When I was in college and an airline would be hiring flight attendants, one of my friends would bring the newspaper ad and we’d get all excited over it.
She would tell me how someday we will visit the Eiffel Tower, toss a coin in Fontana De Trevi, sing New York New York in Time Square and touch the walls of Taj Mahal.
We were 19 years old in the Philippines. But we couldn’t wait to see the world.
Flightless Flight Attendant – You Were Chosen
In 2003, I was among 82 chosen to become flight attendants from among the thousands of applicants.
At the time when America was bombing Iraq, I flew to the Middle East, a 10-hour flight away from my hometown to become a cabin crew.
I then learned about CPR, how to carry and transfer a bomb to the least risk area, what shade of foundation suits my skin and yes, how to brew coffee.
At the end of my two-month long training, I was able to convince them that I can tell the difference between a heart attack and a heart burn and give the proper first aid.
I assured them I knew how to extinguish a fire and how to deliver a baby. I showed them that I can evacuate a full cabin in 90seconds – that was a lot of screaming and acting, opening heavy aircraft doors too.
I also had to take tests on how to handle a highjack and how to survive in extreme temperatures in case of a crash landing or ditching.
The most challenging part for me was to memorize the exact location and number of all the first aid kits, fire extinguishers and the rest of the equipment inside the aircraft that are too many to mention.
So, after sliding down a mock up plane, swimming and erecting a canopy, I passed the training.
I finally earned my wings.
No One Told Me
Yes! I travelled the world.
What no one told me though was there will be many times I would choose sleep and in-room dining over the museums and parks because my whole body would just be so exhausted.
No one told me that a Manchester to Jeddah sector can tire me from my nails to my soul.
No one told me that the jet lag from transatlantic flights can put me down for a day of amazing unproductiveness plus shift my hormones into chaos.
No one told me that I would miss Christmas, birthdays, and my brother’s wedding.
I was 35,000 feet above sea level and cut off from the world when my nanny died, also when our cat died… and when my dad died too.
No one told me that I would always be the last to meet the family’s niece and nephew.
No one told me that a flight attendant doesn’t have weekends, her time is not her own.
She is always but a fleeting visitor wherever she goes. That at any given time, I would always be missing someone…
Those Wings Must Fly
Oh but those wings!
The power it brought.
Fancy hotels and breakfast buffets.
I love the high ceiling rooms of Grand Via Veneto in Rome and the truffle eggs being served in Grand Hotel Kempinski in Geneva.
Perks my wings afforded, not I. Not to say too, that I get peanuts.
To some, their wings gave them Rolex and Hermes.
Mine paid for my brother’s school, my sister’s and niece’s. For that, I will forever be grateful.
My wings gave me the power to be with loved ones no matter how short.
My best friend who lives in L.A. once was devastated over a breakup, my wings brought me to her for a night of tears, laughter, booze and off-key karaoke.
Because when she jumps- I don’t jump. I fly and scoop her up.
It’s A Lifestyle Like No Other
The wings also gave me a team to belong to. There is a special bond between flight attendants because of the unique kind of life we live.
It is a life like no other.
We never say I’m flying to Maldives, we say, “I HAVE Maldives.”
We trade too, and say things like “Who wants Frankfurt? I need Milan..”
Yes, like we own the whole damn world!
We drink soup from paper cups like it’s coffee, we use military time to set our alarm, we can finish a meal in 30 seconds, standing up -between meal service and clearance.
We hate when people stand up after the plane lands, we laugh when they clap after the plane lands. We love when passengers thank us.
Aircraft is for flight attendants, Airplane is for passengers.
We talk in dates format even if its just the next day. We never know what day it is but we remember what supermarket is closest to our hotel.
We may especially have loved working with someone specifically without knowing that person’s name or if we will ever fly together again.
R2 or L5 may be our names for the day.
We all have woken up in the middle of the night with a mini heart attack forgetting where we are.
We see beautiful places but no one to share the moment with.
We are always..always alone in a crowd.
In my 17years of flying, my wings bravely soared through missile exchanges in the Middle East, threats from Al Qaeda, Taliban and ISIL.
My wings fabulously flew over Bird Flu, Swine Flu, SARS, Ebola and MERS.
No masks, No gloves, just smiles.
Novel Corona Virus.
Containment plan- immobilize.
The world is stood still.
But MY world, the world I know is shaking.
Global airlines to lose $113 Billion in passenger seat sales- according to IATA.
Flight Attendants all over the world are being grounded, hundreds and hundreds being laid off.
For the rest of us hanging by a thread, never have our wings been so threatened.
But let us put our wings up. Laid off or waiting..
I know it’s difficult. I feel you.
It isn’t just a job you’re losing, it is that childhood dream. It is all the time away from loved ones, all the sacrifices that made you value flying even more.
I know it’s difficult but don’t forget – you have wings. They are yours, you bested thousands to get it, you earned it.
No virus can take that away from you.
Remember your strength. You can smile even when your heels are killing your feet. You can take care of many even when you’re sick or hungry.
You were trained to SURVIVE the most forbidding situations in stilettos and with lipstick on. What can you not do?
You, my dear, are meant to fly even when your heart is breaking.
“But those who hope in the Lord
will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles;
They will run and not grow weary,
They will walk and not be faint.”
These are trying times and we are in dire need of encouragement like this.
If you you wish to share an inspiriting message with the worldwide community of flight attendants, contact us here.
Stay strong and firm. We can get through this.