By: Mond Ortiz
We have to stop saying "you're just a flight attendant" as you can never tell when the day will come that a flight attendant will save your life. Most of the time, we see flight attendants doing basic safety demos and then serving passengers on board an aircraft and that's just 1/10 of their capabilities. Flight attendants are more than that. They were primarily trained to save lives. Protecting and saving lives of others are the biggest honor one can give.
Flight attendants are like an iceberg. An iceberg in the middle of an ocean may just look like a piece of ice. It is small and its size above the water is nothing compared to the size of a whole ship. Guess what, despite their size, ships do everything to get far from the floating piece of ice which is not even bigger than half of the ship. because in 1912, that small piece of ice brought down a whole ship, the RMS Titanic.
When you see an iceberg floating in the ocean, the first thing that may come into mind is just a piece of ice which a ship may just push aside but come to think of it, they get as far as they could. It is because there is something we do not see with our naked eyes about that piece of floating ice, something that can bring massive effect to anyone that tries to challenge it, and that's the sheer size below the water.
When we see flight attendants serving us food, beverage, and doing safety demos, what we actually see is basically "the tip of an iceberg". Behind their uniforms, safety demos, and comfort services aboard an aircraft is a person who is fully equiped to deliver massive results because underneath their skin is something unimaginably huge.
People use the adverb word "just" to belittle something or maybe refer to something as "by a little". Notice when an item is priced low, the cashier would say "oh it is just 99 cents for all those", or maybe "it's just a small wound, it will heal in no time, there's nothing to worry about." Apparently, quite a number of people say "you're just a flight attendant", which is basically like saying "you're little compared to me" or "your job is only that". I am clearly disgusted when I hear this.
I do not really know why they have to use the word "just" when refering to the career of a flight attendant. Are they trying to belittle these people just because they serve food on board and they do somethign routinary like safety demos or safety checks? Well, let's not prejudice these flight attendants by thinking that all they do is to serve chicken or beef. How sure are we they are "just that" if we ourselves have not experienced what our cabin crew went through to earn their wings.
My question to the people who say "just a flight attendant" is, have you even ever tried applying for the job? Well if you did, we are 101% sure you did not make it because if you did, you would not even use the word "just".
Allow me to give you a brief rundown of what one goes through to earn his or her wings.
Recruitment and screening:
A person who wants to be "just" a flight attendant has to go through 5 to 6 stringent stages throughout the recruitment process. How many interviews did you go through to get your deskjob (no we are not sarcastic, we want to know too). The first stage is usually the pre-screen process where recruiters will check if you are eligible to be a cabin crew. For those who have attended open recruitment days, they line-up for hours under the sun, and we are talking a thousand of aspirants, not only a hundred or even tens. Mind you though, the total number of applicants get slashed by more than half.
The next stage are exams. Both written and medical. Airlines are very particular with your physical appearance and being. They also want people who know how to use their brains. They want to see if you are fit to be a cabin crew. Next stage is group dynamics where you are placed with a group of applicants and the recruiters will make you do activities. They will test how you are as a team player. Next stage is an impact interview. Attrition rate at this stage is usually 90%. Then comes a panel interview, and for some, another interview. Recruitment process vary per airline but one common thing among all airlines is that the attrition rate is beyond 90%! Last 2018, out of 150,000 cabin crew applicants at Delta, only 900 made it in.
But wait, there's more! Training!
Cabin crew training is like your whole college life cramped in like 2 months. So that means memorization of materials, exams, and readings equivalent to a whole college term all done in 2 to 3 months! Hell week, yeah?
FA Trainees are made to memorize materials about thousand pages thick and are given exams every single day. These exams are all digital hence, no room for cheating, not even an itsy bitsy time. Passing mark is 90% and up, and you could only fail an exam about two to three times. Trainees face sleepless nights and time away from their families for almost the whole duration of their training. Many of them cry in the middle because of the pressure and majority felt like giving up in the middle. All that kept them going and motivated was their dream to be a flight attendant.
How about if we add drills on top of the exams and memorizing? Yes this include safety drills like jump and slide, fire fighting, first aid, ditching, and more aircraft drills. So come to think of it, trainees are not only mentally drained, they are physically drained too! For some full service airlines, they also have business class training, personality development, speaking classes, and more.
Information overload indeed! It may sound easy when you read it but trust us, it's the total opposite when done. Flight attendants even say that they feel they would all be valedictorians during their college days if only they applied their cabin crew training study habits.
This is why graduation day for every cabin crew is like a day of jubilation, a day of tears, happiness, and celebration. It is a culmination of all their hardships to earn their wings but hey, screening and training are not the only ones that puts value in every flight attendant. It is the flying experience itself that tops it all.
To belittle the career of a flight attendant with the adverb "just" is like looking down on someone who is trained to save lives, someone who is willing to leave a burning cabin last trying to get his or her passengers out first. The flight attendant you termed as "just" may have played a hero to another passenger in a previous flight like hand feeding the passenger because she is a PWD. The flight attendant you might have scolded with a "you are just a flight attendant" may have comforted a passenger travelling alone who lost a loved one a few rows away from where you are seated. The flight attendant you think is a "just" may have actually revived a passenger who suffered a heart attack midflight and is now successfully recovering. Moreso, the flight attendant you thought is a "just" may have been involved in a previous unfortunate incident where he or she saved more than a hundred lives even if she suffered a major injury. Throughout the years, a flight attendant's uniform gets heavier with experiences and life lessons, lessons that are indispensable.
A flight attendant's value increase in time, from the time they start applying to training to flying and to their retirement, and by the time they rest their wings, we bet you that their storybook will be something full of invaluable life lessons enough to touch the lives of others.
Breakfast in Milan, lunch in Singapore, and dinner in Maldives, those are all rewards of a flight attendant's hard work but a cabin crew's biggest rewards are their value and sense fulfillment which we can never ever term as "just".
I would like to end this with two quotes. The first is from the movie "Maid in Manhattan" and it says:
"To serve people takes dignity and intelligence. But remember, they are only people with money. And although we serve them, we are not their servants. What we do does not define who we are. What defines us is how well we rise after falling.”
- Lionel Bloch
The second one was what I myself once said, and it goes:
"This is why to be a flight attendant is not just a job, it is a calling. A calling to save lives, even if they have to put their very own in great danger."
Note: This article was first written last January 11, 2019 on this same website. Minor updates and revisions were done.