10+1 things I learned as a flight attendant

Travelling is not about distance. It’s about paying attention to the world around us. The park, the walk from work, a daytrip. It’s about realizations, understanding, joy and inner peace. But for my first post I chose an experience somewhat different. Because, to be happy, you first need to gain an understanding of what makes you unhappy in life, of what holds you back. So here is what I learned from my summer job as a flight attendant.

  1. Firefighting, swimming and climbing to a life boat (harder than it sounds), nestling up in a way that the ocean won’t freeze me to death, applying first aid, doing full make up and immaculate hair in 10 minutes are skills that I am happy to have acquired for a lifetime. My favorite part was putting out real fire during training.
  2. Wearing a uniform is like wearing a cloak of invisibility to some people. When you say welcomes and goodbyes to 400 to 1200 people a day, and half of them don’t greet back, it feels bad. Language barriers and tiredness from the trip are understandable, but please at least nod to your flight attendant and acknowledge her existence when she greets you.
  3. You may have passed with the trolley bar twice and brought a beverage to the passenger next to them after that, but some pax might only then realize they really, really need a glass of juice for which you will now have to lift some very heavy stuff in the back galley.
  4. There are people out there that think your job description includes everything from picking up their baby’s dirty diaper to lifting their bags (both of which by the way are strictly forbidden). Now why anyone would want the person that handles their food to help in diaper changing is beyond my understanding.
  5. The view from the cockpit is breathtaking. It is when you really get that you are flying. I consider myself unimaginably lucky to have seen the Alps surrounded by the vast blue sky.
  6. Pilots eat different food. Funny fact, they are not allowed to have the same, in case they both get food poisoning.
  7. Grooming rules are extremely strict. We were told what color our nails, hose, jewelry and hair should be, the exact make-up routine we should follow and which specific brand and products to use.
  8. I didn’t get any free trips. This is of course different depending on the airline, but the one I worked for only gave you free tickets if you had a contract for more than 6 months, when they mostly offered renewable four and six-month contracts (meaning you never got the tickets, even if the contract got renewed). And even if you did your ticket was only approved if there was a free seat a couple of days before, making it impossible to plan for a vacation.
  9. I didn’t get any layovers. To be precise I only got one night in three months. Again, this depends on the carrier, as mine’s longest route was a 10-hours round trip and therefore it was not compulsory by law to add a layover (although I spent at least 4 more hours commuting, checking-in and preparing the aircraft). In fact I rarely had time to check out the airport we landed in.
  10. You can completely lose the sense of time. When your sleep schedule is all over the place, you wake up not having a clue what time of day (or night) it is, and it’s honestly a bit terrifying. I will never forget returning home at 8 am and being convinced it was afternoon.
  11. You have to do what’s right for you. Many friends told me I should not leave this job, which was their dream. But it wasn’t mine. I felt exhausted and like I was saving money to live a life that I didn’t have time to live. I am truly grateful to have had this experience, but at the end I chose my mental health above all, and I’m glad I did.

What about you? What job did you have that you would never do again? What did you let go in life in order to be happy?


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