An honest reflection on life as cabin crew

Life in the jet stream

22nd June 2020. Today marks two years since (re) joining the jet setting lifestyle of cabin crew after a 2 year hiatus.

Today also marks day 83 of furlough during what is a pretty rough time for everyone in this industry, with huge uncertainty about the future. For a while now, I’ve felt myself spiral into the negativity surrounding our current predicament. It was time to have an honest check in with my own thoughts and feelings, to try and rationalise my various frustrations with the job and lifestyle that I have chosen. This is my way of reminding myself of the silver lining around the huge storm cloud of current events.

Behind the clouds the sun is still shining.

Anon.

On multiple occasions during these two years, I have said to myself that I’m done. I’m done with the jetlag. I’m done with the commute, the delays, the missing home, holidays, birthdays & countless family gatherings. The dry skin, my first wrinkle! The eye bags. The unexplained (?) weight gain (pretty sure it was the 7 smoked salmon starters I smashed at 3am over the Atlantic along with the creme anglais…).

I’m done with wishing that I was making these memories on the other side of the world with my loved ones and not alone. Most definitely done with the emotional rollercoaster that is landing day, sobbing uncontrollably because they shouldn’t have left the Brontosaurus on the Island to die (note to self: don’t watch Jurassic World on landing day EVER again).

I’m done with the unreasonable requests and sometimes very unnecessarily rude passengers. Even though I’m British, and you know how much we Brits love an apology, I’m done with having to apologise profusely for catering mishaps that should never have happened, delays and aircraft technical issues I don’t understand (the APU thing needs to be disconnected from the ground thing and then the PTU does this other thing… what?!).

I remember standing at Door 3R in 40° heat because the aircraft A/C was broken. It was a full flight that hadn’t even taken off yet, but my shirt was essentially see through with sweat already (gross) and pax were fainting left, right and centre. I remember thinking, I’m Done! And I am done with doing all of this (plus way more) while running on no sleep and maintaining that ever important smile.

I won’t lie, this present redundancy and furlough situation has tested my sanity for one, but also my resolve to continue doing this job. I have found myself scrolling through job websites on so many occasions, thinking of what I could possibly do next and being decidedly overwhelmed by the shitness of the job market right now. And then I find myself thinking ‘would it be such a bad thing getting culled… you’re done with it all, right?’. Right. Except … wrong. So wrong.

Because the truth is, there is no job like it.

I found this photo today and it is one of the happiest memories that I’ve made whilst travelling as crew. I can distinctly remember looking up in awe of her eyelashes and the warmth of her eyes!

Meeting a rescued Matriarch at Glen Afric in Johannesburg

And as I continue to scroll through my photo albums, all I see are happy memories.  Yes, they are severely jetlagged and sometimes lonely adventures, but adventures nonetheless, some of which people have only dreamt of doing.

I have been able to tick off bucket list moments one by one: great white shark diving, feeding giraffes, climbing mountains and snowboarding in the Andes, eating proper sushi in Tokyo, riding a helicopter around the Grand Canyon, climbing Sydney Harbour bridge, playing with wild monkeys in Kuala Lumpur, seeing multiple Wonders of the World… I could go on!

I’ve made new friends (some lifelong) in a community of some pretty amazing people. They often quickly become your adopted family for a couple of days, and 4am jumpseat chats have solved many an existential crisis.

I’ve had the opportunity to fly with my sister and go sandboarding in the desert of Abu Dhabi then cycle around the F1 track. Because of this job, I’ve taken my fiancé to Japan, Cape Town, Barcelona and Iceland to help him realise some of his own bucket list dreams.

I’ve met some incredible people on board, all with their own stories to tell and with 10 hours in a metal tube to hear those stories. I’ve had the opportunity to comfort people who desperately needed a shoulder to cry on, calm nervous flyers who just needed patience and care. I’ve helped over burdened mothers with their gorgeous bubbas just to have a chance to breathe and go to the loo.

Yeah okay, glorified sky waitress, right? Wrong, again. Doing this job gives me a chance to truly help others in an environment they don’t understand, dealing with a whole host of situations from fights to medicals, acting as the bridge between the air and ground to bring someone back from the brink. It’s exciting, important and immensely rewarding. It’s taken me a while to realise the value of it.

I have always been someone who wants to try every career possible because my interests are SO broad. I find this extremely frustrating about myself; one day I want to do something with my history degree and the next I want to save the environment and all the animals along with it. But this role is perhaps as eclectic as it gets: I get to be caretaker, waitress, nurse, firefighter, bouncer, chef, counsellor, mediator, teacher and (potentially) rescuer all in one shift if necessary (although that would be a particularly harrowing flight !) Throw in a few hours to have a cocktail or two at the other end and Bob’s your uncle! It’s unlike any other job role I’ve ever had or will have in the future. 

If I’m one of the unfortunate few to be made redundant, I’ll be losing a lifestyle as well as a job and I’m beginning to realise that now. I’ll be losing something that has totally enriched my life through incredible experiences and people. Something that has truly changed me as a person (I like to think for the better, although my fiancé would argue landing day me is the worst kind of me…)

So, while there are many, MANY things that try to convince me otherwise, I know deep down that this role is special, the people are special, the uniform is special.

And the truth is, I’m not done yet.

