Here are 8 Things Airlines Don't Tell You About Being a Flight Attendant
Photo Credit: Rodnae Productions

Photo Credit: Rodnae Productions

Here are 8 Things Airlines Don't Tell You About Being a Flight Attendant

Travel Noire
Travel Noire Dec 9, 2021

If you believe films and television shows, being a flight attendant is a glamorous job. It’s filled with non-stop travel to exotic locales, hilarious hijinx, and even hooking up with some of the most handsome men in the world.

And if you were to look at some of the old commercials about flight attendants, you’d think airlines would have people lined up around the block to get the job.

But the reality is far different than the fantasy.

“People think there’s glamour associated with this job, and there is to some extent when you’re talking about, ‘I just got back from Beijing, and I know the best shops in the Pearl Market,’ or ‘I spent Chinese New Year in Hong Kong,’ or ‘after spending the day at Ipanema Beach in Rio, we went to a fabulous churrascaria,'” Annette Long, a flight attendant with 13 years of experience, said to Business Insider. “But the job itself is far from glamorous. Even if you’re working in first-class or business class, it’s not glamorous at all.”

Let’s take a look at what else airlines don’t tell you about being a flight attendant — and some things they wish you knew about the job.

Flight Attendants Are Not Waiters

As much as it may seem like your flight attendant is your personal waiter, ready to do nothing all day but hand you your Donald Duck orange juice and Biscoff cookies, the reality is they’re your last line of defense in the air — and it’s been that way since 9/11. (It used to be that “stewardesses” or “hostesses” were your in-flight waitresses, but those days haven’t been a reality since most of us have been alive.)

“FAs go through rigorous training at my airline; five weeks, six days a week for about 10 hours a day. It’s pretty intense,” said one flight attendant on  Reddit. “If you score less than 90 percent on a written test, you are sent home. My five weeks I spent at FA training were more difficult than the four years I spent getting my Bachelor’s degree.”

They Have The Same Responsibility As Bartenders

We understand the need to have a refreshing adult beverage on a particularly long flight. But don’t get on the plane expecting a flight attendant to get you rip-roaring drunk — because it is, in fact, illegal to do so.

“We were told one in the air for two on the ground,” said one flight attendant on Reddit. “Also, it is illegal to be intoxicated on a plane, and it is illegal for us to get you drunk. So, if we cut you off, don’t argue; we may serve you later if you’re nice.”


Their Jobs Are Extremely Demanding

Be nice to your flight attendant, because many of them work grueling hours, and work several flights a day.

“We don’t have a working week, per se, but we can work up to eight days in a row if they’re all two-sector short-haul routes,” said one flight attendant on Reddit. “We can also work up to four flights a day, or operate two 15-hour flights in four days. Regulation is that we have 20 minutes of break every 12 hours.”

They'd Really Prefer It If You Kept Your Shoes On

While cleaning protocols have certainly improved in the wake of COVID, it’s a good idea to keep your shoes on throughout the duration of the flight — or, at the very least, have a set of plane slippers to walk around in if your feet get swollen.

“DO NOT WALK AROUND BAREFOOT. Pee and poop happen, all over,” said one flight attendant on Reddit. “I feel like I witness an ‘accident’ regularly; in their seat or in the lav. People get nose bleeds, or their wounds open. Obviously, when we land, it is thoroughly cleaned. But in-flight, our resources are limited.”

About That Coffee...

If it doesn’t come from a bottle or a can, don’t drink it on a plane.

“I personally would not drink the potable water from the aircraft. So, the tea, coffee… I would avoid,” said one flight attendant on Reddit. “The water isn’t so bad, but how often do you really think those tanks are cleaned?”

And The Pay? Yikes.

In this economy, you’d think that flight attendants would be paid better. You’d think that, and you’d be wrong. Obviously, the longer you’ve been in the business, the better your pay. But according to Active Times, the average flight attendant makes about $32,000/year. Many of them barely take home $20,000/year after taxes. That’s because their rates go by the hour — and the hours only count once they’re in the air.

Your Mother DEFINITELY Told You To Stop Snitching...So Please Don't Snitch On The Plane

If it’s a major issue, they don’t mind getting involved. But, as one flight attendant told Reader’s Digest, she’s not a preschool teacher, and she’s not here to get involved in every minor squabble you have about armrests and seats going too far back. Act like you’ve got some sense.

Don't Believe The Hype

Movies and television shows will lead you to believe that the life of a flight attendant is a nonstop party. It isn’t. In fact, it’s probably the least glamorous job out there today.

“It’s not as glamorous as it seems,” one flight attendant wrote on Reddit. “People think a lot of our job is traveling to amazing places all the time and having long layovers, but a lot of the time, it’s a flight to Newark with a 10-hour layover, or a redeye flight to Hawaii just to turn right around.”

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