Confessions of a 1980s flight attendant (2022)

(CNN) — "I came of age when the jet age came of age," says Ann Hood, an American novelist and New York Times best-selling author, whose latest book "Fly Girl" is a memoir of her adventurous years as a TWA flight attendant, right at the end of the Golden Age of air travel.

As a child, growing up in Virginia, she witnessed the first flight of the Boeing 707 -- which ushered in the era of passenger jet travel -- and watched Dulles airport being built.

At the age of 11, after she moved back to her native Rhode Island with her family, she read a 1964 book titled "How to become an airline stewardess," and her mind 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 college, in 1978, Hood started sending job applications to airlines. "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 term, a gender neutral upgrade from "hostesses" and "stewardesses," and deregulation of the airline industry was around the corner, ready to shake things up.

But for the most part, flying was still glamorous and sophisticated and flight attendants were still "beautiful and sexy ornaments," as Hood puts it, although they were already fighting for women's rights and against discrimination.

The stereotype of stewardesses in miniskirts flirting with male passengers still endured, popularized by books like "Coffee, tea, or me? The uninhibited memoirs of two airline stewardesses" -- published as factual in 1967, but later revealed to have been written by Donald Bain, an American Airlines PR executive.

Weight limits

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(Video) The Sexy Flight Attendants Of The 1960s-1980s. [32 Photos]

Some of the worst requirements to be hired as a flight attendant -- such as age restrictions and losing the job in case of marriage or childbirth -- had already been lifted, but others remained.

The most shocking one, perhaps, was the fact that women had to maintain the weight they had at 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 less than my maximum limit.

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"My roommate got fired over this. The really terrible thing about it, other than what it did to women, is that this restriction was not removed until the 1990s."

(Video) Lessons from 60 years as a flight attendant

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 kind of terrifying, because it was so big -- and the stairs, the spiral stairs that led to first class that you had to go up and down not infrequently," says Hood. "I would keep thinking: don't trip. Eventually I got used to it."

Carving chateaubriand

Confessions of a 1980s flight attendant (1)

Hood's favorite plane was a Lockheed L-1-11 TriStar.

Christopher Deahr/Moment Editorial/Flickr Vision/Getty Images

She says her favorite plane to work on was the Lockheed L-1011 TriStar. "Domestically, only Eastern Airlines and TWA flew it. It was a very approachable, workable widebody plane with a lovely setup of two seats on each side and then four seats in the middle, so everybody could get out easily. Nobody was unhappy on that plane."

Flying was still glamorous at the time, she says.

"People dressed up to fly and remembered the food in a good way. It's really different from today. I can only compare it to being in a fine hotel, or maybe on a cruise ship. Nothing was plastic and coach was super nice," 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.

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"If you went on a five-day trip, which wasn't uncommon, you had to pack a separate whole uniform because you just would smell so much like smoke," Hood says. "Boy, was I glad when that stopped. The front rows of each section were deemed non-smoking, but the whole plane was filled with smoke because you couldn't keep it from going backwards, it was ridiculous."

What about the Mile High Club? "It wasn't uncommon on international flights to see a man go into the bathroom and a minute later his seatmate join him, or some version of that," says Hood. "It didn't happen on every flight, but you saw 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 also common. "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

Confessions of a 1980s flight attendant (2)

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

Ann Hood

Hood has seen her fair share of bizarre things 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 guy who flew the whole way in his tighty-whities and his dress shirt and tie, because he didn't want to wrinkle his pants for a job interview. Or the guy on a 747 in Frankfurt who was riding his bicycle down the aisle," she reveals.

(Video) Fly Girl: An Evening with Ann Hood & Laura Lippman

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

"I would say the job was 80% fun and 20% boring. In some flights, especially those that weren't very full, there was a lot of time to fill. You can only serve people so much food and so many drinks, and play so many movies. I made the job fun. I loved talking to people. I loved the feel of it. I still love flying today," says Hood.

