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Norma Heape, the World’s Most Experienced Flight Attendant?

Have you noticed the often-large gap between the age groups of your flight attendants?

Of course, with today’s anti-age discrimination laws in hiring practices, there is no surprise to find a mature-looking cabin crewmember on duty just to discover she or he is a new hire!

Some flight attendants simply want to try out the job for a couple of years to see the world while getting paid. Then they intend to move onto something else.

For others, it becomes a lifetime love affair.

So many have told me: “being a flight attendant is not a job; it’s a lifestyle for life”.

The cabin crewmember experience

No flight attendant on earth is more fitting of the job’s description of “being a lifestyle rather than a job” than one of the world’s most senior ones.

This one may even be THE most senior cabin crewmember on earth!

There is no substitute for experience in the cabin. Norma Heape, Senior Flight Attendant

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Norma Heape

Norma Heape became a flight attendant for Continental Airlines in 1957.

That was years before jets entered the market.

Back in those days, flight attendants were called Hostesses.

Norma Heape, Flight Attendant
Continental Airline’s Norma Heap.
Robert Forman Six, Continental Airlines
Continental’s Robert “Bob” Forman Six, CEO.

When Norma got hired Robert Six was the CEO of Continental Airlines (1936 to 1980). He was one of the finest airline CEO’s ever and a highly respected man among Continental’s employees.

Norma had the privilege of working under his helm, and his very-active-with-the-airline-second-wife, actress Audrey Meadows.

Audrey Meadows played Ralph Cramden’s wife in the Honeymooners TV series, starring Jackie Gleason.

Honeymooners, Jackie Gleason, Audre
The Honeymooners: Jackie Gleason, Art Carney, and Audrey Meadows.

A Tribute to Flight Attendant Norma Heape

Before entering the airline world

Prior to getting hired with Continental, she had already fallen in love with traveling the world.

She worked as a model, and she lived for a short while in Hong Kong, as well as attending Le Cordon Bleu School in Paris.

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Working as a Flight Attendant

The glory days of the airlines are long gone, but Norma is like a walking encyclopedia of what it is like working for an airline as a cabin crewmember.

Continental Airlines Norma Heape Flight Attendant
Norma with the pilots of her flight, Continental Airlines.

Reflecting on the early days Norma says that one of the things which attracted her to Continental Airlines was that their flight attendant uniforms were different.

Continental’s uniform was different because it did not have the look of the traditional military-style flight attendant uniforms of the era.

She says that cabin crews did not receive a whole lot of training back in those days.

You were basically expected to know how to walk and talk, plus know the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) requirements.

A flight attendant could not be married, and the airline would put you on a scale to meet weight requirements prior to flight.

Being asked out for dinner with the hotel manager on layovers and being asked to sign autographs at the airport were common requests that she received at the time.

Norma’s most notable Celebrity Passengers

Big celebrities Norma has served over the years include President Truman and Muhammad Ali.

The Vietnam War

During the war, Continental Airlines was a Military Airlift Command civilian airline operator. Their mission was to safely carry GIs to and from Vietnam.

She was one out of 17 Continental Airlines flight attendants who volunteered for this patriotic duty for 4 years.

Norma Heape Today

Norma Heape senior flight attendant
Norma Heape: One of the airline industry’s most dedicated flight attendants ever.

Is she still actively working as a crewmember as of the time of this article?

Yes, she is, going as strong as ever!

Continental Airlines merged with United Airlines in 2010.

The name Continental was abolished to operate the merged airline as United Airlines only.

Therefore, Norma is now a United Airlines flight attendant.

celebrating norma heap
Norma being honored after 60 years of service.

Retirement

When asked if it’s time to retire, now at 82 years of age, her answer is simply “not anytime soon”.

And, now to the most incredible fact about Norma:

She has not missed one day of work ever! In other words, she has not “called in sick” one single day of her working life in 62 years. That’s a perfect attendance record!

If you fly United Airlines, have you had the privilege of being served by Norma Heap?

A 2008 CBS News Story about Norma

Watch the Video

   Video Credit: CBSNews.com

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2 Comments

  1. Love it love it love it!!!!! We’re all flight attendants. Thanks a million for writing that article about Norma Heape. Wow, so impressive. Hope we will look as good as her after another 50 years. She looks like a wonderful person. It would be a privilege flying with her. Us younger gen girls would love to hear her stories on a layover.

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