Saturday, August 9, 2014

Ever wonder what it's like to be a flight attendant?

I posted this review of Heather Poole's 2012 book, Cruising Altitude: Tales of Crashpads, Crew Drama, and Crazy Passengers at 35,000 Feet on Epinions in 2012.  Since I am currently reading a book about air travel, I decided it makes sense to repost my review of Poole's tales of life as a flight attendant here on my travel blog.  I must say, any glamour I thought existed in the world of flight attendants has now vanished.

Ever wonder what it's like to be a flight attendant?

 Jun 26, 2012 (Updated Jun 26, 2012)
Review by    is a Top Reviewer on Epinions in Books
Rated a Very Helpful Review

    Pros:You may not look at flight attendants the same way again.


    Cons:Maybe a couple of slow spots.

    The Bottom Line:This book didn't crash and burn.

    I love a good tell-all, especially when it's about professions I've wondered about.  There are lots of people out there who have interesting jobs and I'm always grateful to those who choose to write about their work for curious readers like me.  Though I have read a few books about flight attendants, I know that flight attendants have one of those jobs that always spins interesting tales.  And every flight attendant no doubt has a million stories to tell about what it's like to fly the friendly skies with the crazy, crabby, or crotchety, whether they're passengers, pilots, or fellow flight attendants.  That's why I knew I had to read Heather Poole's 2012 book, Cruising Attitude: Tales of Crashpads, Crew Drama, and Crazy Passengers at 35,000 Feet.  This book is available for download or in paperback.

    Becoming a flight attendant is difficult...

    Next time you're sitting on an airplane, watching the flight attendants wrestle the drink cart down the aisle, consider the fact that that person had to fight longer odds than most to score that job.  Poole goes into great detail about what it takes to become a flight attendant.  You might be surprised by how challenging it can be.  Indeed, Poole tried a time or two before the 1990s, when she got her first gig working for a now defunct charter airline.  Stepping up to her current job was quite challenging and required a grueling training course in a different city.  Poole spent weeks in a hotel and funded her incidental expenses on credit.

    According to Poole, it's very easy to flunk out of flight attendant training.  In fact, she describes sort of a "here today, gone tomorrow" atmosphere.  One day a man or a woman would be in training with her.  The next day, they'd be gone, never to be seen or heard from again.

    Being a flight attendant is difficult...

    More than just sky hosts or hostesses passing out drinks and snacks, flight attendants are responsible for saving lives.  And while they're protecting your life, they have to look their best, wearing shoes with at least a one inch heel and, if they're female, tastefully applied makeup.

    Flight attendants don't get paid until the doors on the aircraft have closed and the flight is pulling away from the gate.  That means that when they're greeting you as you come aboard, they aren't getting paid.  Moreover, according to Poole, flight attendants don't make munch money at all.  Consequently, they tend to share "crashpads", basically a house or an apartment used just for sleeping.  Poole was based in New York City and shared a "crashpad" in Crew Gardens with dozens of different people, some of whose names she never learned.  Her first crashpad was a house owned by a Brazilian guy who did some shady business on the side.  For the privilege of sleeping at the Brazilian's house, Poole, along with many of her colleagues, paid about $150 a month.

    Of course, flight attendants have to endure their share of abuse, whether it be from disgruntled passengers, lecherous pilots, or crazy co-workers.  Poole offers anecdotes aplenty about passengers who have demanded her name so they could report her to the airline authorities.  She writes a story of a fellow flight attendant who had to be escorted off the aircraft in handcuffs.

    But being a flight attendant has its advantages, right?

    Heather Poole was attracted to her career because it meant getting to see the world on the cheap.  But-- not so fast-- it turns out that it can take awhile before a flight attendant ever gets a chance to see Paris.  Flight attendants on international routes tend to have a lot of seniority, which, according to Poole, is everything.  Flight attendants who don't have a lot of seniority tend to get stuck with the crappy jobs and the suckiest routes.  And they may very well get fed up and quit before they ever see sunny Barcelona or Buenos Aires!

    Despite all that, Poole says that flying is now in her blood.  She's been doing her job for over fifteen years and even got her mom to join up.  And as much as I hate dealing with obnoxious people and nursing sore feet, I couldn't help but feel a twinge of envy at what Poole describes as an exciting but chaotic life.

    My thoughts

    I really enjoyed reading Cruising Attitude, almost as much as I did Elliot Hester's similar book, Plane Insanity, which, back in 2004, I described as the funniest book I had read in a long time.  Though Poole's book has some funny moments, I wouldn't describe this book as a humor book.  She takes the time to explain how the airline industry works, particularly post 9/11.

    Actually, as exciting and fun as it sounds to be able to jet off to different cities around the world, Poole makes being a flight attendant sound kind of like a bad deal.  When she first got started, Poole's salary was about $18,000 a year, before taking about $800 to pay for her uniforms.  For that $18,000,  she got to put up with a lot of crap as she practically starved!  Poole made friends, but watched a lot of them walk away from the job and, consequently, her life.

    Overall

    Poole's writing is, for the most part, very engaging.  There are a few slower spots in the book, but I mostly enjoyed reading about her experiences as a flight attendant.  Poole seems like the kind of person I would like to get to know.  I found her book hard to put down and would recommend it to anyone who is interested in learnning about what it takes to be a flight attendant.  

    Interested in learning more?  Check out Heather Poole's blog... http://hpoole.wordpress.com/
    Recommend this product? Yes

     

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