Interview: a former flight attendant sat down with a former flight attendant for a major airline that is still in operation today. She gave us a behind-the-scenes view into what it was like to be a flight attendant back in the day.

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When were you a flight attendant?

I worked as a flight attendant from 1970 to 1997.

What made you want to become a flight attendant?

I knew the world was a bigger place and I wanted to see it.  Besides, I loved the “glamour” of flying.  Back then, it was a good job for a woman. I considered my options at the time and they were: become a teacher, a secretary or a nurse. I thought it would be more fun to be a flight attendant. I thought I could get out and see the world and get paid to do it.

What was the training like?

The training was surprisingly disciplined. The airlines were a lot like the military. It taught me to be organized. They had a procedure for everything–what to do when you got on the plane, the meal service, emergency procedures, etc. There was an emphasis to be prepared for anything, especially emergencies. The training taught me to be prepared.

There were also some little things I learned that I still do today. In a class on make-up the instructor knew we didn’t have much money so she said to always use skin products by Pond’s. Good products at a good price.  Also, never put your bras in the dryer, it shortens their life. I still adhere to that.

How do you think things have changed for flight attendants today?

Things have changed in every way.  For instance, there are no airline meals anymore. I remember when the airline I worked for hired a big name chef to supervise the airline menus. There’s none of that now. Now the process is just to get from point A to point B. There are so many restrictions on everything. I remember putting passenger carry-ons in the cockpit! This was an illegal procedure but it helped the passengers. Today things like that would never happen.

What did you love most about your job?

I loved going to cities that were new to me. It was exciting and even though our layovers were often short, I could get a feel of the place. Travel is a very broadening experience. It makes you rich, not in terms of money but in having a feel of what is out in the world. I also loved riding in the cockpit when I was jump seating. It’s fun to see what a city looks like when you see it in front of you instead of off to the side. I also loved wearing a uniform because I never had to worry about what to wear. And at 4 o’clock in the morning, that was nice.  It made my life easier.

What did you dislike most?

The early morning check-ins were tough. Sometimes I had to be at the airport at 4:30 a.m.  And I was always dealing with different time zones.

If you could do it all over again, would you become a flight attendant today?

Not now, the job isn’t what it used to be. Now, it’s like being a guard or a gatekeeper. There are so many regulations regarding bags, etc. and the passengers don’t like all the new fees and other expenses. The whole atmosphere of flying has changed. When I worked, it was before 9/11 and security procedures were not as strict as they are now. Traveling is not easy now; I feel lucky that I worked when I did. I used my travel benefits to see Europe, Africa, Asia, India.  I have great memories.

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