By: Mond Ortiz
Before I begin, I would like to mention this as a side note. I understand that all in the travel and tourism industry which include crew in the airline industry are greatly affected by this pandemic. Since we are a site and brand all about flight attendants, we will throw our focus on them, however, we also do want you to understand that what these cabin crew are going through are also almost the very same as those of what our pilots, ground crew, etc., are currently facing.
This Covid-19 pandemic is the worse crisis that the global airline industry is facing, one of the industries greatly affected. This has resulted to massive job cuts and lay-offs. This is also very evident in the Philippine commercial aviation industry.
Flight attendants have greatly been affected, yes we all understand that, knowing that some have lost a source of income and some continue to face an uncertain future. For some too, its like a childhood dream shattered. However, do we really understand what these flight attendants are facing from deep within?
Inspite of their beautiful smiles as they continue to answer their call of duty to this day, they face a far greater crisis than one cannot imagine. It's more than a "lilipas lang yan".
Well honestly, I have spoken and shared conversations with many of our local flight attendants and Filipino cabin crew working for foreign airlines, and the time spent with them gave me a deeper understanding of that they are going through. I myself felt their pains and dilemma. It was like a "if I were in their shoes, I would have felt the same thing." Their situation is hard and it needs a lot of understanding. They do not just need ears from others, they need a heart that understands what they are facing, particularly during these times.
First and foremost, we have many flight attendants who are family breadwinners. They send their siblings to school, and some have their own families. Most have pending loans for housing, education, and mobility. Some are also caring for their sick parents.
With all the uncertainty going on, many of these cabin crew tend to ask, "what will I do?" "Saan ako pupulutin ngayon?" "Paano ngayon anak ko, pamilya ko?" "Bakit kelangan eto mangyari sa akin?" "Yun pangarap ko, wala na ba?" These are just some of many questions flight attendants have asked and they continue to ask. You see, flying has provided these cabin crew with a good salary taking to account the productivity or flying hours. Oh, the benefits too. More than the benefits and the perks is the very fact that being a flight attendant had long been a childhood dream for many of them.
rThey need a load of understanding
With all they are going through, it is all but normal to feel bad, to cry, and to have doubts. At this point, flight attendants need a lot of understanding. Easy to say "lilipas yan" or "kaya mo ito", but the question is, do you really understand the pain and mix of emotions they are going through? It's hard to imagine but trust me, you just have to understand their situation. You have to put yourself in their situation.
Every gone through a situation where initially, you felt everything was hopeless? So yes, that's exactly what they are feeling now. Many of them are anxious, just like awaiting for the results of a medical exam after symptoms appeared. You do not know what lies ahead or what may happen.
At this point in time, we want you to not only lend your ears but we want you to lend your hearts to them when they want to talk or simply unload. Be with these flight attendants, walk with them and don't forcibly pull them on a different direction.
A shattered childhood dream
Defeat is temporary, yes we know what. However, many of our cabin crew worked hard and worked for years in order to earn their wings. Being a flight attendant had long been a childhood dream. So just imagine the feeling that you worked so hard, faced many rejections, and prayed heavily to one day become a flight attendant, and then that day came. You earned your wings. That a few months later, you learned you may be or will be retrenched.
Yes the feeling is discouraging. A shattered childhood dream. At this point, these flight attendants try to grasp the grim reality if flying is still meant for them. Add the fact that people around them may end up with discouraging words like "wag ka na bumalik dyan, hindi yan para sa iyo."
We have to assure them that this situation is part of that "journey". Consider it as another form of "rejection", temporary defeat. At first, these affected cabin crew may not realize this but later on, they will come to terms that they will be able to fly again, especially when encouragement pours in.
I have been in touch with a certain flight attendant who was retrenched. After she lost her wings, she felt like she somehow lost her self confidence and of course, she had her doubts. This is very understandable. She is human, just like me, you, and us. After understanding and being with her during those dark moments, I began encouraging her that she is meant to fly. All positive, all words of encouragement.