There are huge challenges ahead in this industry. If I’m one of the unfortunate souls to lose my job because of it, I know it’s likely I won’t find a job like it ever again. For now though, if it is to end this way, I want to forget the negativity for a moment and simply appreciate all the incredible moments and memories it has afforded me. My 20’s certainly wouldn’t have been as fun without it.

17 thoughts on “An honest reflection on life as cabin crew

  1. I completely relate to your post! I have only been flying a year, I don’t feel done yet and again been scrolling though job adverts day after day think what can I do next…this is a raw insight I think to how crew feel because like you say, there’s no job out there like it! Xx

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    1. Thank you for your comment! I’m so glad you found it relatable, I hope you managed to feel some positivity too after reading it, I know it’s hard at this time to do that! Job hunting feels demoralising at times when you’re used to a certain way of life. But we got this girl! 💪 x

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  2. .I’m losing my cabin managers job after 34 yrs, it was my identity & I’m at a lost as to what to do. I know we have so many skills & I want to thank you for this lovely post knowing you are being positive & celebrating this fantastic career we have had. I have to count myself lucky to have had the job for so many years & although cut short I will embrace the memories of it. Thank you x

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Penny, thank you for your kind words! I’m so sorry to hear that you’ve lost your job, and congratulations on such long service! The experiences you’ve had , memories you’ve made and the skills you’ve learnt will be with you forever and while it may not seem like it now, there will be light at the end of the tunnel x

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  3. So beautifully put. I took VR just over a year ago after 32 years. It was a hard decision but needed to be done for health reasons. Yes you are spot on. You are leaving a lifestyle not a job. It has taken me a year to come to terms with it and this Virus has made me see for once I am one of the lucky ones who isnt going through the heart ache you all are😥. Like you say though its the memories that nobody can take away from you and boy I have some amazing ones and would not change it for the world.
    If you have to find a new path my motto is what is for you wont go by you. I am very lucky in that my now job is still in Aviation and its a part of Aviation that is still thriving. Dont ever give up hope. You will always have your dreams and memories.

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    1. Thank you so much for your kind and wise words! I absolutely agree – flying gets in your blood and to leave after such a long time must have been tough for you! I’m so happy you have found something to fill that gap that is still within aviation, that’s so wonderful!

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  4. Thank you!
    Because I could find myself in every single word you wrote!
    You couldn’t have expressed in a better way the way I am feeling.
    This job is tiring on many levels that people from “outside” will never understand. When we are stressed and tired we curse the day we decided to become cabin crew! But then, few minutes later, we realize we wouldn’t want to do anything else!
    I personally miss the feeling of freedom I get at every take off roll. Leaving everything on ground for a bit, pausing life.
    Please keep posting!
    I’ll definitely be following you 🙂
    See you in the skies:)

    Liked by 1 person

  5. You have captured the words beautifully, after 36 years I have been made redundant and the thought of a Monday to Friday job is scary , what about my coffee dates and lunches with friends whilst everyone else is working. I suppose we have truely lived on fantasy island (the plane, the plane) and now I have to join the real world . Because you may think 36 years shouldn’t you just retire !!! Well I am on 53 , too young to retire to old to retrain , where to next, who knows , but it will have to involve people and caring for others… that is what we do best

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Lisa. I am so sorry you have been made redundant, but please know you are never too old to re train in something you are passionate about. The 9-5 life isn’t the only option out there although it feels like that – you can do this, you can find something to love to do in the absence of flying I’m certain! Let me know how you get on x

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  6. So sorry that you have been made redundant im a student studying to be cabin crew. it has been my all time dream and now it’s just worrying me that the travel jobs may not be a choice right now or even for a while. I found your post quite inspirational x☺️

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    1. Hi Lydia, thank you so much for your kind words. This post was actually written before the redundancy choices had been made by the company, I wanted to reflect on my life as crew in case I should lose my job! I have since been told that I have kept my job (although still furloughed) so my flying days are not over! It’s so great to hear you are training to be cabin crew! Try not to worry about career prospects in aviation – keep studying and then just get experience in any job (or multiple as I did before I became crew!) while you wait for the industry to pick back up again 🙂 There will be roles in the future I am certain of it! x

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      1. Hello, Im glad that your flying days are not over you must be excited to get back on board a plane again! 😃 I will keep studying and try different jobs, at the moment I’m a waitress so that gives me a bit of insight to the hospitality industry. And hope so thank you for your uplifting words 😃X

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  7. love your writing and the positive tone surrounding our dire airline situation. I am currently hosting a website for cabin crew (Cathay Pacific) to share their stories of travel , cooking and others. As our airline and our job are really in jeopardy now, i an wandering if there is a possibility to reblog your post in my website https://crew-explorer.com. My goal is share a positive message to my fellow crew colleagues through your reflection.

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    1. Hi Kevin, thank you for your kind words and apologies for the delay in getting back to you. I am happy for you to reblog my post with credit and a link to my page. I hope people find it useful 😊

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      1. Thanks….it will be useful as our airline will be announcing huge layoff in the coming few days. Many of us are not sure, including myself, whether we will have our job anymore

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      2. No problem Kevin, let me know what feedback you get from it – I hope it helps alleviate some fo the stress you are all going through. I am very sorry to hear of your struggles and I will keep my fingers and toes crossed in the hope that you will be able to keep your jobs.

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