HomeTravelConfessions of a 1980s flight attendant

Confessions of a 1980s flight attendant

(CNN) — “I came of age when the jet age came of age,” says Ann Hood, an American novelist and New York Times best-selling writer, whose newest ebook “Fly Girl” is a memoir of her adventurous years as a TWA flight attendant, proper on the finish of the Golden Age of air journey.

As a baby, rising up in Virginia, she witnessed the primary flight of the Boeing 707 — which ushered within the period of passenger jet journey — and watched Dulles airport being constructed.

At the age of 11, after she moved again to her native Rhode Island along with her household, she learn a 1964 ebook titled “How to become an airline stewardess,” and her thoughts was made up.

“Although it was sexist as hell, it enticed me because it talked about having a job that allowed you to see the world and I thought, well, that might work.”

When she graduated from faculty, in 1978, Hood began sending job functions to airways. “I think 1978 was a really interesting year, because many of the women I went to college with had one foot in old ideas and stereotypes, and the other foot in the future. It was kind of a confusing time for young women.”

“Flight attendant” was a newly minted time period, a gender impartial improve from “hostesses” and “stewardesses,” and deregulation of the airline trade was across the nook, able to shake issues up.

But for essentially the most half, flying was nonetheless glamorous and complicated and flights attendants had been nonetheless “beautiful and sexy ornaments,” as Hood places, it, though they had been already combating for girls’s rights and towards discrimination.

The stereotype of stewardesses in miniskirts flirting with male passengers nonetheless endured, popularized by books like “Coffee, tea, or me? The uninhibited memoirs of two airline stewardesses” — printed as factual in 1967, however later revealed to have been written by Donald Bain, an American Airlines PR government.

Weight limits

Some of the worst necessities to be employed as a flight attendant — equivalent to age restrictions and dropping the job in case of marriage or childbirth — had already been lifted, however others remained.

The most stunning one, maybe, was the truth that girls needed to preserve the load that they had on the time of hiring.

“All airlines sent a chart with your application, you looked at your height and the maximum weight and if you did not fall within that, they wouldn’t even interview you,” says Hood. “But once you got hired, at least at TWA, you couldn’t go up to that maximum weight. You had to stay at your hiring weight, which in my case was about 15 pounds more than my maximum limit.

“My roommate acquired fired over this. The actually horrible factor about it, apart from what it did to girls, is that this restriction was not eliminated till the Nineteen Nineties.”

Hood was one of 560 flight attendants, out of 14,000 applicants, hired in 1978 by TWA, then a major carrier, acquired by American Airlines in 2001.

The job started with a few days of intense training in Kansas City, where cadet flight attendants would learn everything from aircraft part names to emergency medical procedures, as well as the safety protocols of seven different aircraft. The list included the Queen of the Skies, the Boeing 747.

“It was sort of terrifying, as a result of it was so massive — and the steps, the spiral stairs that led to firstclass that you simply needed to go up and down not sometimes,” says Hood. “I might maintain considering: do not journey. Eventually I acquired used to it.”

Carving chateaubriand

Hood’s favourite airplane was a Lockheed L-1-11 TriStar.

Christopher Deahr/Moment Editorial/Flickr Vision/Getty Images

She says her favourite airplane to work on was the Lockheed L-1011 TriStar. “Domestically, solely Eastern Airlines and TWA flew it. It was a very approachable, workable widebody airplane with a beautiful setup of two seats on all sides after which 4 seats within the center, so everyone might get out simply. Nobody was sad on that airplane.”

Flying was still glamorous at the time, she says.

“People dressed as much as fly and remembered the meals in a great way. It’s actually completely different from at the moment. I can solely examine it to being in a superb lodge, or perhaps on a cruise ship. Nothing was plastic and coach was tremendous good,” says Hood, who remembers donning her Ralph Lauren-designed uniform and carving chateaubriand cooked to taste for first class passengers, who also had a choice of Russian caviar and lobster bisque to go with their Dom Perignon.

It wasn’t all a bed of roses. Smoking on board was widespread, and for flight attendants it was a nightmare.

“If you went on a five-day journey, which wasn’t unusual, you needed to pack a separate entire uniform since you simply would scent a lot like smoke,” Hood says. “Boy, was I glad when that stopped. The entrance rows of every part had been deemed non-smoking, however the entire airplane was stuffed with smoke since you could not maintain it from going backwards, it was ridiculous.”

What about the Mile High Club? “It wasn’t unusual on worldwide flights to see a man go into the toilet and a minute later his seatmate be part of him, or some model of that,” says Hood. “It did not occur on each flight, however you noticed it.

“International flights usually weren’t as full as they are now, so in those middle sections of five seats on a 747 you could see a couple put the armrests up, take a blanket and disappear under it. I can’t say what they were doing, but it looked suspicious.”

As for passengers flirting or asking flight attendants out, it was additionally widespread. “I did date passengers, but that was mostly disastrous. It was never what I had imagined. But in 1982, I met a guy on a flight from San Francisco to New York. He was sitting in 47F — and I dated him for five years.”

An empowering job

Hood left the job in 1986 to focus on her writing career.

Hood left the job in 1986 to deal with her writing profession.

Ann Hood

Hood has seen her fair proportion of weird issues on board. “The weirdest would definitely be the woman in first class who appeared to be breastfeeding her cat. I mean, I can’t say that it was actually happening, but she had her cat to her breast.

“And then the man who flew the entire approach in his tighty-whities and his costume shirt and tie, as a result of he did not need to wrinkle his pants for a job interview. Or the man on a 747 in Frankfurt who was driving his bicycle down the aisle,” she reveals.

That said, the routine would sometimes kick in, and not every flight was a wondrous concentrate of adventure and glamor.

“I might say the job was 80% enjoyable and 20% boring. In some flights, particularly those who weren’t very full, there was a lot of time to fill. You can solely serve folks a lot meals and so many drinks, and play so many films. I made the job enjoyable. I beloved speaking to folks. I beloved the texture of it. I nonetheless love flying at the moment,” says Hood.

She says it was indeed possible to actually visit and experience the cities she traveled to. “Sometimes your layover was actually brief otherwise you had been simply drained, however for essentially the most half, the town was proper out the door. I very a lot took benefit of that when flying internationally.”

She left the job to focus on her writing career in 1986, and by that time things had changed. Deregulation, which removed federal control over everything from fares to routes, had come fully into effect, changing flying forever.

Planes became filled with more seats and coach stopped being as pleasant, but flying was also democratized and made available to a far larger share of society.

Hood says she is proud of her career in the skies.

“Flight attendants are a power. They’re extremely unionized. They’re impartial. In the cabin, they make all the selections. They should troubleshoot. They’re there for the emergency stuff. They land in cities the place they do not know something or anybody and discover their approach.

“It’s such an empowering job, yet it’s a sexist job. In itself, it is as contradictory today as the time in which I started it,” she says.

Nevertheless, she recommends it as a profession possibility.

“I was 21 when I was hired, and it gave me confidence, it gave me poise, and the ability to think on my feet,” she provides. “To take charge on that airplane, and once I got off, to walk into a city and feel completely at home — or at least figure out how to feel at home in it.

“I do not know if it needs to be somebody’s life’s work — if they need it to be that, nice. But I believe a few years working as a flight attendant might change your life.”

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