It took quite a time but eventually, she was able to gain her self confidence.
There is no room for negativity.
Another way for me to encourage them is to support their small businesses. With the furloughs and retrenchments, majority of flight attendants have placed up small businesses to augment their income. Aside from advertising their businesses for free, I purchase their products. It is also a good way to get their minds divested somewhere.
Aviation will make a come back. Inter-connectivity is needed for economies to prosper. It may be two years from now or even longer but commercial air travel will be back. When these happens, airlines will need more flight attendants again.
They do not just need ears, they need a heart
As flight attendants face a tough situation of uncertainty now, it is important that you understand what they are going through, you walk with them on the same path, and you encourage them that they will finish the race and regain their trophy once again. Understanding them plays a huge role.
Some flight attendants face anxiety attacks and even depression like what has been happening in other countries, hence, lending your ears are simply not enough. You have to lend your hearts to them. As said earlier, you have to be with them on their journey, and not just watch them.
Answering the call-of-duty above all
Despite all the uncertainties, our flight attendants remain committed to their job and role as safety professionals, ensuring the safety, security, and comfort of all passengers. It's just like a wounded soldier who continues to fight in a battle in order to accomplish a mission. These flight attendants continue to give their best smiles and once inside the aircraft, they set aside all issues and their personal lives in order to render their best service.
That is what we call dedication, dedication for a childhood dream, dedication to their job, and their career. This is why all the more they earned our praises. They remain steadfast to one of their life mission, to unite families and loved ones in different areas of the globe despite the ongoing pandemic.
They are brave, our winged warriors while at the same time, they are also human beings.
Just as the song "Warrior is a Child" by Gary Valenciano says:
"Lately I've been winning battles left and right
But even winners can get wounded in the fight
People say that I'm amazing
I'm strong beyond my years
But they don't see inside of me
I'm hiding all the tears."
Last but not least, let me leave this message to all our flight attendants facing uncertainty.
You are FLIGHT ATTENDANTS! You are WINGED WARRIORS! You are STRONG. We will overcome this together.
Remember those days when you fought for your dream to be a flight attendant? Those rejections when you were applying to be a cabin crew were not an easy thing to deal with. Yet, you pushed forward, you stood up again after every rejection until you made it in. Some of you even faced 20 rejections! That itself has made you strong other than developing your attitude and character.
Remember those sleepless nights when you had to pass the grueling training to be a cabin crew? Finishing a 1,000+ manual in around 70 days with exams everyday where your passing mark was 90%, jumping into a 10ft deep pool and having to stay afloat for 15 minutes, facing the intense Emergency Procedure drills where some of you were made to crawl in a dark cabin. Remember when you were on your second lifeline already and you were hanging on as the third would mean end of training? You survived all those! You had that winning attitude in you where you believed that there is no other way but to mass. You went through everything to earn those wings.
Remember when you actually faced intentions situations on board? Some of you faced real emergency situations like an aircraft veering off the runway. Some had to attend to passengers during a medical emergency where their lives were on your hands. Despite all those emergencies, you were able to ensure the safe arrival of our passengers and yourselves.
Remember those times when you had to be away from family and loved ones during the holiday season, special occassions like reunions, and other important occasions which you missed because you had to fly somewhere?
You made it all through these because you were molded to be brave, strong, dedicated, and resilient, and that's why you were handpicked among the thousands of others who want to be flight attendants.
This pandemic, this situation, will not last, but tough people will. You, flight attendants, will. You may have lost your wings for now but just like in a basketball game, there is always "next season" to win it back.
When you feel down and lost, just remember all these, remember that you went even through tougher times in order to earn your wings and become a flight attendant. From then on, you will remember that your are strong and brave, and that you will rise out of this situation again.
The aviation industry will make a come back, that is for sure. Hold on to that goal, do not be discouraged. Do not give-up.
We will all fly again.