Flight Attendant Appreciation Day is long overdue, in my book. In fact, I’ve decided to basically declare it every day I fly. Allow me to attempt to persuade you to do the same.
First, a step back. I grew up in an era where being a stewardess was about the coolest thing you could be, next to “movie star” and “ballerina.” Alas, even before I reached my full 5’10”, I suspected I would be too tall. Stewardesses needed to be “between 5’2″ but no more than 5’9″, weight 105 to 135 in proportion to height.” But golly, it seemed glamorous.
The draconian weight standards have been abandoned, although there appears to be a height cap at 6’1″ just so attendants of any gender can make it down the aisle. (I’ve scraped my own noggin on the ceiling of a smaller commuter jet more than once, given that with shoes I’m over 6 feet.) But getting rid of the weigh-ins didn’t exactly make being a flight attendant any easier.
Consider the schedule: rough and erratic, with lots of holidays spent en route to….somewhere. The pay: not great by any standards.
Now add on the fact that flight attendants, unlike pilots, have to deal with more than their share of registered assholes. Pilots get more respect from their employers, and basically live in the cockpit, which is of course where we want them. FAs, on the other hand, have to field questions from people who never listen. They deflect anger over things they cannot possibly control, like weather, equipment issues, other people’s crying babies, and the ground crew not providing enough sandwiches. And they clean up the nasty in-flight bio-mess as it occurs. I fly a lot. And most people act pretty chill. But man, one hissy fit clouds up the sunniest skies. It’s no wonder this happened.
Flight Attendant Appreciation Day: How to Be a Model Passenger
Despite the rather glorious entertainment value, I beg you not to inspire someone to exit via the emergency slide, lofting a bottle of champagne in each hand. Smile at your flight attendant. Lift your face from your phone for the 2 freaking minutes it takes to go through the safety demonstration. Because no matter how many times you’ve heard it, you haven’t heard it as many times as the flight attendants, and they’re still engaged.
If nothing else, apply a little bit of common sense and thoughtfulness. Give good feedback online. Be prepared, particularly when you’re bringing kids with you. This post from a flight attendant offers an inside view from that side of the aisle. (The comments provide overwhelming ugliness, btw; one even says the writer should stop lamenting his “cast” in life. First, it’s caste, idiot. Second, the caste system is considered to be a hideous remnant of a time in which certain people were, simply because of the accident of birth, destined to lives of unmitigated drudgery and pain while others scooted around in their high caste privilege. Third, isn’t the guiding principle of every belief system on earth “don’t be a dick”?)
Flight Attendant Appreciation Day: The Extra Sky Mile
I recently asked a flight attendant how she felt about people who drop off chocolates, something my mom routinely did when she flew. I’ve thought of it but always felt it was a bit weird. How do you time the drop off? Is it weird to give food in this day and age? And kind of bribe-y? “I don’t eat the chocolates,” said the FA, “but some people do.” She told me the nicest things she’d received were small containers of hand sanitizer or wipes, Starbucks gift cards (for one coffee), or just single dollar bills so they can tip drivers.
Caveat: this concept of tangibly thanking people for doing a hard job gets some ugly heat (just google it). “Why give someone a present for DOING THEIR JOB???” shout the commenters. Yo, shouters. Ever spoken to a flight attendant? or worked in the service industry? Yeah, I didn’t think so.
I tip baristas, who are just doing their job, for the same reason. They work hard while I’m out spending too much money on coffee.
This post from CN Traveler argues my way. Huzzah!
In other words, if you want to go the extra mile, do it.
Flight Attendant Appreciation Day: The Swag
I stopped off at Big Lots and picked up the following: mentos, small lotions, lip balm, single facial masks, little packets of matcha tea. Everything was in an individually sealed packet so the FAs wouldn’t have to worry about the motives of this random smiling tall woman bearing gifts.
I divvied the swag up between a couple of ziplocs. It seemed a little excessive to be awarding swag on my first short flight, and this was also my first flight attendant appreciation day rodeo. So I figured I’d save the extras for upcoming trips, and try the concept for my SLC to DTW journey.
Total cost to me: about 6 bucks a bag—one hell of a lot less than I spend on crap at the airport, which I didn’t spend because I was prepared. (I took my own advice and brought my own damn food this time.)
Above all, just be kind. You’re flying! It’s a miracle. You’re going someplace fun, or your company is paying for you to not sit in your office. Or a plane and its crew are getting you somewhere you really need to be, safely and in relative comfort.
I’ll report back on how my initial foray goes over. And I warn you: if you leave me nasty trolling comments, no one will see them but me, and I’ll just think you’re a dick. Thoughtful comments are, of course, always welcome.