Diary of a Flight Attendant

For passengers, it's about the destination. But for flight attendants, it's all about the passengers. 

by Linda Melchert • More.com Member { View Profile }
Photograph: iStock

The '80s also presented a time when sexual harassment finally peaked enough interest to make some positive changes. Many of us suffered with a strained laugh or giggle in order just to be a "good sport." While bending to cross and straighten seat belts between flights, it wasn't unlikely for a belligerent pilot to place his hands on your hips and proceed to rub himself across your backside with as much pressing as possible — claiming he just needed to slide by. A touch here, a touch there? An uninvited kiss. "Good sport." Pleased to say pilots today are highly professional, humor laden, hard-working team players and look to provide the best travel experience possible. I find most to be an uplifting, considerate breath of fresh air.

As we jet back to the future, we've definitely flown past the classier times of travel. Gone are the times when both customers and airline crew retained the impeccable dress and manner of the ‘50s and ‘60s. Apparently those were the "good ole days" where there existed equal parts of respect and admiration. Some of our most well behaved frequent flyers are children — excited, curious, generous with a please and a thank you. They possess an amazing ability to follow direction. They turn off and store their electronic devices long before the full-grown adults and adult children. Following direction is their expertise. I recall a beautiful 8-year-old girl seated in the last row coloring quietly before takeoff with her 5-year-old sister. Perfectly relaxed. Suddenly, she comprehends the “ready for takeoff” announcement. Collecting all of her crayons, book and bag, she's urgently preparing. I catch her eye. She turns to her sister, while raising both tray tables, stating "Hurry, let's get ready for blast off!" She makes my day. I said, "Thank you." She responds, "You're welcome," adding the most angelic smile you can imagine. She is polite, put together, kind and thoughtful. Her manner is impeccable.

Landing on the point of respect. Flyers revel in the convenience of travel. Commuters enjoy the successes of building their businesses. Family members cross state and country lines consistently targeting that hug and hello with those that they love sprinkled throughout our globe. Flight attendants lend that touch of support and the basic needs of safety and care along the way. And still, to present time, I am baffled. Why is it that a highly intelligent, mentally and physically capable, uniformed professional trained in security, required to perform and take charge in a heart attack, firefighting, human rage, assist with vomit, crying babies, crying adults find they are unable to gain the ultimate respect in this working world?

Once in a coffee shop, a patron had learned what I had chosen for my latest line of work. He simply leaned over and said, "Get me a glass of water would ya?" Sad. Sounds odd, but a favorite part of the job over the years has been holding the hand of the terrified, those who are shaken to the core with the fear of flying. As a person who doesn't think twice about takeoff and landings, turbulence or most other normal happenings during flight, it is sometimes difficult to tap into each and every passenger’s personal sense of well being. Most hide it well. However, it is unmistakable when to recognize the fear displayed in a passenger who displays shifty, watery eyes, stiff shoulders pinned up to their ears, and glowing white knuckles. The slightest touch and soft, confident word can instantly unravel their terror. We do this every day.

Yes, a lot has changed in the aviation world. Some things haven't. I know this much, flying touches the soul. As a passenger flying is about getting from Point A to Point B. As a flight attendant it's about the customer, safety, the adventure. Blast off after blast off we covet this career. It offers a highly professional, niche quality of life. We see the world, I think, sometimes more clearly then most. And yes, he did eat his earwax. 

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