She says it was indeed possible to actually visit and experience the cities she traveled to. "Sometimes your layover was really short or you were just tired, but for the most part, the city was right out the door. I very much took advantage 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.

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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 force. They're highly unionized. They're independent. In the cabin, they make all the decisions. They have to troubleshoot. They're there for the emergency stuff. They land in cities where they don't know anything or anyone and find their way.

"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 career option.

"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 adds. "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.

(Video) Vintage Flight Attendants (stock footage / archival footage)

"I don't know if it should be someone's life's work -- if they want it to be that, great. But I think a few years working as a flight attendant could change your life."

FAQs

Who was the man who assaulted the flight attendant? ›

Alexander Tung Cuu Le, 33, of Westminster, California, is charged with interference with flight crew members and attendants, which carries a statutory maximum sentence of 20 years in federal prison.

How often do flight attendants have crushes on their passengers? ›

One Quora user even asked the question, point-blank: “how often do flight attendants have crushes on their passengers,” and Ryanair flight attendant Dani Sherlock chimed in with an answer. “At least once a day,” she says, and admits that, upon occasion, flight attendants will be so bold as to act on those feelings.

Who is the longest serving flight attendant? ›

- An 86-year-old woman who has been flying regularly for nearly 65 years was named the world's longest-serving flight attendant by Guinness World Records. Bette Nash began her career on Nov. 4, 1957, with Eastern Air Lines.

Can you ask a flight attendant for a blanket? ›

Blankets. Business and first-class flights offer comfort items like blankets during the flight. You must leave them on board when you're leaving the plane as they can be reused. “Paying more to travel in a better class does not entitle passengers to take items offered for the journey,” says Webber.

Who is alexander tung cuu le? ›

Passengers helped crew to restrain a 33-year-old man on an American Airlines flight on Wednesday. Alexander Tung Cuu Le, 33, has been charged with one count of interference with flight crew members. He has been permanently banned from flying with the airline.

Who is Max Berry? ›

Maxwell Berry, unruly passenger detained with duct tape on Frontier flight, sentenced to 60 days in jail. Maxwell Berry, who was taped to his seat on a Frontier Airlines flight last year after he groped and assaulted flight attendants, has been sentenced to 60 days in jail and one year of supervised release.

What do flight attendants notice about you in 3 seconds? ›

What Flight Attendants Notice About You In 3 Secs - YouTube

Are flight attendants allowed to flirt? ›

Ignoring safety demonstrations, flirting with flight attendants or even touching them is not okay. There are rules to follow on a plane and one of them is to treat the cabin crew with respect.

Can you date a flight attendant? ›

Due to the nature of the job it is totally possible! And whilst some people may want that, the majority of Flight Attendants are just like anybody else, and all they want is to meet their soulmate, their other half – someone to share their life with and have a loving, honest relationship.

What is the hardest part of being a flight attendant? ›

"Being on reserve is the hardest part of the job. It's basically on call, sitting around not knowing where you're going to go or when.

What is the age limit to become a flight attendant? ›

At 21 years old, you can apply to be a flight attendant with any airline. Minimum age requirements typically apply at the time of training completion, so candidates who will reach an airline's minimum age during training can apply for flight attendant roles. There is no upper age limit for flight attendants.

How old is the oldest stewardess? ›

Bette Nash has spent over six decades in the American aviation industry and still retains her charm and energy. At 86, she is the world's oldest flight attendant. According to the Guinness World Records, the length of her career, as of January this year, was 64 years and 61 days.

Do you get to keep airline pajamas? ›

Whether or not you get to keep your extra goodies depends on the airline. You'll almost certainly not be keeping any noise-canceling headphones, but you can sometimes keep your pajamas and blankets. Swiss Air, British Airways, American Airlines, Jet Airways, Virgin Atlantic will not request that you return either item.

