Photo: Tyler Olson/Shutterstock

19 Universal Truths You Learn as a Flight Attendant

by Kara Mulder Jan 1, 2015
1. It’s impossible to make everyone happy.

One person will be too hot. One will be too cold. Cabin temperature and food preferences are variables, not constants. Not everyone in a group will be in a good mood, so just do your best and let the negative go.

2. Distance can be nothing…and everything.

Flight attendants create friendships all over the world. Distance sometimes makes no difference regarding love. At other times, it quickly erodes a personal connection. I can travel far away on a whim, which offers the opportunity to create unexpected relationships, and yet the ability to be in many places for a short amount of time has diminished the power to maintain these relationships as the years go by.

3. Energy is contagious — good or bad.

Power is in your spirit. I’ve seen this in passengers, in strangers, and in my colleagues. When the woman in 12E is yelling at her eight-year-old child that she hates him because he spilled her red wine, her presence feels like poison in the crowded space. Being a flight attendant has made me much more aware of how energy is spread. In my job, and in life, I don’t want to spread toxic emotions.

4. Sometimes you will drop things.

The galley of an airplane is a nightmare for a klutz, and as a flight attendant, not a trip goes by where I do not drop plastic cups, napkins, bags of ice, meal trays, soda cans, stir sticks, etc. Simply pick up, clean up, and start again.

5. A good night’s sleep is a game changer.

I have never in my life felt so confused and unable to function as the time when I flew from California to Florida, and then on to London, staying up for an approximate stretch of 33 hours or more. I was sharp with passengers, edgy with coworkers, and the migraine that pounded didn’t disappear until waking up to a new sun in a big comfy bed. Take care of yourself and sleep. It changes your life.

6. A smile is a universal form of communication.

In Portugal I was not understood, and I could not understand the person that I was attempting to receive directions from, but at least the smile was a familiar comfort. As a flight attendant, the opportunity of constantly being in foreign countries, surrounded by different cultures and languages that I do not understand, has made me wonderfully aware that a smile means the same thing all over the world.

7. Being nice is priceless.

I had a flight attendant friend who was going through some very rough experiences in her life. I wasn’t even aware of her situation, but I found out later that my involvement — whether it was a kind smile, or simply a phone call to chat — made a difference in her choice to continue to live. Beneath the facades we put on, we do not know the secret battle that another may be facing. You may never know what one moment of nice really did for someone.

8. The unexpected can add sparkle to your life.

There was a time before I was a flight attendant when it was hard for me to break from regimented plans. Through my new lifestyle in the sky, I learned how wonderful it could be to let go of worry, expectations, and a need to control everything. Spontaneous adventures add color and interest to life. Embrace them.

9. Being 30 lbs heavier isn’t a big deal.

At one time, I had an undeniable need to be skinny. As a flight attendant though, I was introduced to a larger world of people, ideals, and experiences. I wanted to be part of it, and feel alive in it. Through travel I gained weight, and it only made me stronger because I was finally satisfied with who I was, and how I was living.

10. Be thankful.

Waking up in foreign cities and meeting people with interesting stories has me constantly wondering how I got to this wonderful point in my life. I am constantly thankful to be the one that gets to live it.

11. Good friends are irreplaceable.

I have three best friends — all flight attendants, all living in different time zones. No matter where we each find ourselves in the world, we know we can count on each other. Good friends are needed to keep one sane, and to keep one strong.

12. Many discomforts are temporary.

Delays are typical. Long flights reach the destination eventually. “Bad passengers” have to exit your life at some point. Uncomfortable times are not forever.

13. Everyone has a story.

I would have never realized that the man sitting in the exit row on one of my flights was considered the first commercial astronaut for Virgin Galactic, if I did not engage with him long enough to really listen. A story that you hear one time could change your life — or at least your day.

14. Always lock the deadbolt.

I awoke one night to strangers entering my hotel room. They subsequently argued that the room that I was sleeping in was their room. I have since learned to keep the scary situation outside of my hotel quarters by always locking the deadbolt.

15. Take risks.

One of my favorite memories was the time when I rode through Iceland on the back of a motorcycle. It was through the rain with a local that I had met only minutes before. We had a mutual friend, but I didn’t know him. Maybe this was not the safest decision, but I choose to take calculated risks and find myself often rewarded for that. Not every risk will end as a success, but wondering what would have happened is no way to live life.

16. But also, be smart.

Flight crews are always asked about internal fraternization. Some do this, and some do not. Every choice you make has a consequence. Your choices will always catch up with you, so don’t be unnecessarily reckless. And also, watch your alcohol consumption.

17. There will always be things that are out of your of control.

I don’t get to pick my schedule. Ever. I have no control with this aspect of being a flight attendant, and I complain my fair share, but I live with it and make the best of it. This is life, so learn to let go, and savor the times when you can exercise your freedom of choice.

18. Sometimes, nothing makes sense.

I don’t know why I became a flight attendant instead of landing my dream job in marketing. I don’t understand what happened to that blonde surfer who slowly lost interest in me when I was still captivated. Whys may never be answered. Confused may be the state of the day. You simply have to accept some unexplainable instances, because rationalization won’t necessarily make things better.

19. Life clicks in the moments when it is meant to.

I started flying, and then traveling, and then writing. I don’t know why; it just happened. It happened in the many questions of “What should I do with my life?” Sooner or later, I know I get my answers. Regardless, it will always be in the timing that clicks.

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