones in bold.

A New Hire’s Thoughts After One Month on the Job:

1. The passenger that starts a sentence with, “I don’t want to be any trouble but…”, will be more trouble than you could possibly want.

2. The more passengers with tight connections, the higher likelihood that we will be delayed.

3. Eating a full breakfast at 3:30 am now seems perfectly normal. As does eating Pot Noodles for dinner at 1:00 am – sometimes on the same day!

4. I now know that the only thing dirtier than an airplane lav is a hotel TV remote control. [ED NOTE: Psst! Shower caps make perfect remote covers.)

5. The length of my layover will be inversely proportionate to the amount of cool things to do there.

6. It IS possible to completely fill a sick bag. It’s also possible to hide it in a seat back pocket. Watch out too, for “Chain Reaction” vomiters!

7. Because parents are comfortable with their own children’s bodily waste, they expect you to be and will try to hand you full diapers. (Sorry, but poop is poop, people. I don’t care how cute your baby is!)

8. Parents who realize that the above is unsanitary, sometimes think they are helping by placing it in the “pit of despair”, also known as the seat back pocket. Said child will be crying inconsolably AND seated behind the grumpiest old man on the plane…

9. The “Low Talker” – the person you have to get close to to hear – is inevitably the person with the most unfortunate breath onboard.

10. The Flight Leader/Purser that starts the sentence with, “I’m really easy going…” could teach many world leaders about tyranny.

11. You never know what is going on in someone’s life, so I give everyone a little leeway (…but if you’re just plain “being a pain,” see no. 15).

12. You will work with a ‘Chatty Cathy’ who talks so much you think they must have another hole in their head that they breathe out of, because they never stop talking!

13. Gate Agents – A love/hate relationship. They generally love to hate us…

14. I wish I had a penny for every time I’ve been told, “Well, it fit on the last plane…”

15. When someone seems intent on sucking the soul out of you, smile at them ‘til it hurts. It drives them crazy.

16. Passengers can be sweethearts one minute, and like Darth Vader with a hangover the next…all they need is a trigger i.e. Laptops away, no upgrade/blankets/pillows, etc. But do something nice for them, and they are putty in your hands.

…And After Four Months on the Job?

1. I absolutely love giving out wings to kids! I think I get more excited than they do! [ED NOTE: Me, too!]

2. Best question I’ve been asked so far? Lady looking out at the blanket of clouds below us, rings her call button to ask me if we’ll be late. Why? She says, “See for yourself, we are barely moving!” 

3. If you miss latching a galley compartment and something falls out on takeoff, it will be the loudest thing you have ever heard. However, handily, it does alert you to where the nervous flyers are seated due to the extreme level of their reaction.

4. Apparently, working out how to operate the plug in the sink requires the user to be a NASA Engineer, as no-one seems to manage. (They are usually the same people trying to use the ashtray to open the door.)

5. Through my colleagues, I have discovered that sometimes when they talk to me, at length, about their ‘children’, they may in fact be talking about cats and dogs. I now find this completely normal. [ED NOTE: “Normal” is debatable.]

6. To my co-workers who claim not to like international flying because it messes with your body clock, how is getting up on a domestic trip at 3.30 am and completing a full work day by 11 am any better? [ED NOTE: Shhhh! Don’t’ tell them!]

7. After lots of time on different aircraft, I am now able to look at a bag and tell passengers exactly where it will fit (no, not like that!). I believe my ability to get carry-ons to fit may actually be my superpower.

8. The amount of complicated drink orders you receive, is inversely proportional to the length of the flight. (“Gimme a Sprite mixed with OJ, plus a splash of Cranapple and a lemon”…45min flight on a full 757.)

9. This same flight will also have a large number of ‘Anna’s’. (“I’ll have a coffee ‘anna’ water ‘anna’ orange juice,” etc.)

That’s a healthy dose of lessons for four months on the job. And I’m very happy to hear his conclusion:

However…I still think it’s the most fun, entertaining, varied and unbeatable job I’ve ever done and I get to work with some amazing characters, whom I otherwise would never have met, and travelled to ‘back-of-beyond’ places that I had to look up on a map. And yes, I plan on doing this until they pry the cart from my cold, dead fingers.

…And that’s how I know he truly is “one of us”! Welcome aboard, friend.

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Comments (Showing 2 of 2)

  • RaflW at 9:38pm July 08, 2014

    My theory for #9 on the second list is that passengers are more willing to have 2 or more beverages on a short flight, since they can be fairly confident they won’t have to go to the lav (see #4 on the first list!).
    In fact, now that I think about it, it seems that the lines for the loo onboard are shorter now that most airlines don’t serve a whole can of soda to each passenger.

  • SSteegar at 3:25pm July 13, 2014

    On one particular international plane, even the lovliest Coach flight attendants I know get a bit frazzled by the end of the meal service. One reason being that, for some reason, the passengers all ask for 2-3 drinks each. It’s noticeable and stands out as different behavior to other routes (not on this plane). One day a (non-crew) friend traveled on this plane and did the same thing, which was not normal for him. Without my even asking, he mentioned that it’s because on this plane, the cabin holds so many passengers, and there’s relatively so few crew working it, that it’s obvious to the passengers it will take FOREVER for the crew to get through the whole cabin and ever come back. Aside form fearing he’d be thirsty by the time they came back, he thought he was doing a favor to the crew by asking for it all “now, so I could hold on to a soda can and not need anything else later.”

    That was an interesting insight. So I bet you’re right RaflW, there usually is some kind of reason for these trends.

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