What items you Cannot take on a plane? ›

What items are prohibited in carry ons?
  • Liquids, gels, or pastes in bottles larger than 3.4 ounces (100 ml)
  • Guns and ammunition (including BB guns and cap guns)
  • Stun guns and tasers.
  • Sharp objects (knives, axes, razor blades)
  • Self-defense items (such as pepper spray, brass knuckle, billy clubs)
3 Dec 2021

Are airline blankets washed? ›

According to active flight attendant and HuffPost blogger Sara Keagle, this dirty little secret is indeed true, at least partially. As she revealed to HuffPost, freshly washed blankets are only supplied to the first flights of the day. On subsequent flights, the blankets are re-folded and re-used.

What happened Vyvianna Quinonez? ›

Woman Sentenced to 15 Months in Federal Custody for Interfering with Southwest Airlines Flight Attendant. SAN DIEGO – Vyvianna M. Quinonez of Sacramento was sentenced in federal court today to 15 months in federal custody for interfering with a Southwest Airlines flight attendant.

Who are Max Berry's parents? ›

Maxwell's father and mother are Christopher Lee Berry and Lisa Ann Wilkinson Berry. According to Conan Daily, his father is a computer tech and his mother works as a teacher at the Norwalk Catholic School. They live in Norwalk, Huron County, Ohio.

What flight attendants dont tell you? ›

10 Secrets Flight Attendants Will Never Tell You
  • Those emergency oxygen masks deliver a supply that lasts only 15 minutes. ...
  • If anyone dies during a flight, they may need to stay in their seat. ...
  • The chimes that sound mid-flight are a secret code. ...
  • The headsets and earbuds are not new.
6 Aug 2021

Why should you not wear shorts on an airplane? ›

"Don't or try not to wear shorts when you're on an airplane. Legs are exposed to germs when one wears shorts because it is not possible to know how clean the seats are.

Why do flight attendants look you up and down? ›

Flight attendants are looking for able-bodied people and warning signs. "So when you walk on the airplane and see our happy, smiling face, we're actually looking you up and down, and we are trying to find our ABPs," the Salt-Lake-City-based flight attendant said in the video.

Do flight attendants have to be attractive? ›

Airlines have different standards for the physical appearance of their flight attendants, but in general, they are looking for women who are attractive and well-groomed. It is important to note that being pretty is not the only criteria for being a successful flight attendant.

How can I impress a flight attendant? ›

So here's how to charm them.
  1. Say hi back. If a flight attendant greets you upon boarding, don't just ignore them. ...
  2. Listen to the safety demo. It's just polite. ...
  3. Headphones off! ...
  4. Be specific when ordering. ...
  5. Same for cold drinks. ...
  6. Say please and thank you. ...
  7. Magazines! ...
  8. Treats.
18 Mar 2014

Can guys be flight attendants? ›

Are There Male Flight Attendants Now? Absolutely. Today, there are well over 25,000 men that work as flight attendants. This includes the large airlines (like Delta and United) as well as smaller more regional carriers.

Who are flight attendants most likely to marry? ›

Female flight attendants are most likely to marry male managers or female flight attendants. Male flight attendants are most likely to marry female flight attendants or male elementary- and middle-school teachers.

Do flight attendants sleep around? ›

Flight attendants get breaks on long-haul flights to recharge and stay energized. They have their own bedrooms in which to take power naps. These bedrooms are hidden from passengers. They can be tucked behind a secret stairway or even accessed through a hatch that looks like a typical overhead bin.

Is it hard to keep a relationship as a flight attendant? ›

Dating a flight attendant is not for everyone, it takes a lot of patience, trust, and love to survive. It's hard, especially when you love someone and you want to spend all the time you can with them.

Which airline has the hardest flight attendant training? ›

For aspiring flight attendants, Delta Air Lines, ranked by its employees as one of the best places to work, is also one of the most difficult places to get a job. It's harder to get invited to Delta flight attendant training than it is to get into Harvard University.

What airline pays the most for flight attendants? ›

Which Airlines Pay Flight Attendants the Most?
Average Annual PayAdditional Annual Pay
American Airlines$43,460$2,825
Delta Airlines$40,236$6,400
Southwest Airlines$42,000$4,800
United Airlines$44,219$5,200
6 more rows

Can you become a flight attendant at 50? ›

There is no maximum age to become a flight attendant. If you're in your 40's or 50's and want to be a flight attendant, go ahead and apply! As long as you meet the other requirements, your age won't be a problem.

