I work as a flight attendant for a regional Canadian airline. Over the past year, I’ve operated approximately 750 flights- Regularly zipping back and forth from western Canada, the eastern States and everywhere in between. I love my job! I get paid to travel, explore Canada and hangout with great coworkers. Being a flight attendant requires you to be the face of the airline that you work for. Flight attendants have the longest interaction with passengers, compared to most other positions within the aviation world. It recently occurred to me, that depending on my schedule and flight loads, I can talk to as many as 400 people in one day! That is A LOT of interaction with other humans! And with that, comes a whole lot of human psychology… Here are a few life lessons I’ve learned, flying through the sky in a metal tube with other people:
When in doubt, be kind. People are not always nice. I wish there were air sickness bags for negativity. In confined spaces at high altitudes, flight attendants are almost always the target of passenger frustrations. This, of course is not always easy to deal with (especially on the fifth flight of the day, after eleven straight hours on the aircraft). People can be unreasonable, immature and downright rude. But why? As challenging as it is to deal with these people, there is often a reason for their behavior that has nothing to do with you or the arbitrary thing they are complaining about. I once had a woman on a flight who sat down in her seat, holding a box of her son’s cremated remains. People fly for vacations and job interviews and weddings. People also fly for funerals and divorce settlements and chemotherapy treatments. Everyone has a story. Everyone has baggage, well beyond their oversized carry-on. Although it is not easy to be kind to difficult people, they are always the ones who need kindness the most.
How you make others feel is MOST important. A few months ago, I was not having the best day at work. I had not been sleeping well and my skin had decided to break out. My hair was NOT on fleek and I had accidentally worn my roomate's dress (which is much too short for me). I was feeling tired, agitated and not put together. On the last flight of the day, I had a visually impaired gentleman pre-board. He came on with his white cane and I led him to his seat. As required, I explained to him, one on one, the safety features of the aircraft and familiarized him with his surroundings. He was flying from my home city of Saskatoon, so we chatted for a while about both being from the same place. As he got off of the plane he thanked me for the help and the great flight. He had no idea that my hair was a mess or that my skin had gone back to high school. He didn’t care that I had gotten tongue tied on my French announcements or that my uniform looked funny. I suddenly felt silly for letting such shallow things set the tone of my day! Outer beauty is fleeting and ultimately doesn't matter- Kindness and connection do. You will always be remembered and appreciated for how you made others feel.
Go with the flow. To say that aviation is unpredictable is an understatement. Sure, flight attendants and pilots are given our schedules in advance, but it is quickly learned that nothing is ever for certain. There are many factors that can drastically change the course of a day. I have taken off, expecting to land in one city, only to be diverted due to weather and touch down somewhere completely different. I once finished a pairing with an entirely different crew than the one I had started out with because they all got sick (or sick of me). A cancelled flight or delay can mean “BYE” to any fun plans you had for your layover. You never know what kind of people or circumstances you will encounter on any given day. This keeps things interesting but can also be incrediby frustrating and tiring. The best way to deal is to be open and flexible. Look at everything as an adventure. Go with the flow and try to make the best of where you are and who you are with. Dropping resistance to things outside of your control just makes life easier!
And there you have it. A few philosophical musings from my office in the sky. “Thanks for your attention, I’m going to do this one more time in French and then we’ll be up and on our way to-” I mean… thanks for reading.
***Super cool flight deck photo, taken by Jordan Leslie.