I was a flight attendant once. I never planned on becoming one but somehow, after graduation from college, I accidentally got hold of an application form through a friend. I casually filled out the form, mailed it, then didn’t think about it afterwards.
Months later, I received (I know this is going to sound archaic) a telegram from the airline company. Okay, telephones had already been invented then but my family had just moved into our new home and we were still waiting for our telephone service.
Now, let’s continue…
My mother was so thrilled because I was being invited for an interview. She said it was her dream to become a flight attendant but had not been permitted by her guardian to become one. To cut to the chase, I ended up being accepted by the company as a trainee.
Fresh out of college and with no prior work experience, I had no idea what to expect from the training, let alone from the experience of joining the workforce.
I went to class everyday. At the end of each lesson, a test was given. You were allowed only two mistakes. If you exceeded this, you were given a retake, for which you were only allowed one mistake. If you still failed the retake, you were out. As simple as that. Sayonara.
It was always a very sad moment whenever someone did not make the cut and had to go.
The training covered first aid, aircraft familiarization, emergency procedures, swimming, speech, customer relations, food service and personality development. I personally dreaded the tests on emergency procedures where one was required to perform an evacuation procedure in a mock-up.
Somehow, I was fortunate enough to pass the training. All of us heaved a collective sigh of relief when it was over.
Each flight was an entirely unique experience – sometimes exhilarating, frustrating, annoying, or even frightening. (Technical problems do happen!)
You always worked with a different set of people in a confined space so your skills in getting along with others were always tested. I was fortunate to have met and made friends with several wonderful people. However, sometimes, you had the bad fortune of having co-workers who seemed to have sworn themselves to wickedness – such unhappy creatures.
And then there were still the passengers to deal with – who could be nasty, naughty or nice.
I was a flight attendant for two years. The time I spent there influenced my work ethic in a big way. It taught me valuable lessons in discipline, humility, hard work, perseverance, tolerance, professionalism, and so many other things.
Even now, it is disappointing that there is still so much that people do not understand about flight attendants.
It is not uncommon for flight attendants to be called dignified waitresses and be depicted in unflattering ways. People do not know the rigorous training that a flight attendant has to pass before she is allowed to “fly” or “given her wings”.
The flight attendant’s main duty is to ensure, first, the safety, and then, the comfort of the passengers. The fact that they are prettified is only a bonus or a marketing strategy. These good-looking flight attendants are actually capable of administering first aid, extinguishing different types of fires, disarming a hijacker and facilitating an evacuation and leading one to safety.
So the next time you are flying the friendly skies, do remember that it takes more than an eyelash curler, lipstick and a blusher to become a flight attendant. They are not models or mannequins. A majority of them have college degrees. Some even have masteral degrees and are licensed engineers, former bankers, or some other professionals who merely decided to switch careers.
So, stop ogling at your flight attendant. You can actually strike up a conversation with them and realize that beneath the charming smile, they are actually thinking creatures who are yearning for some intelligent conversation from their passengers.
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