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So, you wanna be a flight attendant?

Lisa Tossey, Master of Coffee
"Coffee, tea, or me?" Hours of unpaid training later, Lisa Tossey has mastered the art of pouring coffee at 35,000 feet.

Let us be the first to warn you: the glamour is gone.

We were flight attendants – safety professionals ready to take on heart attacks, lavatory fires, cabin decompressions, and water landings. One of us was even a "sky hostess" once, according to a sweet old Southern Belle who boarded one of our flights in Atlanta.

We were never stewardesses or glorified waitresses in the sky. Nor were we sky bunnies, sky muffins, sky princesses, or sky servants. Those names are one reason we decided to quit.

Don’t get us wrong; there are many reasons why the profession sounded appealing, and we’ll be the first to admit that it did have its benefits. However, the glamour days of Pan Am and Braniff are long gone, lost somewhere behind the crowded cabins of tourists donning tank tops and carrying overstuffed shopping bags brimming with oranges and plastic alligators.

'What we really want to be are pilots.'
Lara and Lisa behind the object that separates flight attendants from the scum of the earth: the cockpit door.

It’s a career that offers exotic overnights and great perks, as well as brutal trips with long days and short nights. We survived three and a half years of highs (spending Christmas in Paris together) and lows (being diverted to Pittsburgh in a snow storm on our way home on a red-eye, having a passenger from that flight arrested, then getting stuck in Pittsburgh for nearly two days before taking it upon ourselves to find a way home). An increasing number of these lows eventually led to burnout, so we sat back and took stock of our lives. Lists of pros and cons were made (and constantly added to and revised), which led us to decide to wave "BuhBye" to our employer.

The reasons why we quit? Well, BootsnAll’s Sean Keener asked if we could share those lists. However, the number of our "Reasons to Quit" has grown into the hundreds, so we’ve put together an abbreviated version of them here, along with, just to balance things a touch, some reasons to give it a try:

Shouldn't she have been checked?
"First aid kit? Check. Portable oxygen bottles? Check. Spare flight attendant? Check." Lara tries to get out of doing the safety demonstration.

Reasons to Be a Flight Attendant

  1. Free flights.
  2. All the peanuts you can eat. (Nice when budgeting)
  3. Cool overnights, i.e., being paid to be in Vegas for 25 hours can be a really sweet deal.
  4. Slipping "We know you’re in there" notes under the lavatory door to bust couples that thought they had snuck in without being seen.
  5. Did we mention the free flights?
  6. Getting a 10% in-uniform discount off our McDonalds fries in airports around the world.
  7. Sometimes having 16-17 days off a month, if we worked our schedules right.
  8. The wonderful and interesting people you meet (although you must be cautious due to people wanting to take advantage of our access to #10: see below).
  9. Seeing the look on your friends’ faces when they ask where you got a particular item they admire, and you reply, "Oh, Paris – I think. Or was it London?"
  10. Free flights were a definite bonus. Sorry, did we already mention that one?
'No, we're not sitting down on the job... or are we?'
Lisa and Lara demonstrate how to correctly warm stacks of coach class dinners.

Reasons We Quit and/or Are Glad We Quit

(Short Version)

  1. The Rodney Dangerfield Syndrome: We get no respect.
  2. The stench that fills an enclosed metal tube packed with dozing people that have been eating peanuts. ‘Nuff said.
  3. Having to deal with predicaments such as the following: You have 12 very fussy First Class passengers, and 12 meals for said passengers. When preparing the meals, you accidentally drop one entrée. Question: Does the five-second rule apply?
  4. Not being able to get on our free flights to go on vacation because they’re overbooked, or because too many employees senior to us had the exact same idea. In this scenario free flights suck.
  5. Having people say "BuhBye" with a snicker as they deplane, as if they are the only ones that watch Saturday Night Live. Here’s a hint: It’s not original, and not even mildly amusing.
  6. One word: Turbulence.
  7. Here are two more: Airline food.
  8. Having to stand in the aisle and dutifully perform the pre-flight safety demonstration, only to look around to see that absolutely no one on the plane is paying attention. (Or, if they are, it’s likely that your zipper is down)
  9. Making plans to go out to dinner with the crew on an overnight and then cringing when the pilots show up in tracksuits, tube socks, and bright white tennis shoes.
  10. Being trapped in a corner of the First Class galley while Scott Baio attempts a conversation with you. (F.Y.I.: Scott Baio has halitosis and hates Pittsburgh.)
  11. Having to endure six weeks of unpaid training, which includes how to pour wine at 35,000 feet, but neglects teaching how to maneuver rollerboards on escalators.
  12. The realization that our pantyhose and belts were much tighter (a.k.a. "Boeing belly") at the end of a four-day trip, and then having to wait a 24-hour period for our bodies to return to normal, post-airplane-bloat size.
  13. 3am wake-up calls from scheduling, asking "What do you want to do today?" before assigning a trip that leaves in two hours anyway.
  14. Having passengers ask three hours into a flight, "What is that down there?" (while pointing to a speck of land, or spot of blue that looks suspiciously like a body of water), then having them give you a dissatisfied look when you tell them you’re really not sure.
  15. Wondering how to professionally reply to the 6’2", 230-lb businessman who just asked you to lift his overstuffed 70-lb suitcase into the overhead bin.
  16. Having to bite our tongues as people moan about "the seats getting smaller" when we really want to shout "The seats are the same freakin’ size! Maybe your arse is getting larger!"
  17. The uniforms. The luxurious blue polyester "little man suits" (as we liked to call them) and housecoat dresses left us feeling decidedly unfeminine and frumpy.
  18. Finding out that the rumors of being able to have "a man in every port" just isn’t workable. Frankly, it’s too confusing and exhausting. (Disclaimer: We do not speak from personal experience on this one – but from observing our old roommate, who shall remain nameless.)
  19. Screaming children that despise being strapped down for hours on end, and cannot be reasoned with. ("Would you like some cookies? No? How about some juice? No? Well, you have to keep your seatbelt on Honey… you really don’t want to be thrown forcibly in to the ceiling and have your head split open, do you?")
  20. Other passengers that ask you to do something to quiet #19.
  21. Working flights from New York City to West Palm Beach and vice versa.
  22. Receiving calls from long-lost "friends" who ask for a buddy pass after five minutes of catching up.
  23. Finding dirty diapers stuck in seat back pockets.
  24. Having to stare at 100 laps several times a day during seatbelt checks while trying to ignore the grins from badly mistaken males that believe you are merely using it as an excuse to check them out… THEN… Later having to toss a blanket over the laps of those males while they are sleeping and obviously dreaming about seatbelt checks. (That’s right guys: if you wake up on a flight and discover a blanket that wasn’t there before, be very embarrassed.)
  25. Developing painful bunions and unsightly varicose veins.
  26. That mysterious crud that builds up in one’s nose during long flights.
  27. Having to endure countless… ahhhhhh… looooonnng… weellllllll… drawn out… hmmmm… announcements from… uuummmmm… the flight deck.
  28. Having someone stop us in an airport we pass through maybe once a year, to ask us where Baco-Burger or gate such-and-such is.
  29. Arriving at our overnight hotel at 3 AM, after a 15-hour day, totally exhausted, only to find that, for some inexplicable reason, our rooms won’t be ready for another 20 minutes.
  30. This one question in particular: "So, is this your route?" We found that we were spending way too much time attempting to explain (after being asked for the umpteenth time) our so-called "routes" and schedules. This question just might have been the straw that broke these flight attendants’ backs.

by Lisa Tossey & Lara McGinty