I have a friend from childhood who works as a flight attendant for a major legacy carrier based in the United States. We have recently exchanged emails catching up a bit and I took the opportunity to ask some questions about her career. As frequent flyers, I’m sure you guys will find her answers interesting!
Emma Dare has been working as a flight attendant since 2014. All the photos in this post are from her travels.
Sarah Page: Hey Emma Dare! Thank you for taking some time to answer my questions. Tell me, how does a day in the life of a flight attendant begin?
Emma Dare: My pleasure! I live in Wilmington, NC so before I start my work trips I have to fly from Wilmington to my base, which is New York. Our base in New York includes LGA, JFK, and EWR (ew) so we have to cover all three. Usually I fly out of JFK (which I prefer- better routes and nicer airport), but on months when I am on reserve (on call) they can assign us to any airport and we have three hours to get there. But I’ll have the chance soon to switch my base to Charlotte, which would be a much easier commute.
Sarah Page: Ouch. Fingers crossed Charlotte works out for you soon! What’s your favorite domestic route to fly?
Emma Dare: My favorite domestic route is probably LGA-ORD, because the people who travel on the flight are usually seasoned travelers and/or businesspeople. This means that they stow their carry-ons, sit down, entertain themselves, and know what they want. It is super easy on these flights. JFK-LAX and JFK-SFO are similar in this way. The more difficult domestic routes are LGA-MIA and JFK-CLT, because these are big connecting destinations and a lot of people who don’t travel often are on these routes. Which means boarding takes longer because they aren’t used to finding their seats and stowing bags etc., but it is also interesting how less-seasoned travelers are more demanding and generally can be pretty rude. Maybe they have an idea of what a flight attendant is from TV or Movies, especially with media stories lately, and they come on the plane with the mindset of being against us. It’s challenging, but luckily these flights are pretty short.
Sarah Page: Favorite international destination?
Emma Dare: My favorite international destination is Rio de Janeiro. Our hotel is right by Copacabana and it’s definitely a vacation when I get to go there. The easiest flights to work though are to the United Kingdom. Most people on those flights are so easy-going and just pleasant and amenable. The flights to Brazil are notorious for people moving about the cabin during the flight, but the layover makes it worth it.
Sarah Page: I love Rio and Brazil in general. So much so that my readers are probably tired of hearing about it.
And your favorite airport?
I really like the airport in Barcelona. There’s a lot of greenery around which is always nice…a breath of fresh air after a long flight. The SFO [San Francisco] airport is like an Apple store and pretty bright and modern. The CLT [Charlotte] airport is terrible. Carpet on all the floors makes it so hard to pull your bag, and they really need some sort of airport train.
Sarah Page: I’m a fan of the San Francisco airport as well. Always clean, bright, and tons of healthy snack options.
What’s the most unexpectedly interesting destination you’ve explored on a layover/between flights?
The most surprising destination was Edinburgh. I didn’t know very much about it before going, but after seeing the winding streets and castle I was sold! J.K. Rowling wrote the Harry Potter series there and based a lot of Hogwarts on buildings in Edinburgh, so you can imagine how magical it really looks. There’s also a big hill called King Arthur’s Seat where you can go hike, and I love anything that gets you outdoors.
Sarah Page: I am a HUGE Harry Potter nerd so I get where you’re coming from. The rest of our readers I’m not so sure about.
Name your top 3 pet peeves that passengers do all the time. What do you wish we wouldn’t do?
PLEASE DON’T TOUCH US. For some reason people think it’s okay to touch their flight attendants. I even had an older man put his hands on both of my hips so that he could whisper to me that he needed to get by to use the bathroom, and that was just last week–lol–it happens all the time. Although it’s not always that creepy, it’s pretty annoying when we are walking in the aisle and you tap us or touch us to get our attention. The space on the aircraft is so small already and when you violate our personal space it is very annoying. Also for some reason people think it’s okay to touch our rear ends during the service to get our attention. I get it’s at eye-level but, come on, standard personal boundary rules apply to your flight attendants on a flight. One flight attendant said “We wear name tags for a reason, you can speak. Use your words.”
