From budget carriers to high-end flights, air travel just wouldn’t happen without the long-suffering yet permanently smiling stewards and stewardesses of the skyways.
But what goes on behind the scenes? We got in touch with one to find out…
How long have you worked in the skies? What attracted you to the job?
I’ve worked as cabin crew for three years in various airlines.
I was fascinated by airports and planes as a child and it never left me as I grew older - it’s just something I’ve always wanted to do!
What’s the best thing about your job, and why?
The best thing about my job is definitely the people I work with.
I’m based at one of the UK’s smaller regional airports so we get to know each other really well and it does feel like a little airline family (as cliché as that sounds).
Most of my colleagues have led very interesting lives and a day doesn’t often go by without hearing a crazy story or learning an interesting fact.
Do you ever get to see the places you touch down in?
Never! Well, not unless something goes wrong with the aircraft and we can’t get home.
In the past I’ve worked for airlines that have some fantastic destinations where the crew get to spend a day or two (we call this ‘night-stopping’), but the airline I currently work allocates around 30 minutes for the aircraft to spend on the ground at our destination.
During that time we have to get the passengers off, clean the aircraft, complete our safety checks, board a fresh load of passengers, complete all our paperwork and take off.
If we’re lucky we get five minutes to sit down and eat our dinner!
What’s the worst encounter you’ve ever had with a passenger?
I’ve had so many terrible encounters with passengers over the years. People seem to lose all rational thought when they check-in for a flight.
I’ve had everything from cheesy chat up lines to death threats and even one memorable passenger who was dressed in a grass skirt and coconut bra - he thought it was appropriate to whip out a ukulele and serenade everyone on landing.
Is there anything on a flight that has really grossed you out?
I’ve been handed all sorts of vile things when collecting rubbish from passengers: bags of sick, nappies and even a used sanitary towel once or twice.
Hands down, the most disgusting thing I see on a day to day basis (and I’m sure all cabin crew would agree with this one) is passengers that go into the toilet with no shoes on - aircraft toilets are filthy and I can guarantee it’s not water on the floor!
Have you ever encountered anything ‘going on’ in the toilets?
I haven’t personally but a lot of my colleagues have hilarious stories about ‘the mile high club’.
What’s the weirdest thing you’ve ever been asked for on a flight?
I quite often get asked by passengers if I can turn the noise down on the aircraft engines because they can’t hear whatever they’re listening too.
I have to politely explain that the only way to stop the noise would be to turn the engine off and that‘s not really a good idea when we’re 30,000ft in the air…
What’s the scariest thing that’s ever happened to you - any landings or turbulence incidents that have freaked you out, for instance?
Our training is so thorough that it’s very hard to get freaked out by anything when I fly.
We’re trained to deal with everything from fires to the loss of cabin pressure, landing on water, delivering a baby and even how to survive on a deserted island.
Every day before we fly the whole crew get together and discuss a hypothetical emergency scenario and how we would deal with it.
This keeps our safety procedures fresh in our minds and we usually learn a new and useful piece of information.
What is the relationship between the pilots and cabin crew like? Is there an ‘us and them’ attitude or do you all get on well?
We get on really well and our base is very small so we’re all pretty friendly with each other, even outside of work.
We all get together for birthday drinks and our annual Christmas party – no one is ever left out.
If you ever leave the job, what will you miss the most?
I temporarily left the industry for another job a few years ago and I couldn’t wait to get back to flying.
I missed everything about the job: the crazy hours we work, the passengers... but the thing I missed most was the crew.
There’s a strong sense of camaraderie among cabin crew and we have to be able to make a bond with another person very quickly because if there’s an emergency you might have to rely on the other person to save your life.
You meet someone for the first time in the morning and by lunch time you know their entire life story!