October 7, 2022

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Specialists Travel & Tours

Confessions of a 1980s flight attendant

(CNN) — “I arrived of age when the jet age came of age,” suggests Ann Hood, an American novelist and New York Times very best-selling author, whose hottest e-book “Fly Woman” is a memoir of her adventurous several years as a TWA flight attendant, right at the stop of the Golden Age of air vacation.

As a boy or girl, expanding up in Virginia, she witnessed the first flight of the Boeing 707 — which ushered in the period of passenger jet journey — and viewed Dulles airport currently being built.

At the age of 11, after she moved back to her native Rhode Island with her spouse and children, she read a 1964 e-book titled “How to develop into an airline stewardess,” and her mind was manufactured up.

“Whilst it was sexist as hell, it enticed me due to the fact it talked about possessing a career that permitted you to see the world and I assumed, effectively, that could operate.”

When she graduated from college, in 1978, Hood started out sending position applications to airlines. “I assume 1978 was a genuinely exciting yr, mainly because numerous of the gals I went to university with experienced one particular foot in outdated tips and stereotypes, and the other foot in the future. It was kind of a puzzling time for young females.”

“Flight attendant” was a freshly minted expression, a gender neutral improve from “hostesses” and “stewardesses,” and deregulation of the airline marketplace was all over the corner, all set to shake points up.

But for the most element, traveling was still glamorous and innovative and flights attendants ended up nevertheless “attractive and hot ornaments,” as Hood puts, it, although they were by now combating for women’s rights and towards discrimination.

The stereotype of stewardesses in miniskirts flirting with male passengers nevertheless endured, popularized by guides like “Coffee, tea, or me? The uninhibited memoirs of two airline stewardesses” — released as factual in 1967, but later revealed to have been published by Donald Bain, an American Airways PR executive.

Bodyweight limitations

Some of the worst requirements to be employed as a flight attendant — this sort of as age constraints and shedding the work in situation of marriage or childbirth — had now been lifted, but other people remained.

The most stunning one, possibly, was the point that girls had to retain the pounds they had at the time of selecting.

“All airlines despatched a chart with your software, you appeared at your height and the maximum bodyweight and if you did not drop within just that, they would not even interview you,” says Hood. “But after you acquired hired, at the very least at TWA, you couldn’t go up to that utmost pounds. You had to keep at your selecting fat, which in my case was about 15 kilos additional than my utmost restrict.

“My roommate obtained fired about this. The really horrible matter about it, other than what it did to gals, is that this restriction was not eliminated right up until the 1990s.”

Hood was 1 of 560 flight attendants, out of 14,000 candidates, employed in 1978 by TWA, then a main provider, acquired by American Airways in 2001.

The position started off with a several days of intensive schooling in Kansas City, exactly where cadet flight attendants would master everything from aircraft element names to unexpected emergency clinical procedures, as well as the protection protocols of 7 diverse plane. The record included the Queen of the Skies, the Boeing 747.

“It was form of terrifying, due to the fact it was so big — and the stairs, the spiral stairs that led to initially course that you experienced to go up and down not occasionally,” suggests Hood. “I would retain thinking: do not excursion. Sooner or later I obtained utilized to it.”

Carving chateaubriand

Hood’s favored airplane was a Lockheed L-1-11 TriStar.

Christopher Deahr/Minute Editorial/Flickr Vision/Getty Visuals

She states her favourite plane to work on was the Lockheed L-1011 TriStar. “Domestically, only Jap Airlines and TWA flew it. It was a really approachable, workable widebody aircraft with a lovely setup of two seats on each and every aspect and then 4 seats in the center, so everybody could get out effortlessly. No one was disappointed on that aircraft.”

Traveling was nonetheless glamorous at the time, she states.