Is there a weight limit for cabin crew? ›

There aren't specific weight requirements for Flight Attendants – many airlines will check to see that the prospective Cabin Crew are in proportion, they look a healthy weight and that they will be able to fit in the Cabin Crew Uniform.

How much do you have to weigh to be an airline stewardess? ›

Flight attendants have no set weight requirements, as body types can vary even if two people are the same height and weight. It's impossible to give a size or weight for the jumpseat because some harnesses are smaller than others, and people carry weight differently.

Do you need 20/20 vision to be a flight attendant? ›

Eye Exam. An applicant for a flight attendant job does not need to have 20/20 vision to qualify for the position. According to Everyday Aviation, acceptable vision for a flight attendant is 20/40 with glasses or contact lenses.

Why do flight attendants sit on their hands? ›

Doing it this way ensures they have an accurate count especially on busy flights. This is why their hands are hidden, so as not to attract too much attention to the process. Sometimes cabin crew count passengers after they have been seated, and sometimes it's done twice: during boarding and after seating.

Why are flight attendants older? ›

I commented last week that all but two crew members on our American Airlines A330-200 were older and likely over the age of 59. Older flight attendants tend to have seniority which allows them to hold the best service lines which are considered to be those with long flight times and exciting international destinations.

How old do you have to be to be a Southwest Airlines flight attendant? ›

Must be at least 20 years of age at the time of application. Must have authorization to work in the United States as defined by the Immigration Reform Act of 1986. Must possess a valid, unexpired passport.

Why do airlines give you socks? ›

Trtl Flight Socks help maintain healthy circulation so that you step off the plane ready to roll. They can be worn on shorter trips, but they are most helpful on long-haul flights. That's because sitting for prolonged periods of time is when you're most prone to getting swollen ankles and feet.

What do airlines do with used blankets? ›

After use, airlines will most often send blankets off to be washed at an industrial facility (whether it's one they operate themselves or via a laundry service), but for some carriers this only happens at their home base airports, so used blankets are either stuffed in the overhead bins or folded back up.

What airlines sleep pods? ›

Air New Zealand this week announced its innovative "Skynest" concept, which features six full-length sleeping pods.

What should you not wear through airport security? ›

Baggy clothing can include low-hanging pants, flowy skirts, heavy sweaters or sweatshirts, and loose dresses – things that would allow malicious travelers to hide prohibited items. Airport security may need to do a pat-down inspection if your clothes are too loose and they suspect you may be hiding prohibited items.

What is the TSA 3-1-1 rule? ›

Each passenger may carry liquids, gels and aerosols in travel-size containers that are 3.4 ounces or100 milliliters. Each passenger is limited to one quart-size bag of liquids, gels and aerosols.

Does toothpaste count as a liquid TSA? ›

Is toothpaste considered a liquid by the TSA? Yes, toothpaste must adhere to the 3-1-1 rule for liquids and gels. Toothpaste can be brought through TSA security in your carry-on as long as it is 3.4 ounces (100 milliliters) or less and placed in a 1-quart bag.

Are airplane pillows reused? ›

While some choose to reuse their inventory after each flight, others have chosen onetime-use options. And, as you've probably noticed, still others don't offer the amenity at all. However, a majority of those that do offer reused blankets and pillows assure travelers that they are properly laundered.

Can you take a pillow on a plane for free? ›

According to TSA regulations, you can bring a pillow on a plane in both your carry on and checked bags. However, it's important to know if a pillow will count as a personal item or not; if the type of pillow matters; if pillows will be handed out by an airline; if they are hygienic or not, and more.

What happened Vyvianna Quinonez? ›

Woman Sentenced to 15 Months in Federal Custody for Interfering with Southwest Airlines Flight Attendant. SAN DIEGO – Vyvianna M. Quinonez of Sacramento was sentenced in federal court today to 15 months in federal custody for interfering with a Southwest Airlines flight attendant.

