lifestyle

Confessions of a flight attendant: Planes are filthy, we reuse the headphones, and there are secret sleeping pods


‘I witnessed more deaths than engagements’ (Picture: Getty/Metro.co.uk)

Flying is a bit like theatre, with the flight attendants putting on a smiling well-rehearsed show with all the behind-the-scenes bits hidden from view.

After working as a flight attendant for six years, one woman speaks anonymously to Metro.co.uk, revealing some of the wildest things she witnessed during her time.

Read on for some of her insights…

We reuse the headphones

Before landing the crew collected all of the headsets and put them into a bag. These were then taken to a facility at the airport where low paid workers were tasked with detangling them day and night so they could be repackaged and reused. New coverings were put on the ends of the headphones for hygiene.

The blankets were also washed and repacked. 

The champagne goes down the toilet

Before touchdown all of the drinks were dumped in the toilets, from opened juices to the most expensive bottles of champagne.

I really hated doing this, it seemed such a waste. When it came to uneaten hot meals, they were left in the ovens for the catering team to dispose of. 

People fake being ill to get an upgrade

I had some people come on board who said they weren’t feeling well, hoping we would upgrade them for better comfort.

In certain cases, we quickly decided to offload them to prevent them from becoming a medical liability during a flight. I warned many of my passengers about this happening if they continued telling me they were ‘too sick’ to fly in economy and needed a business seat.

You can imagine how quickly that person went back to their seat and stopped moaning. 

I saw more deaths than engagements

In my personal experience, there were certainly more deaths than engagements.

Over six years I encountered three deaths and one engagement. That proposal was wonderful. The business class passenger approached us and asked us to serve his girlfriend a glass of champagne and he dropped the ring inside the glass and went down on one knee.

However, the deaths I witnessed were pretty grim. The worst was when a four-year-old girl passed shortly after take-off en route to Germany. Her face and body were so pale while we were performing CPR. We never stopped trying to revive her, even during landing.

The mother remained surprisingly calm but she eventually broke down and gave an agonising scream when her child was carried out the back door wrapped in a blanket. That moment she knew her child was gone.

‘I always had to wear lipstick, foundation, and either mascara or eyeliner’ (Picture: Getty Images)

Makeup is mandatory

Our company had a uniform department, which we nicknamed the ‘fashion police’ as they would stand around like cops and try and catch us out if anything was out of place, from our hair to our hemlines.

Looking back, it makes me feel quite ill and angry about the extent our grooming was scrutinised.

Beauty is a huge topic among cabin crew, and you will find most have their bathrooms stocked like aisles of a Boots pharmacy.

I always had to wear lipstick, foundation, and either mascara or eyeliner. I also always had to wear nail polish.

Planes are cesspits of bacteria

I think as a whole, planes are pretty dirty. The seat covers were only exchanged if they’d been soiled or vomited on.

As the planes were constantly on the move, it was only obvious dirt that was tended to. If I ran a towel on the gallery floor I guarantee it would have been filthy in a single wipe.

Passengers sometimes went to the toilets barefoot. This is not something I would advise.

We were put on diet plans if needed

I was weighed before starting my job as a flight attendant so it could be used as a reference. I was issued with a uniform that was one size larger because I was expected to ‘grow into it’.

Then the company had a weight management plan that flight attendants were forced to follow if they had been reported by management or the ‘fashion police’.

This involved seeing a nutritionist who would prescribe an appropriate diet plan.

‘There’s a secret door that can be opened with a special pin code’ (Picture: Getty Images)

Evacuation slides aren’t that fun

Evacuation slide training was a huge component of our safety and emergency procedures training. We got to jump down a slide only once, though.

The slide is steep and you land on a relatively hard mat at the bottom. I observed red lipstick marks on the mats, indicating some might have had a pretty rough landing.

There are secret staff sleeping pods

In the aft of the Boeing 777, there is a secret door that can be opened with a special pin code. When you open the door, it leads you up a staircase where you will find up to eight very spacious bunks for flight attendants to take a nap.

Rest was less relaxing on the Airbus A380 as the sleeping cubicle was located between passenger sections and you could hear toilets flush and babies cry. There were nine tiny bunkbeds stacked over each other.

Newer Airbuses had a better layout down below. It felt like climbing into a submarine as there was a steep ladder that led down from the front galley.

Covid-19 made passengers kinder

When airports started closing down, you could see how desperate people were to get home. Everyone understood that we were repatriating them, not there to provide the usual ‘world class’ service.

For the first time in years, I did not have to lift a single bag for anybody to put them in the overhead bins. This was a huge change and relief.

For once we were also not being chased around with call bells and in general, customers were grateful just to be on board.

Pilots use their status to get laid

In pre-Covid days, layovers were basically fun nights out, where anything could and did happen.

It was quite common for pilots to get girls’ numbers from the staff portal and invite them to their room. It happened to me on occasion but I was also dating the guy.

I’ve seen promiscuity from both sides though. The female crew still consider it ‘climbing the ladder’ if they sleep with a pilot, and it’s a sad truth, but many men will take advantage of this.

Do you have a story to share?

Get in touch by emailing MetroLifestyleTeam@Metro.co.uk.


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