Dating the Flight Attendant
by Chad Childers
Copyright 1999 - all rights reserved
This is not a guide to picking up babes. I know nothing more about
picking up babes than the average charming, talented, successful young
gentleman. Six feet three inches tall, with a whimsical smile, regular
features, and a flat abdomen, there is nothing in me to attract the fairer
sex. Other than three or four dates
on weekends, and perhaps four or five during the week, I have lived the
life of an anchorite. Except for three marriages, to two supermodels and
a Miss America, I have been utterly celibate.
Honestly, though, the care and
feeding of today's flight attendant is a difficult task. Their lives
are filled with constant stress, and the job can be very hard on
relationships. How to handle such a quandry? At its root, I can
suggest no better solution than the magician Merlin, when he told Arthur,
"simply love her".
PFS: Pre Flight Syndrome
What's the best thing for a boyfriend to do for PFS? I've pretty much
settled on staying out of her way, driving her to the airport and
carrying stuff for her if she's short on time (we've calculated that it
saves her 15-20 minutes because of not having to park (and probably another
5-7 minutes on a 20 min drive because I drive faster)). During our
first year of dating, I drove her to the airport a *lot* and brought her
flowers at least 50% of the time, but we had a couple of fights, and I
had to stop doing it so much. I liked doing it because sometimes it was
the only way I'd get to see her, and because it saved at least a full
hour on the return end (or at least I'd meet her an hour earlier... I
always used to meet her at the gate, which I rarely do anymore because
the airport has gotten rid of a lot of parking meters). So, the fight
had to do with my feeling that she didn't appreciate me going out of my
way to drive her, she'd often be crazy with PFS, when she is really exhausted
from the previous trip and not ready for the next trip, it gets worst at
bedtime the night before. I managed to deal with that, but if she had a bad
trip, PostFS set in, which "has a lot to do with exhaustion and just wanting
to be alone, tired of playing the part, serving people and catering to others'
needs and wants". A bad case of PostFS can get your head bitten off, hand her
a rose and get ignored, so picking her up was causing stress rather than
alleviating it (and I was starting to hate the airport too).
Stewardess vs Flight Attendant:
Although the term Flight Attendant was a big issue in the early days of
political correctness, many FAs don't mind much if you call them a Stewardess
(except the guys... there are no gay FAs*). The brits call them Trolly
Dolly, which is by far the most creative nickname. The thing
they do mind is that they are often intelligent, charming, educated young
ladies who would otherwise be making much more money, and are now glorified
flying cocktail waitresses. The kind of constant put-downs they get from
rude passengers are bound to hurt anyone with any sensitivity at all, so
expect your flight attendant to have occaisional problems with that. In
addition, the fact that they are essentially blue collar, union employees,
and some of the unions are not even on their side, since FAs are only a
small part of what a big union does... and the fact that the pay is awful
(more on that later) lead to a lot of unhappiness and frustration that you
have to try to make better.
*My SO was on a trip with a bunch of male FA's, and she said "Wow, it's amazing that none of you are gay!" One of them replied, "Well, actually...".
The Agony of the Feet:
I've always rubbed her feet a lot, (I think she's making me into a foot
fetishist). Ask any FA, and she will say that after a trip her heels are
and her feet are aching. They walk and run around a moving vehicle
constantly, and are forced to wear high heels in the concourse, shorter heels
in the plane (not as high as in the past, but still bad) and pressurization
makes feet swell and shoes doubly painful. What can you expect? Be thoughtful.
Forget about it. Friends, family, and boyfriends will just suffer.
It is almost impossible to merely get on with the business of living -
doing the laundry, paying bills.
Everything is based on seniority. Half of every class of FAs quits within
the first year, that has been true since the 1950s. The senior babes get
the better flights, get a schedule... that means they can bid for which
trips they want each month, and know in advance each month where they are
going and when, rather than waiting by the phone or with a pager for the
airline to call and send them on a flight. Schedule holders can have some
home life, the younger, Reserve flight attendants have none. If a FA
has 7 years seniority, she might even be able to hold the same trips
every month, but that can all change at the whim of the airline.
