Well-known author Simon Marton, author of Journey of a Reluctant Air Steward, is reflecting on his former life as a flight attendant in this article about long-distance flyer loneliness. Every cabin crew member has an individual opinion on the perceived “always glamorous” lifestyle of being a flight attendant. Barton gives you his unique and deeply personal insight into how he experienced cabin crew life:
Apparently, I was once one of the chosen few. I could walk through an airport and heads would turn. Also, I learned to lip-read quickly. I think they were saying stuff like, “Why is the tall one walking on all-fours?” and “The girls look amazing…oh, spot the odd one out!”
I’m sure there were far-ruder things said, but maybe my lip-reading wasn’t that great after all…One of the funny things about airline personnel is that they’ve seemingly got it all together.
You know, outwardly it’s the uniforms, the caps, the epaulets, and the overall style, but also it’s the prestige that comes from even mentioning you’re aircrew; the image of speed, the related-elitism and the knowledge of being the chosen ones that help the caricature grow in stature.
More and more want to join the ranks especially of pilots and cabin crew/ flight attendants weekly, so it’s that desire that feeds the fantasy.
Long-distance flyer loneliness and boredom
Lesser-discussed or even admitted-to is the loneliness and the boredom.
There’s only so much smiling that can cover these two terrorists up. I suffered from the feeling that I wasn’t meant to be here: -very similar to ‘Imposter Syndrome’. I experienced these emotions constantly at what was to be my final flirt with the airlines a few years ago.
Everything that glitters is not gold
To tell you the truth, I didn’t even want the job, and to enter through those hallowed gates after over a decade of not venturing anywhere near them, made me realize that this was going to be a short-lived relationship indeed.
So much for belonging to ‘the world’s most tolerated airline’ as a friend once put it. On that note, I often feel like the world’s most tolerated daddy and hubby. (I’m 50/50 with DIY but my pallet-wood rabbit-hutch looks great.)
Sometimes I would go through the motions while welcoming customers on board or try really hard to look interested when deep down, I just wasn’t into it.
I was a pretty good No.1 but I sometimes felt like No.41. All too often, I felt caught between two worlds: home and work.
Routine versus Complacency
Don’t get me wrong, I know that some people would have killed for my job, but it’s just the reality can be very different.
Inherent risks of the flight attendant job
We know that working in, on and around airliners is going to be at least mildly interesting as you’ll never quite know if today is gonna be that day….need I explain more? (Check out Flight Channel on YouTube and you’ll see how a routine can so easily change.)
The routine of the flight attendant job
I had heard the same ‘welcome’ and ‘in the cruise’ PA’s from pilots that many times that I could mimic them in my head ad verbatim.
There were times when I wondered if pilots would ever get bored with their work environment, checklists, endless clouds, or even trays of Business Class food with that unique stuff we call ‘airline coffee’.
I used to turn from the various galleys I worked in and stare out of the windows at panoramas far below. My door-window had a habit of distorting anything worthwhile into the sort of view you might see from a Kaleidoscope, especially at night.
The world has changed apparently. We are all in a holding pattern we have limited control over. Funny how it is possible to feel alone in an entirely different way- even being back at home, away from an aircraft gliding effortlessly through the skies.
A love-hate relationship
I had a strange relationship with airliners towards the end of my time on them. When I was away from them, I felt a pull to be back on board, yet when I was back at the airport or in the cabin itself, I would very often feel a slight tinge of anxiety at leaving my family behind once more.
Only one thing would ease the pain. Yes, it was that bar box that held the confectionery. (I was leaner and slimmer once.) I digress.
Flying as therapy, the experiences of a flight attendant colleague
A friend of mine recently admitted to me through tears on the phone that he had been sexually abused as a kid and had kept it bottled up for decades until finally, he had endured break downs, even in public.
- He is making a wonderful mental and spiritual recovery, to the point of being able to forgive the perpetrator.
- Now he feels less alone and more integrated.
- He is starting to fly but in a very different way from before.
The loneliness that some long-distance flyers experience
Loneliness is a part of the whole deal. It sucks at the time, but it can be a driver for something different. The change can be a change of environment, better health, or even personal renewal.
Next time you reach for something to dull the pain of loneliness, remember:
airline coffee tastes unique because it truly is something else.
If you are a flight attendant, or perhaps an experienced long-distance flyer (passenger), have you experienced loneliness or boredom from your routines? If so, we’d like to hear from you! Please share your experiences here.
All images: Simon Marton private collection.
Simon Marton’s Journey of a Reluctant Air Steward: Unique insights into the airline industry: For men who want to fly… can be found on Amazon.com.