3 In above the wing/ adventuring/ inspiration

7 Lifestyle Changes Flight Attendants Make (Part 1)

Lower Manhattan taken while at "work."

Because my job is so unorthodox, when people find out I’m a flight attendant, we start the 20 questions game “Oh, that’s so fun, I bet you get to travel all over the world,” “you’re gone away from home a lot. Do you like your job?” or “I bet you make really great money.” I don’t mind the questions, and I’ve gotten so good at the game, I can answer the questions before they’re even asked.

Facebook can exacerbate the situation because all anyone sees is the “glamorous” part of my job. They don’t get to see the five alarms I have set to wake up at 3:30am (yes, five), the copious amounts of coffee consumed so that I can make it through a 14 hour work day, or the amount of times I go to my galley so I can count to ten before I explain to someone why they cannot just walk away from their bag that’s hanging out of the overhead bin. People only see the pictures of me galavanting around the globe.

Quite a few of my friends over the last few weeks have asked me about becoming a flight attendant, and I’ve told them it’s not a job, it’s a lifestyle. One I have throughly come to embrace. This is a two part series for anyone who is interested in pursuing this career who are just simply curious about the flight attendant life. Here are 4 of the 7 lifestyle adjustments flight attendants make.

Forget Your Habits of When and Where You Sleep.

Chelsey with an eye mask and pillow waking up on a  flight from Paris to Chicago.

My Mom woke me up on our flight from Paris to Chicago so I wouldn’t miss the cookies. She then proceeded to snap this picture of me and all my grogginess.

You will become good friends with the hours of 3-5 am (and not because you’re just coming in from a night out). I barely remember when the wee hours of the morning were my bed time. “Sleeping in” is more like 6 or 7 am. I actually enjoy waking up at 5am (yes, I am using enjoy and five am in the same sentence). While everyone else is fast asleep, I’m able to have some me time (and get my coffee on).

I used to commute from Denver to New York for my trips. Some days I would wake up at 5am to work a 12-14 hour day. I would then hop on my four hour (sometimes more) commute home across two time zones. Factor in weather delays, and I had days where I was awake for just shy of 24 hours. I could sleep anywhere at any time on cue even. Airplanes, van rides to the airport, on a quick 30 or even 10 minute sit before our next flight. Chronic fatigue is a pretty regular occurrence for many that commute across time zones for work.

Until you can find a system that works for you, be prepared and have your eye mask, ear plugs, and blanket all packed to go.

The Personal Space You Thought You Had is a Myth.

Flight attendants are locked in a metal tube for HOURS (sometimes upon hours) with anywhere from 50-150 people at any given time. I’m fortunate enough to have a galley on my aircraft allowing me some breathing room, but some flight attendants are sitting in their jumpseat right next to passengers (and the stinky lavatory). People also tend to lose any sense of a personal bubble when boarding. On a typical day, someone will run my feet over with their bag at least twice. I get elbowed in various body parts even more. Hey, it happens.

You’ll Learn a New Language.

Airline lingo is full of words like crashpad, hot beds, cold beds, deadheads. For the record, a deadhead doesn’t involve music or a band. It’s a term for crewmembers that need to be put in position for their flying and are positive spaced on a flight to their destination.

the ones who enjoy this job the least are those who work all the time and never utilize their benefits. The first time a non airline person asked me if I lived in NYC (my base) happened to be at a small get together where I knew no one. I said, “no, I have a crashpad here, and I live in Tennessee.” All conversation ceased, heads swung around and everyone just gawked at me while I awkwardly tried to explain the ins and outs of my lifestyle.

You can have up to 20 people in a crashpad at any given time (like I said earlier, what’s personal space?). It’s simply a place flight attendants or pilots use to “crash” because their trips either start too early or end too late for them to fly to or from their home and base on the same day.

Frugality Will Become a New Way of Life.

The pub inside the Abbey Court hostel in Dublin, Ireland

The pub inside the Abbey Court hostel located in Dublin, Ireland on the River Liffey.

Sure some flight attendants are making a pretty decent wage. Usually they have decades of seniority (except one particular airline that is known to pay their employees nicely), but the majority of flight attendants make between $20-$30k in their early flying years.

If you can learn to be diligent at debt management and decide that material things aren’t as important as the experiences you’ll gain, then you can travel and enjoy your benefits without getting into massive debt.

Thanks to my crashpad experience, friends I met along the way, and the airline discount here or there, most of my vacations are done for half of what most will pay. I was able to travel to Paris for eight days, see most of the tourist attractions as well as experience the local cuisine every night without breaking my bank account. There are ways to enjoy the benefits (hello, free or extremely reduced airfare), but you will make sacrifices. I find the ones who enjoy this job the least are those who work all the time and never utilize their benefits.

Despite all the adjustments that are made to work in the airline industry, the experiences I have had are priceless. Check out part two of this series.

If you have any questions or comments, feel free to leave them below!

– xoxo, C

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  • Silverngold
    April 15 at 8:54 am

    Awesome article. Did you take the picture of NYC? Its beautiful.

    • Chelsey
      April 17 at 2:33 pm

      I did!

    • Chelsey T
      April 26 at 5:56 pm

      Yes, I did. I am in love with that shot of lower Manhattan!

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