My life revolved around her bidding for each month... she's actually
been a schedule holder for three months now, so life is *slightly* less
stressful.... Scheduling are the gods that arrange her life, and the
devils that rearrange her life. It is worse for a Reserve FA, but you
can never tell what they will assign her, until the month's bids are all
in, and the trips are handed out on the basis of seniority. Then she has
the opportunity to trade or drop trips, but she might wind up with worse
trips than she got in the first place, and holiday weekends are always
restricted, which means she will never spend the holidays with you.
Trips and Layovers:
She has to struggle with her luggage all over the world, so she'll
appreciate it if you pick it up for her. On a layover, a crew bus will
pick them up to take them to the hotel, they will all get checked in,
then meet down in the lobby to find a bar. "Crew Culture" = Pub Hopping.
Drinking, eating, and shopping are the only way they have to pass the time.
A "slam-clicker" is someone who just goes to her room and shuts the door,
rather than going out drinking with everyone else. The longer the pattern,
(an individual trip can be 1 to 7 days long) the more she gets to know that
particular crew... but she will never see that group of people again,
she will be working with another randomly selected group of people on her
next trip, which can start the very next day, or she can have up to 11 days
of rest (a reserve has 11 scheduled days of rest to spread over the month,
there is no such thing as a weekend off, unless you bid for weekends off and
happen to get them...). FAA regulations require that a FA not work more than 7 days in
a row, or you get an "FAR in 7 rest day" otherwise known as a "ZZ day".
Some FAs actually like
1-day patterns, sometimes. What do they call 'em, returns? No layover
means no per diem, but then she gets to sleep in her own bed. Well,
that's a problem if I want her to stay over at *my* place... but that's
a whole other story.
The fact that there are no regular coworkers means that friendships have very
little chance to develop. My FA actually doesn't have a single FA friend,
out of the 5000 based in Detroit. She will occaisionally work with someone
she has worked with before, and may even exchange phone numbers, but it is no
longer as easy as it was in the old days to always work with a friend, because
the computer just assigns people where it needs them, and if you buddy bid you get the seniority of the least senior one, or worse, and then even if two
FAs did try to get together off work, one of them would probably be gone.
The subculture seems to encourage friendly behaviour while on layover, but it
can be very shallow, temporary, and interchangable.
We take trips fairly often, and I pay for everything but airfare, but
I'm not sure that helps... for one thing, when you want to go somewhere that
her airline doesn't fly, getting tickets on another carrier is just as cheap as
(and a whole lot more convenient than) using her flight priviledges. Makes
you wonder why she keeps the job, because it certainly isn't for the money.
Just between you and me, she's not the
greatest traveller. Other than work, she actually hasn't really
travelled as much as me, and I think I pack lighter. She loses
her patience and gets pissed off at the slightest mishap (kind of funny
when we were in Paris and she was all angry at the airline) and I have
to calm her down... which I'm pretty good at, but not when she's angry
at me. She almost always snaps at me when we're passriding... I think
it's because she has the perception that NonRevs (that means Non Revenue
producing passengers, although we *are* paying a nontrivial sum for my
ticket, and I *am* a revenue-producing customer about 80% of the times
I fly, because I usually fly without her, and you can only passride if
she is with you) should bow, kowtow, and
grovel to every lifeform in the airport, including the mold and bacteria
in the inflight meals. Yuck.
What money? Flight Attendants only get paid for a maximum of 80 hours a
month, because they only get paid for actual flying time, not all the time
they're working to get the plane ready, boarding or deplaning passengers,
cleaning up (it's hard to believe they have a union). The pay isn't even
very good, per hour. So even though they have flight priviledges, they
can't afford to use them unless they're married to someone with a real
job. This will never get better, because there is a constant stream of
young girls, fresh out of high school, who would do anything, take any
salary, to be a glamorous flight attendant. The airlines get 1000
applications for every opening, and it is not skilled labor to open soda
cans, break up ice, put the ice in cups, pour the soda, and hand it out
with peanuts. The only delta to overcome is the six-week training class,
which is intensive and grueling for the FAs, making them memorize the same
ten-pound FAA manual they have to carry around with them on every flight,
but the airlines could care less if they had to train a complete new batch
of FAs every year.
Practically, remember that your FA won't have enough money to eat healthily,
so think about getting her something for breakfast before and ice cream or
something after a trip, and take care of her.