Is it illegal to record flight attendants? ›

United: “The use of small cameras or mobile devices for photography and video is permitted on board, provided that the purpose is capturing personal events. Photographing or recording other customers or airline personnel without their express consent is prohibited.”

Why are airline passengers so angry? ›

Air rage generally covers both behavior of a passenger or crew member that is likely caused by physiological or psychological stresses associated with air travel, and when a passenger or crew member becomes unruly, angry, or violent on an aircraft during a flight. Excessive consumption of alcohol is often a cause.

Is air rage a crime? ›

However, air rage can be accepted as a crime element for the passenger after the flight. Therefore, passengers who think they have this disorder should pay attention to have full control of their behaviors.

Who is Antonio McGarity? ›

PHOENIX, Ariz. – Antonio Sherrodd McGarity, 34, of Arlington, Texas, pleaded guilty last week to Lewd, Indecent, or Obscene Acts While on an Aircraft and was sentenced by U.S. Magistrate Judge Deborah M.

Who is Vyvianna Quinonez Southwest Airlines? ›

Vyvianna M. Quinonez, 29, of Antelope also was sentenced to serve three years of parole after she's released from prison, according to a news release from the U.S. Attorney's Office in San Diego. In December, Quinonez pleaded guilty to a charge of interfering with a Southwest Airlines flight attendant.

Why are airline Cancelling flights? ›

Why are airlines cancelling flights? There are several reasons why airlines are cutting back on their flight schedules, but it's chiefly due to staff shortages. Airlines and airports around the world made many staff redundant during the pandemic, thereby reducing the number of passengers they could handle.

Why is photography not allowed in airplane? ›

"Taking pictures during flight is a source of distraction, which may lead to error and reduction in safety," the aviation authority said in a circular. It has also asked airlines to ensure that passengers are not allowed to indulge in photography while embarking/disembarking from the aircraft.

Can you take pictures from a plane window? ›

Taking the picture should always be done without the flash. Turn off also the reading light, as it might cause reflection on the window. Plane windows can also freeze during flight. If you don't have a special target in mind, take your pictures early on in the flight.

Can you video a flight attendant? ›

Photography or video recording of airline personnel, equipment, or procedures is strictly prohibited."

Why are people misbehaving on planes? ›

Passenger violence on airplanes is spiking and retail workers are experiencing customer harassment. Fear and anxiety activates the fight-or-flight part of our brain, a Harvard psychologist said. Now, after a year and a half of being on edge, many people are reaching a "boiling point."

What happens if someone gets violent on a plane? ›

If the plane has yet to take off and a passenger becomes violent, the crew will most likely call for assistance from airport security or the police. The passenger may then be removed from the plane or even arrested depending on the behaviour.

What happens to unruly passengers? ›

The repercussions for passengers who engage in unruly behavior can be substantial. They can be fined by the FAA or prosecuted on criminal charges. Security violations are excluded. Those cases are handled by the Transportation Security Administration (TSA).

What happens when flight attendants get pregnant? ›

For flight attendants, a NIOSH study found that exposure to 0.1 mGy (0.36 mSv) or more of cosmic radiation in the first trimester may be linked to increased risk of miscarriage. Learn more about cosmic radiation and what you can do to reduce exposure.

Are unruly passengers banned from flying? ›

In 2021 and 2022, a number of airlines, including United and Delta, announced that unruly passengers would be banned from their flights because of their behavior. The announcements inferred the bans would be for life.

How do you deal with rude airline passengers? ›

8 Dos and Don'ts for Dealing with Rude Passengers
  1. Do be polite. ...
  2. Don't refuse to negotiate. ...
  3. Don't try the gadget approach. ...
  4. Do stay clear-headed. ...
  5. Do know when to contact a flight attendant. ...
  6. Do know when to take matters into your own hands. ...
  7. Don't sweat the small stuff. ...
  8. Do have a sense of humor.
14 Mar 2013

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