I had to travel the world alone to realize I am not a gypsy.
For anyone that doesn't know -- I stopped flying about a year ago. In August of 2016. I was only with my airline for a total of 7 months. It didn't take me long to figure out that it took a VERY special person to do this job. I had a fabulous airline, instructors, ground managers, and friends at my base. My graduating class in training produced some of the best friends I've ever had. We went through some really emotional and mentally draining times together in those 2 months. I genuinely had some of the best circumstances I could have had.
I didn't know Eric, my husband, when I applied for this position. The hiring, interviewing, and selection process can take up to 8 months depending on the time of year. Needless to say, it all kept happening as we proceeded with dating and falling for one another. Though I knew I wanted a future with him, I knew I still owed it to myself to try out this job or I would simply never know. Spending your life wondering can be toxic. Eric was completely supportive about the whole situation and encouraged me everything would be okay. Let's be real -- I was the cry baby.
Everything I'm about to say is based on the experiences that broke me and made this job extremely difficult... for me. This is ALL personal. It is not to say that there aren't really amazing aspects of this job, so please don't misinterpret the fact that it is a once in a lifetime opportunity. The travel benefits, pay and experiences alone are what make it such an enticing endeavor. For the sake of keeping this short, however, I want to touch on the things that make this job difficult -- for anyone riding the fence about whether or not to pursue this as a career. Remember that this is a lifestyle, not just a job.
The most important questions you should as yourself before becoming a flight attendant are:
1. What walk of life are you in?
See, I had just gotten engaged that January. My two month training started a week after our engagement. I was also planning a May wedding. I was away from my Fiancé for a huge chunk of our initial engagement. He stepped up like an angel and went to venues, took tons of photos, researched, and created wedding spreadsheets... he was my rock. I couldn't have done that without him!
The most difficult part of your schedule, is they only release your bid results a month in advance. As a new employee with virtually no seniority, I didn't know if I would be able to have my own wedding off. Luckily, my ground manager helped me figure some things. I ended up scoring 2 weeks off around the time of the wedding. However, I had to pay dearly for that by being gone for about 20 days the rest of that month. (Not in a row, just collectively).
Not to say for a second that I wish the timing had worked out differently for my engagement and wedding AT ALL. Obviously, that was the timing of both mine and Eric's heart, and we wouldn't do it differently. However, because my heart was so invested in Eric and our future together, I couldn't let myself put "us" on the back burner. I had an intense desire to be a mother and grow our family, and soon. I knew this job would be extremely difficult if I ever wanted to 100% be there for him and our kids.
I would ask senior Flight Attendants that had been flying for decades, "How do you have a newborn or children and fly? How do you stay away from them for so long?" The replies I got were unsettling and sad to me. They would always respond, "Well, at first it's hard and they miss you. Eventually they get used to it and it becomes normal." I never wanted being gone or not around to be a normalcy for my husband or my children. I didn't feel peace in my heart that God wanted that for us.
Our walk of life may be different than yours. I believe everyone is called to be in different places for a reason. Just because my heart lies in different areas doesn't make it wrong for someone else. Listen to your personal desires and don't let anyone tell you what you should or shouldn't do.
2. Are you willing to relocate for this job?
This is not something that my airline required me to do, which is pretty incredible, but I would HIGHLY recommend relocating to your base or transferring to a base that appeals to you. My husband and I are in love with Nashville, TN and wanted to raise our kids here, so we couldn't bring ourselves to leave. I was able to use my flight benefits to continue living in Nashville and flew a 45 min flight to my base to work and a 45 min flight back home. Here's the catch; if you don't know, every flight pattern originates and ends at the airport you're based at.
I was based in Detroit. (Amazing base that is a hidden gem by the way!)
Let's say I have a 3 day trip. The first day of this trip has me leaving DTW at 8AM and getting back on the 3rd day at 10PM. That seemingly 3 day trip just turned into a 5 day trip for you as a commuter. Only 3 of them are paid(flight time only), and the other two days are basically you just trying to get to work/home and flying only on seat availability if you couldn't score booking the jump seat. So not only do you have the anxiety of hoping that you make it to work & home, but you also now lose the few days off between your trips that you would have had otherwise. You lose the luxury of getting in your car the moment you're done flying if you decide to commute.
Now, regarding the first day you get there early to be prepared for that 8AM shift the next day and the third day you get back late at 10PM and can't fly back home yet, you can either decide to try and sleep in the Flight Attendant lounge to save money or shell out $50 each time you do this. I spent MANY nights on the lounge couch, because I was cheap. It's not a healthy lifestyle for anyone.
Please, please consider relocating and living at your base. Your quality of life and enjoyment from this job will already be 100% better for it.
3. How important is your nutrition and fitness?
Believe me when I say it is possible to keep your physique up if you really want to work for it. The problem is, you're more exhausted than the average human when you're flying. So, working out is the last thing you want to do. As a passenger, just think about how tolling it is to travel in general. You get to your destination and you're like, "I'm so jet lagged." I'm sorry, but with all due respect, people who've never WORKED a red-eye flight and had to try and sleep in the flight attendant lounge after, (because we can't go home yet) with 30 people talking around you and the lights and TV on -- don't know jet lag. Imagine mustering the energy to workout after that. It's extremely difficult.