Coming into the galley during the flight. Again, it’s all about space. I’ve been eating lunch on the jump seat before and had someone come up and start stretching beside me. Imagine someone’s feet and butt really close to my food. Not appetizing. We have so little space and passengers aren’t allowed in the galley because the floors get slippery and it’s unsafe. It’s annoying to have to tell people to go sit down, we just wish they’d be respectful of our space.
General hygiene. It is disgusting when people use the bathroom barefoot (that’s not water on the floor). Also, clipping your nails is just plain wrong to do in your seat. Handing us dirty diapers or throw up, even in a diaper bag is a no-no. Go throw it away in the lavatory. Putting your bare feet on a tray table or bulkhead wall is gross too.
Emma Dare: Fun fact: My airline didn’t hire anyone from 2001–after 9/11–until 2013, so there is, for the most part, a large age gap between people who have been working for them before 9/11 and those of us “new hires” who were hired recently. The flight attendants who have been here before are called “Senior Mamas” (male and female), and us newbies–even though we’ve been here for 5 years now–are still called “New Hires”. There is a Facebook group for these “New Hire” flight attendants, and I crowdsourced the answers above from the group by asking, “What are the top 10 things your flight attendant wishes you didn’t do”?
Sarah Page: How can we be better passengers and make your life easier?
Emma Dare: Passengers who are pleasant are the best. It doesn’t take a lot to make your flight attendants happy! Just be respectful to us and your fellow passengers, when we ask what drink you want during the service be prepared (don’t ask what we have–there’s a menu in the seat pocket), etc. It is always a great treat when passengers bring us chocolate or a small treat onboard, and it usually means we are happy to give out a free drink (or two) during the service 🙂
We aren’t allowed to lift bags into the overhead bins for many reasons, the main one being that we aren’t technically “on the clock” until the cabin door closes so if we are injured it isn’t covered by workers compensation. We have a motto, “If you pack it, you lift it” – the only exception is if you are really old or disabled. But it is always really nice when you see passengers help each other out, in small ways even by lifting each other’s bags.
Sarah Page: Have you ever caught anyone joining the mile high club?
Emma Dare: Recently I was working a flight where a couple joined the mile-high club. They were in First Class on a plane that has a bathroom at both the front and back of the cabin, so the flight attendant in their cabin assumed they had both gone to different bathrooms when she noticed they weren’t in their seats. The girl came out of the front lavatory, and that’s when the flight attendant realized that it was still occupied after the girl left. The boy came out after. They were probably about 22 or 23 years old. We were laughing about it a lot and brought them out two glasses of champagne. They didn’t seem to get that we weren’t offering champagne to the whole cabin, but hopefully when they think about it later they will get the message – Your flight attendants see everything!
Sarah Page: What an amazing reaction. Sounds like a fun crew.
On a completely unrelated note…what kind of luggage do you and your colleagues use?
Emma Dare: Most flight attendants use TravelPro luggage. We usually stick with the two-wheel bags because the four-wheel bags reduce the amount of room you have to pack (it takes about an inch off the interior of the bag). But TravelPro seems to last pretty well and they’re light.
Sarah Page: Do you utilize travel rewards credit cards?
Emma Dare: The only travel rewards credit card I use is the SPG hotel American Express. We have great benefits as far as flying so I don’t need a miles card but getting points for hotel stays is great!
Sarah Page: Nice choice. I have both the personal and business version of the SPG Amex–also a huge fan. Although I use SPG points to transfer to airline miles primarily (so many partners!)
Do you see yourself continuing your job for the foreseeable future?
Emma Dare: I love being a flight attendant and I’ll definitely continue in this career. My favorite part is meeting so many interesting people (passengers and crew members alike). So many flight attendants are in this field because they enjoy being around people, and it’s so neat when you meet a coworker and become best friends after a day or two. The only drawback is you work with different crews all the time, so you might not see a flight attendant you hit it off with for a while, but it’s always a treat when you do. In the same vein, it’s really challenging to work with someone who is just “over it”. There is nothing more embarrassing than a flight attendant who is mean to passengers, or more annoying than someone who just wants to start drama. Basically as in any job, your coworkers can make or break it!
Thanks again for your time, Emma Dare, and for giving all of us a bit of an inside look at the other half of air travel. We appreciate all that you and your colleagues do! If anyone has any questions for Emma Dare, you can leave them in the comments. If you’re lucky she’ll respond.
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