I am an air hostess. It’s my dream job, but it’s also lonely
- Insider spoke to a flight attendant at a major US airline about her job during the pandemic.
- They started work just four weeks before the start of the pandemic, and things “got intense very quickly”.
- Here is their story, told to the writer Fortesa Latifi.
This essay is based on a conversation with a flight attendant from a major US airline. They spoke on condition of anonymity to protect their careers, but Insider verified their identities and former jobs. The conversation has been edited for length and clarity.
In the spring of 2020, I finally landed my dream job as a flight attendant for a major American airline. Although I dreamed of being a flight attendant, I never really thought it was something I could achieve – and then I did. After an application process that lasted two and a half months, I was offered the job of my dreams.
I only had four weeks of flying before the pandemic hit. Then everything changed.
In some ways, I think it was easier for those of us who didn’t have a lot of pre-pandemic experience as flight attendants. It was almost like we didn’t know any better, so we were able to deal with how weird our jobs got.
Suddenly, not only were we responsible for the safety of our passengers in the normal way, but we were also responsible for making sure they complied with federal mask mandates.
Things got intense very quickly, and there were a few times where I had to interrupt real physical fights between clients. It certainly wasn’t something I expected when I started my dream job, but it was the reality of the situation.
Even though many flight attendants have been laid off and some have chosen to quit their jobs, I never thought I would leave. Being a flight attendant was my goal, and all the things I loved about it were still there – I was able to travel, take care of people, and have a flexible schedule.
Even at the worst of the pandemic, I never wanted to quit
I feel like this job was created for me to succeed. All of my skills come in handy as a flight attendant, and I love it.
Even though I only had a month of flight time before the pandemic, things definitely got complicated once the pandemic hit. People were really scared – of the virus, of each other and the possibility of getting sick. Being on a plane, in that enclosed space with people you don’t know, is kind of a perfect place to incubate those fears.
The federal mask mandate was really uncomfortable for people at first
The mandate definitely got better over time, because I think people just got used to the way things were. Customers understood that if they were flying, they had to comply with the mask mandate.
Some people still rolled their eyes when we asked them to put on their masks, but generally they did as we asked them. At the beginning, we had a lot more hindsight. People thought we didn’t have the authority to tell them to wear a mask, but under the federal mask mandate, we did.
Now that the CDC’s mask mandate is over, I hope the interactions between flight attendants and the customers we serve will improve even further.
As a flight attendant, it is very important to create a social network
It can be very lonely flying all the time, and it’s hard to keep up with a social life because your schedule is so unpredictable.
But at home, I was able to create a solid group of friends, which is really important. It’s not healthy to just focus on work and then be alone when you’re home. I don’t think people realize how lonely being a flight attendant can be.
We are often looked down upon and seen as low-skilled workers, but we are safety professionals
It’s not easy being a flight attendant. Plus, we’re not just servers on a plane – we’re on the plane for the safety and protection of everyone on board.
It is critical work. I would like people to realize that we are here for the safety and security of the aircraft and its passengers. When a flight attendant asks you to do something, it’s because we’re trying to protect you, not because we like to have power over you.