“Folks dressed up to fly and remembered the foods in a fantastic way. It really is actually distinct from now. I can only examine it to being in a good resort, or it’s possible on a cruise ship. Almost nothing was plastic and coach was super good,” suggests Hood, who remembers donning her Ralph Lauren-designed uniform and carving chateaubriand cooked to style for first class passengers, who also had a alternative of Russian caviar and lobster bisque to go with their Dom Perignon.

It wasn’t all a bed of roses. Smoking cigarettes on board was popular, and for flight attendants it was a nightmare.

“If you went on a 5-working day vacation, which was not unheard of, you experienced to pack a different total uniform because you just would scent so much like smoke,” Hood states. “Boy, was I happy when that stopped. The front rows of each and every section had been deemed non-using tobacco, but the total plane was filled with smoke since you could not retain it from likely backwards, it was absurd.”

What about the Mile Large Club? “It wasn’t uncommon on global flights to see a person go into the toilet and a moment afterwards his seatmate sign up for him, or some model of that,” states Hood. “It didn’t take place on every flight, but you noticed it.

“International flights typically were not as total as they are now, so in all those center sections of 5 seats on a 747 you could see a pair set the armrests up, choose a blanket and vanish beneath it. I are unable to say what they were being executing, but it looked suspicious.”

As for travellers flirting or inquiring flight attendants out, it was also popular. “I did date travellers, but that was primarily disastrous. It was hardly ever what I experienced imagined. But in 1982, I achieved a dude on a flight from San Francisco to New York. He was sitting down in 47F — and I dated him for 5 years.”

An empowering job

Hood left the job in 1986 to focus on her writing career.

Hood remaining the job in 1986 to concentration on her writing occupation.

Ann Hood

Hood has noticed her honest share of bizarre issues on board. “The weirdest would undoubtedly be the woman in initial class who appeared to be breastfeeding her cat. I signify, I cannot say that it was really happening, but she had her cat to her breast.

“And then the guy who flew the whole way in his tighty-whities and his costume shirt and tie, mainly because he did not want to wrinkle his trousers for a job interview. Or the dude on a 747 in Frankfurt who was riding his bicycle down the aisle,” she reveals.

That explained, the routine would from time to time kick in, and not every flight was a wondrous focus of adventure and glamor.

“I would say the career was 80% pleasurable and 20% unexciting. In some flights, specially those that were not pretty complete, there was a whole lot of time to fill. You can only provide persons so significantly foodstuff and so quite a few drinks, and participate in so lots of videos. I produced the job fun. I cherished speaking to men and women. I liked the experience of it. I nevertheless enjoy flying today,” suggests Hood.

She states it was in fact feasible to in fact take a look at and experience the metropolitan areas she traveled to. “In some cases your layover was actually limited or you were being just drained, but for the most part, the town was correct out the door. I really much took edge of that when flying internationally.”

She remaining the career to target on her composing profession in 1986, and by that time things experienced adjusted. Deregulation, which eradicated federal command above all the things from fares to routes, experienced come completely into result, transforming traveling eternally.

Planes turned loaded with a lot more seats and coach stopped currently being as pleasant, but flying was also democratized and made obtainable to a much larger sized share of modern society.

Hood suggests she is happy of her vocation in the skies.

“Flight attendants are a pressure. They’re extremely unionized. They’re unbiased. In the cabin, they make all the decisions. They have to troubleshoot. They’re there for the crisis things. They land in towns wherever they do not know anything at all or everyone and discover their way.

“It really is these an empowering task, however it’s a sexist task. In by itself, it is as contradictory nowadays as the time in which I began it,” she claims.

Nevertheless, she recommends it as a profession alternative.

“I was 21 when I was employed, and it gave me assurance, it gave me poise, and the capacity to think on my toes,” she provides. “To consider charge on that plane, and once I got off, to wander into a town and experience totally at residence — or at least determine out how to experience at household in it.

“I will not know if it need to be someone’s life’s function — if they want it to be that, good. But I assume a couple a long time performing as a flight attendant could change your lifetime.”