Nutrition wise, you'll want to have some deep pockets. Trying to pay for all of your food while you're gone for a 3-6 day period, is super expensive. Trying to pack food that is healthy for you to eat and trying to keep it properly refrigerated? Also difficult. Sometimes we'd work 4 legs a day. I would have turkey burgers meal prepped in a lunch box from home that were on their last leg(pun intended). By the third day of traveling with them and thawing like that and trying to refrigerate them over and over -- the most putrid smell would start coming from my lunch box. Side note: There are no microwaves on planes. Thus -- cold, putrid turkey burgers for lunch. Yummy. I actually didn't eat turkey burgers because of this experience for about 8 months. *GAG*
There are of course other food options and nonperishables that are easy and cheap, like ramen noodles, fruit, chips etc. However, if you take your fitness, macro intake, and nutrition seriously like I do, you'll probably want to look into other options.
4. Are you able to function under exhaustion?
There's a lot of behind the scenes work that has to happen to make that plane take off at 5:45AM. Generally it involves waking up at 2:30AM. See, as a Flight Attendant, you can't just throw your PJ's on and roll out. You have to be perfectly groomed; hair, nails, makeup, and uniform have to be polished. Don't forget packed. The van leaves the hotel at 3:30AM. You get through the doors at 4:00AM. Get through your KCM security clearance. Grab your breakfast/coffee to energize yourself. You have to be at your gate and boarding 45 mins before your departure time. Boom. We're taking off at 5:45. Let's say you have 4 legs you're working that day -- you pray to God you have no delays.
Granted, there are plenty of trips that you may work two legs, be done by 12 noon, and have 30 hours straight to explore a really cool city! It's impossible to categorize what all of your trips will be like because they're all so different.
5. Do you thrive on in-depth conversations?
Honestly, having the same conversation with people all of the time was about to drive me insane. With co-workers and passengers alike. I came from working in an environment where our group of girls was really connected. We'd get to pick up where we left off on conversations. We knew each others family personally. They understood my puns, sarcasm, jokes, and sense of humor.
When you're a Flight Attendant, every rotation that you get when you work with a crew, is a different crew every time that you fly. Every time. By the end of the 3 days everything you've learned about that person is irrelevant, because you're about to do it all over again with someone else. It's extremely difficult to have in-depth conversations with people and know them on a deep and personal level. Let me tell you how your conversations are going to go most of the time:
"Hi! How long have you been flying?"
"Do you live here at base or are you a commuter?"
"Yeah! Here are pictures of my family! This is my husband, this is my cat Oliver!"
"Have you had a layover in _____ yet?"
"How did you meet your husband?"
It just felt so surface level to me.
Of course the people I was in training with, I'm extremely close with but you don't get to spend 2 straight months with these people you actually end up working with most of the time.
A plus about this, is if you really despise someone you're flying with, at least you know you don't have to fly with them again.(More than likely) *Sweat emoji*
6. Are you good at being independent?
I never knew this about myself until I flew a lot. I thought I was great at being alone. I was a Navy brat. Went to 9 different schools growing up. I was used to starting over and doing my own thing. Turns out I thrive on in-depth human interaction. The feeling of being alone when you're surrounded by a sea of people is truly something you can't describe.
The saddest part of going to these really great places, is you might be with a wonderful crew, but no offense to them you'd rather be experiencing these things with your best friend, your boyfriend, your husband, family (etc). Sometimes, I'd find myself wandering a city completely alone without my crew.
Important things to remember and take away:
I am who I am because of my experiences. I'm also a firm believer that God places you in seasons of your life so that you can have a contrasting outlook on things. It allows you to appreciate certain things had you not experienced an alternative perspective. I'm so grateful for my time flying and wouldn't undo it ever. Not a single second of it.
I could go in-depth on SO many areas and topics of being a flight attendant. Since I have a I tendency for ranting, I want to keep this a narrow topic for now. If I could get one point across -- it's not all bad. This is all from my perspective. I have plenty of single, engaged, and married friends with children that fly and they LOVE it! This experience you will have and take away from it is 100% based on YOU. What you want. What you enjoy. What you need from this life. Where you're being called. Just because this wasn't for me doesn't mean it won't be a perfect fit for you! The aspects that made it difficult on my end could be the very thing that makes you feel alive and connected to the world!
Being that this job is extremely difficult and tolling, can I say something? Please... please respect the Flight Attendants when you're experiencing a delay. They have ZERO control over the situation. You may not realize it, but when there are delays it messes up their entire schedule too. The rest of their flights for the day get backed up and rearranged and sometimes they don't get to make it home because of it. Remember, these flight attendants are away from the people they love too, only you get to step off of the plane and go home while they keep going. We're all people.
I hope that this was helpful in more ways than one and if anyone has any further questions about topics I may have not touched on, please feel free to comment below or reach out to me personally!