The secret stewardess

Our airline insider reveals what the crew really think of you

Putting on a smile all day isn't always easy.
Putting on a smile all day isn't always easy.

Sometimes I dream of having the attention of every guest on board, holding them captive for an entire flight as I wax lyrical about the ins and outs of what it's like being cabin crew.

What we're allowed to say, versus what we would like to say to our guests, is a source of endless frustration. The long and short of it is this: everything we ask of you we do for your safety and the safety of others on board.

With seven years of domestic flying under my belt it's time to set the record straight. Here's what the crew really think of you.

Delays

When safety is the first priority of an industry delays are inevitable. They are frustrating for everyone. Every minute an aircraft is stuck at the gate costs the airline money. Like you, it also prevents us (the crew) from being where we need to be, whether it's another flight or with our families, whom we haven't seen in days.

We don't control the weather, air traffic control, or the bird that just flew into the engine so please don't yell at us as you disembark the aircraft, swearing you will never fly on the airline again. Whether you can see it or not, the entire business is working as hard as possible to minimise any disruption to you and get flights back on schedule.

Acknowledgment on boarding

Cabin crew appreciate how busy and important you are, but when we welcome you on board, looking at you, usually addressing you by name, some form of acknowledgment would be nice. Holding your boarding pass up to my face and saying "14C" isn't a traditional greeting of any language I've come across. Hearing our own voice say, "Welcome back Mr Smith" for the 700th time that day is hard on our ears too.

Securing the cabin

Securing the cabin (checking bags are stowed, seatbelts fastened, electronics off, window blinds and tray tables up) is a safety requirement of airlines and therefore a key part of our job. We don't ask you to do any of those things to annoy you, we do it to because they're the rules of the game. The old "they didn't ask me that on my last flight with ..." is one of two things, a white lie on your part, or someone on your other flight not doing their job. It is a requirement of all airlines to secure the cabin before take-off and landing.

Stowing luggage in lockers

It is not part of our job to stow your heavy bags. The most common injuries that occur in our workplace are back injuries either from stowing bags or pushing and pulling food carts. In most cases we are happy to help but if it's too heavy for you to lift, it's too heavy to go in the cabin.

Over-wing safety briefing

The over-wing safety briefing is another thing we have to do every flight. Even if you fly so often you know the crew by name, we still need you to listen and acknowledge us when we ask if you're happy to help. We appreciate how quickly it gets stale, but while you're up to your fourth briefing that week, we're on our fourth for the day.

Service

I can't really defend the quality of the food on board; all I can say is it is getting better and airlines are continually trying to improve the menus. If it's any consolation, you should see the crew food.

If we miss you during service because of poor communication between the crew, or just human error, press your call bell and we will make up for it. Please don't grab my arm as I walk past and yell at me because you didn't get a coffee - I mean, have you tasted the coffee on board?

The mile-high club

It perplexes me that people are still seeking membership for the not-so-exclusive mile-high club. If I could think of one place on earth I want to spend the least amount of time, it's the toilets on an aircraft.

No matter how many times we clean them, they still smell and look dirty. I'm not sure what the right way is to make people stop going in there, or get them out once I know they're in. When I bang on the door, requesting you return to your seat, only to be ignored, you leave me little choice but to make a PA to the entire cabin - at least that way I know you will hear.


We're not so perfect either ...

Tricks we play on passengers

Nothing entertains crew more than someone standing in front of the toilet door wondering how to open it. The handle works in just the same way as any handle on the ground. If I ask you to open the ashtray that's stuck to the outside of the toilet door, then direct you state your name and seat number into said ashtray to unlock the door, you've been had.

Food

Just like a restaurant kitchen, crew members have on occasion wiped food on a dirty galley surface to teach you a lesson for being rude. When your only tool is a smile, this is the weapon of choice for some.

Where are we?

We don't know the name of the lake, hill or road below us. The pilots might and if we're not busy (we're always busy) we're happy to ask. If we tell you it's a place called Diligaf what we really mean is, "Do I look like I give a f***". Sorry.

Crop dusting, fact or fiction?

Crop dusting refers to the technique of discreetly moving through the cabin to pass wind. It's no myth. I can't tell you how uncomfortable it is flying in a pressurised tube, up and down all day.


The Herald's Secret Stewardess was cabin crew for seven years in an international airline.

- NZ Herald

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