It might happen in any relationship, but don't be surprised if your
family make rude comments. They do have a bad reputation that way,
from the "Coffee Tea or Me Girls" books in the '70s, and perhaps
more FAs were that way back then. They are constantly getting hit on by
passengers and pilots, it's a part of the job. If you give her any excuse,
she has a constant stream of drooling, drunken idiots to choose from (yes,
I'm talking about the pilots). Air crews are *hard* drinkers. (more on that
later) If your FA
girlfriend falls... I can't tell you what to do. Give her your love, and
your support, try to get her to go to counseling, and try to deal with
the hurt yourself, without letting it fester and ruin your relationship.
The same as in any relationship, but IMHO it's about 75% more likely to happen
with a FA - not because they're bad people, just because they are in a bad
Air crews are
not allowed to drink 12 hours before a flight, so they drink constantly
right up to the point it's allowed.
Drinking is a lot more prevalent on international trips with their 24 hour
layovers, and frowned upon during domestic trips, where they may get fired
if they are caught. Still, it's an extremely unhealthy, sophomoric subculture.
Medical journals call it "job-based, peer-oriented alcohol abuse".
In 1990, three Northwest Airlines pilots were convicted of flying while
intoxicated between Fargo, ND, and Minneapolis, MN. Two hours after
the flight ended, the crew captain's alcohol concentration was found to be
0.13; he testified that he drank 20 rum and cokes the night before the
6 a.m. flight.
In 1991, the FAA began checking state driving records, and found 8,000
FAA-certified pilots in Florida had been convicted of drunk-driving
offenses. The FAA was unaware of these DUI and DWI convictions because the
pilots had not reported them to the FAA as required. In the next two years,
4,386, or 6.4 percent of pilots seeking recertification had DWIs (the more
serious of the two offenses).
The Flight Safety Foundation says, "The number of pilots who lost their
careers because of health or behavior deterioration resulting from alcohol
consumption reached such significantly high proportions during the 1970's
that the FAA established an airman education and intervention program
in conjunction with the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, the Air Line Pilots Association and several airlines. Several thousand pilots
have been treated for alcoholism and returned to flight duty."
A 1993 article states, "Airline pilots are at risk for alcoholism, although
prevalence statistics are not known...
possibly enhanced by psychological vulnerabilities. However,
the development and implementation of this job-based, peer-oriented alcohol....
According to a retrospective analysis of identified aviators, 87% of alcoholic
pilots of this major airline returned to flight duties after substance abuse
treatment. Relapse occurred in 13% of those accepting treatment."
So, flight attendants will be encouraged to drink by their alcoholic pilot
coworkers, but if they are tested and caught, the airline will make every
effort to rehabilitate the pilots, while firing the flight attendant, not
because she is actually endangering anyone's safety, just because she is
We won't even go into the day she was getting over a flu with a 103 degree
fever, decided to go in to work anyway, and between the time I called her to
confirm I was picking her up and when I got there (about 5 min) she
managed to slice her hand open trying to cut a bagel... so I got to take
her to the emergency room instead! Remember, if she's sick, she should
take advantage of her sick time, especially if it's an ear infection.
Never fly with an earache!
What to say about air crashes? I was scared silly several times, because
her flight came in late and I didn't have any way of finding out what had
happened. After a year or so, you become hardened to it, but there's
always a chance that you'll lose the one you love to an accident,
whatever her job is. You can't call the airline and find out what happened
to her, because they have to protect the girls from the drooling idiots
(the passengers, not the pilots, they don't do anything to protect them
from the pilots). Just accept it as a fact of life, and go to church
Is it worth it?
No. Not if you love her, because it hurts you to see someone you love
getting ripped apart inside. It's a bad situation, and although it gets
better with seniority, a relationship with a FA doesn't come anywhere near
having enough benefits to outweigh the tribulations. We've broken up because
the job caused so much stress and gotten back together because she's such a
worthwhile human being that she is worth it... and broken up for other
reasons. The job had nothing to do with me dating her, and it certainly
didn't make life easier. I knew her for years before she became a FA,
and always liked her, which helped. If you get involved with a FA, don't
expect it to be all glamour and fun.
It's hard on both the FA herself and her loved ones. A very dear
female friend of mine, on hearing what my new girlfriend did for a living,
said, "Wow, a flight attendant? Cool! That's like dating a football
player!" It's nice, but why couldn't I date a... cheerleader?
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