We Asked Cabin Crew What They Hate Most About Their Job, and Their Top Answers Might Suprise You!
Those that can’t be rockstars become cabin crew. Okay, that’s not an actual saying, but it should be, as both professions share some striking comparisons. Specifically, we live life in the fast lane, out of a suitcase, racing to and from global hotspots and exotic locations. Like rockstars, airline crew mainly broadcast the glitter and gold parts of their lifestyle, and the viewing public eats it up via social media wishing they could live the same jet-set lifestyle with little knowledge of the hardships happening off-camera.
Behind the breakfast in Paris and dinner in Dubai mirage are a few ugly truths that flight attendants rarely highlight when asked the recurring question, “What’s it like to travel the world for a living?” Since we are in a profession of making people happy, we tend to revert to crowd-pleasing answers instead of listing all the issues we suffer due to our unhealthy lifestyles. After all, pity isn’t pretty.
It’s relatively easy to figure out what flight attendants love about their mile-high careers (search #crewlife on social media, for example), so I thought I would find out what they highly dislike about crew culture, so I asked the largest network of airline crew at A Fly Guy’s Cabin Crew Lounge to list the top things they hate about their job, and here are the top 6 responses in numerical order:
#6 – Unruly passengers:
Passengers are one of the main reasons most of us sign up as flight attendants. We love meeting travelers and ensuring they stay safe and comfortable during their time in the sky. However, don’t be fooled by our friendly smiles; that love quickly turns to loathe when passengers take their frustrations and bad manners out on us.
If all the viral videos weren’t enough of an indication that passengers are behaving worse than ever, the reports are there to back them up. According to statistics from the Federal Aviation Administration, the agency investigated 91 cases of unruly passenger behavior in 2017. Post-pandemic in 2021, that number reached 1099 cases in the USA alone. I can’t avoid highlighting the countless acts of unreported aggression, as flight attendants are often too exhausted to handle the reporting process. When I worked as a senior crew member for an airline in Dubai, it was not uncommon for events to go ignored because we knew it was rare for management to take action against the abuse we suffered. We were wasting more of our precious free time, which brings us to number 5 on our list.
#5 – Working for free and disorganized operations:
It’s no secret most pilots earn the big bucks working up the front. However, many are unaware that down the back, the flight attendants who are busy during boarding saying good morning and helping you deal with your seating and luggage issues are doing so for free. A common practice at airlines is to pay the crew only when the door closes or when the brakes are released on pushback. Like passengers, crew hate delays, but unlike passengers who are there on their own will, your crew is waiting around at work and not getting paid for it. Combine this with the reality that many flight attendants don’t live near the base they are stationed. As a result, they must use their own time and money to commute hours and even days to get to and from work. It’s easy to see why many polled answered wasting time without pay as one of the main things they hate about their #crewlife. Short stopovers, last-minute schedule changes, early morning starts, and low pay were some of the shared dislikes listed by the crew in this category.
#4 – Bad memory:
Fruit flies have an attention span of only a few seconds. Well, give us fruit and watch us fly because so do crew. While we come down for landing, it feels as if our minds stay above the clouds, in a forever fog, so it’s unsurprising that memory loss came in as the fourth thing flight attendants hate about their job. Many ex-crew said they felt the effects on their memory long after they gave up their wings. Hypoxia, jetlag, irregular sleep, and stress are the main contributing factors to our memory decline.
#3 – Health, Sickness, and Diet Issues:
The list of health issues flight attendants suffer due to their job is long. The position is so demanding on the body it’s considered one of the worst jobs for a person’s health, according to Business Insider. Based on data collected from the Occupational Information Network (O*NET) database, the publication ranked flight attendant as the #8 unhealthiest job on its list of “47 jobs that will always be bad for your health.” The top health risks listed were exposure to contaminants, disease, infections, minor burns, cuts, bites, or stings. Flight attendants I asked listed dry skin, limited access to healthy food, back injuries, bloating, and insomnia as their top ailments.
#2 – Lonely:
It seems hard to believe that someone who spends most of their days confined in a small tube in the sky with hundreds of people could feel so alone. But the truth is when the buh-byes finish, we are isolated in our hotel rooms in far-off lands away from our homes and support networks. Even our colleagues we’re traveling with are often strangers. The special life moments of those we love are generally observed on Facebook instead of face-to-face. Our poll relieved that missing these milestones was the main factor contributing to flight attendants’ lonely feelings.
#1 – Fatigue and Exhaustion:
An appropriate synonym for flight attendant could be fatigue attendant because every flight attendant I’ve ever known is constantly trying to attend to their fatigue. It’s a battle few ever win. The more time zones we cross, the more jetlag we amass, and at some point in our careers, we give up and learn to live with an overdrawn account in our sleep bank. The exhaustion can be so severe it’s not uncommon to walk into the walls of our hotel rooms when we get up to use the restroom during our deep-death-like sleep. In their book “Call Me Skybabe,” a truthful guide to finding your way to health, love, and joy while flying, authors Tee R. and Nena O. give a perfect example of the Zombieland cabin crew often find themselves. “When I woke up, the clock read 6:30. I looked outside the window and saw a gorgeous sunset. Or was it a sunrise?” the authors recall. “Disoriented and in search of food to please my empty belly, I got out of the room and stopped a nice-looking lady on the street to ask what time of day it was. For a long moment, she studied me without blinking, probably thinking I was nuts. But soon, she confirmed that, in fact, it was 6:30 in the evening.” Most flight attendants we asked echoed this experience, saying many times on trips, they wake up not knowing where they are, what day, month, or even year it is. So if you ever want to make friends with your flight crew, bring them a gift card for coffee to feed their dependency on caffeine.
Other than hearing about dry skin or unruly passengers, I never thought much about things FA’s did not like. This is very interesting.
Touching. Stop touching flight attendants! I don’t care if it was “just to get your attention.” I don’t want to be poked in the side, in the butt, in the stomach…nowhere! Say “excuse me” or push the call button. And all that to throw away a piece of paper. We come through several times to collect trash. Just wait until next time if you missed me.
Right! I hate it too
FlyGuy very well written, I agree on all points, from experience! I also like that it is informative and “tongue-in-cheek” at the same time 😉
Thank you so much Flavia!
After 40 years as a flight attendant I can honestly say I was never lonely. On layovers if I could not find anyone who wanted to go to dinner I went alone and brought a good book along for company. Ugly passenger interactions are a relatively new problem and publicizing them only seems to make them more frequent. Always keep some emergency rations and a personal kit of cold/flu meds with you. The friendships you make with your flying partners is the ultimate payoff for this job. They last a lifetime.
Thanks for the comment
I’m a passenger and I never had a mean or nasty flight crew member on a plane, on the contrary they were all pleasant. Beyond that though passengers should respect and understand this is a group of people working, so leave them alone, let them do their job. I’m sure passengers would not like people at their place of employment being obnoxious, physical, etc. while they worked. I think not getting paid until after the door is closed is terrible and all of you should get together and get that fixed.
Anyway thank you FA’s for your service, Crome a grateful passenger.