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Insider Series: Carrie A. Trey Answers Your Questions About Her Job as a Flight Attendant

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I love being a flight attendant, but I didn’t realize until I starting reading through some of these questions how much mystery there is surrounding our role on the plane and how we feel about our jobs. Below, I’ve done my best to shed some light on what goes on behind the scenes — or rather, behind the curtain.

What are some of the most and least appealing domestic routes to work?

Like anything in life, this is really just a matter of taste. One man’s trash is another man’s treasure. I would never in a million years go near a Florida turn, but for all the Mommies who want to drop their kids off at school on the way to work and pick them up on the way home, they’re perfect. South Florida is pretty notorious though. You’ll often have 20-30 wheelchair passengers — half of whom walk off the plane anyway! — and you’ll run out of “selzah!” and cranberry juice in the first three rows.

Las Vegas also has a pretty gnarly reputation. More often than not, you’ll have a plane full of drunks who want to keep drinking and being unruly. No thank you. We also call the New York to Los Angeles route “the princess flight” because pretty much everyone onboard thinks they’re a princess, or so it feels sometimes.

On the other hand, the Pacific Northwest — Portland and Seattle, for instance — tend to have very low-key crowds. I also like working on shuttle flights between New York and Washington, D.C. because it’s mostly a business traveler crowd. Most people on those flights just want to sit back and enjoy a glass of wine between meetings.

Do you prefer to work in economy or business class?

Again, this is entirely a matter of personal taste. If you’re working NY or LA to Las Vegas, chances are you want to be up in the front so at least you only have to deal with 16-20 drunks instead of 185.

Overall though, I really don’t mind where I work. Generally, economy is nice because it’s so easy to make someone happy. Lower expectations mean that something as simple as getting someone an extra pillow or offering the whole can of soda can make their day. On the other hand, I like that in business/first class, you have more time to interact with individual passengers and establish a rapport with them. At the end of the day, you end up working hard in either cabin if you’re doing the job correctly. Personally, I don’t have a preference and enjoy mixing it up.

Do cabin crew get to eat the leftover first-class meals? 

I love it when picky eaters sit in first class because it means Carrie will be having caviar for lunch! (Yes, we eat what’s left over). On long flights, there are specific crew meals that are catered, and it’s usually the same as what is served upfront, but sometimes it’s a different menu entirely. It can include a tray of sandwiches, fruit, pasta and whatever else the caterers had on hand to surprise us with that day.

On short flights where crew meals are not provided, we will sometimes dive into whatever the passengers don’t want, but more often than not, we’re just as tired of airplane food as you are. I’d rather save the calories for a delicious bottle of Sauvignon blanc on my layover!

What keeps you going when the job is really exhausting?

COFFEE! Well, maybe not just coffee, but that definitely helps. On long-haul flights, we have bunks and take crew rest. There’s really no substitute for a good nap! But when that’s not an option, anything from coffee or tea to crosswords and of course, chatting with each other and catching up on all the latest gossip.

Do you have any favorite airports? Are there any you’d never want to go back to?

Yes and yes! I love Amsterdam Schiphol (AMS) and Singapore Changi (SIN). Both airports have great shopping and dining facilities, and I love all of Changi’s green spaces! It’s a great place to have a little zen moment before working a long flight. The new Terminal 1 in Barcelona (BCN) is also a lovely space, with sweeping high ceilings and lots of natural light that give it a great airy feel.

On the other hand, JFK is pretty much always a charlie-foxtrot, Istanbul (IST) is severely overcrowded and thus hard to navigate — there are crowds everywhere! — and if I never set foot in Lagos (LOS) again, it will be too soon. That airport is a dump!

In the old days, airlines would complain about weight gain and apply all of those sexist rules… Do any of them still exist?

Back in the day, there were indeed a number of sexist rules — you couldn’t be married, you couldn’t get pregnant, etc. Thankfully, those were mostly all overturned in the 70s and 80s and a number of flight attendants who had to leave when they got married or pregnant did indeed get their jobs back.

Then there were rules that relate to appearance, and that’s a grayer area. Expecting someone to be fit in a job where you could potentially be required to drag someone’s unconscious body to a door and push it down a slide is not totally unreasonable. That being said, airlines are afraid of being sued for discrimination — particularly in the United States — so they’ll shy away from enforcing rules related to appearance.

In Europe and the rest of the world, however, cabin crew are still expected to be fit. In Asia, there are rumors that crew have to retire and/or are not allowed to be over a certain dress size, but I’m not going to say that’s fact until I speak with crew from one of those airlines and get the information firsthand.

What kind of training do flight attendants get? 

Cabin crew members go through extensive training prior to starting the job, and are also required to go back annually for a refresher. Here’s an in-depth guide to flight attendant training for more info.

How much do flight attendants make?

This article explains how much we make and how we get paid.

Have your own questions? We’d love to hear them! Let us know in the comments section, below.

Featured image courtesy of Shutterstock.

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