In classic teenage girl style, I used to want to be an air hostess. These days they're called cabin crew members or flight attendants but I think we were allowed to say air hostess in the late-seventies. It's better than "trolley dolly", anyway. I'd no sooner memorised the pre-take-off and pre-landing announcements than I decided that being a pilot was a better option. As a sixteen-year-old I clocked up around fifty hours (perhaps a third of them solo) flying in and out of Hastings' Bridge Pa airfield in a Piper Tomahawk known as Echo-Quebec-Bravo - before discovering that a career in aviation wasn't for me.

Still, I retain a fascination with airports and the airline industry. Those smartly-dressed crews flocking through the terminals always seem so exotic and glamorous even though I understand that the coffee-tea-or-me routine must wear thin and that some passengers must be hideous to deal with. I recently read Confessions of a Qantas Flight Attendant: True Tales & Gossip from the Galley in which an ex-cabin crew member (clearly with a bit of a grudge) reveals the gory details of his high flying career. (Note: sex, drugs and alcohol may have been involved.)

So the headline Australian airline passengers told to flush drugs caught my attention. It was reported that Jetstar apologised "for a warning a flight attendant gave passengers who might have been flying high that there were drug-sniffer dogs awaiting them at Sydney airport".
Evidently the crew member (on a flight which carried many people who had attended a music festival in Byron Bay) added over the public address system that: "If you need to dispose of anything you shouldn't have, we suggest you flush it now."

I've not travelled with Jetstar but I've flown out of the Gold Coast's Coolangatta with Virgin Blue a few times. Those flights stand out in my memory because the crew announcements weren't the cookie-cutter versions we have become accustomed to. They would freshen up the predictable "Please ensure you take all your belongings with you" by adding "or else your crew will go through your bags searching for Duty Free items which will not be returned to you". The irreverence and humour made a welcome change.


There have been over 16-million hits to the YouTube clip of a Southwest Airlines crew member who turned her pre-flight patter into a stand-up routine that would ultimately lead to an appearance on Ellen and $20,000 worth of gifts. She had the passengers in stitches, earning whistles and applause for a performance that included: "As you know it's a no smoking, no whining, no complaining flight", "Basically just do what we say and nobody gets hurt", "If you're travelling with small children ... we're sorry" - and "Sit back and relax or you can sit up and be tense". The start was inspired too: "My ex-husband, my new boyfriend and their divorce attorney are going to show you the safety features ... It's been a long day for me."

Opinion is divided as to whether the Jetstar crew member's warning that contraband should be flushed was appropriate. The airline itself apologised to "customers offended" and one passenger reckoned anyone with drugs should have been allowed to get caught. Other people thought the attendant had done the decent thing. Regardless of whether it was part of some humorous address, I can't really see how it differs materially from the warnings that on-board toilets are fitted with smoke-detectors. It's just giving people the opportunity to avoid trouble - as is the "death for drug traffickers" warning on Singapore's arrival documents. I've not encountered anyone who either apologised for or questioned the necessity of that particular heads up.

Do you think the Jetstar crew member's warning was appropriate?