I work for a budget airline and have done so as cabin crew for the last eight years. The average age at the company is between 20-25 years. Those people who say that the youth of today don’t know what hard work is – come and spend the day with us.
The day invariably either starts with a 3:00am alarm call. We all meet in the crew room about 5:00am. Everything is timed: when we leave the crew room; when we get to the plane; when we’ve searched the plane; when the first passenger arrives; when we shut the airplane doors; when we push back and when we take off and when we land. A few seconds late and it’s an email from the managers wanting to know why.
But what makes the airline good to work for are the people. Despite the added responsibilities we have a real laugh on the plane. I would say that 65% of cabin crew are woman. Most of the men are gay. When I first started I asked a number of men why they thought that the airline industry attracted especially gay men. The overwhelming answer was that the homophobia they faced in their daily lives, whether at work or at home, made it a safe option. The pilots are great, too, down to earth and funny. We also have a good percentage of women pilots – not enough but better than most airlines
I suspect most people’s idea of cabin crew is of us serving food and drink. True, but mostly we have to concentrate on health and safety and, of course, making the airline shed loads of money. Each year we get examined and if you don’t pass you’re out. We are also re-trained each year in first aid as we do have quite a lot of ‘medicals’ that we have to deal with
So what is a typical day like? Well, we meet up to 600 passengers. That’s a lot of hellos and goodbyes. We have to clean the plane on the ground. We do at least six services and if we have time we sit and eat our food and slag off the management. What is it about any manager, no matter what you do for work, that they think they can work you till you drop, pay you very little and make you feel that you should be grateful that you have a job?
We have a basic wage and we earn 10% on what we sell between the four of us. Not a great wage and certainly not like the £5 million bonus that our CEO got last year.
We are no different to any other worker. We’re overworked, underpaid, fatigued and pissed off – really pissed off. When I recently contacted my union Unite, to complain that a scabbing operation was being organised against our Italian crews who were on strike and that a number of us were not comfortable with this and would not do it, I was told that there was nothing we could do as we would get sacked.
When I recently contacted our head of security to tell him that I would not be operating flights to Tel Aviv as pilots had reported seeing rockets as they came into land and that a number of crew did not want to do it he told me there was nothing to worry about and the union reps did sweet FA. So we organised our own unofficial way of refusing to fly there.
I actually like my job and especially like the people I work with. It’s just those pesky managers that make life difficult. So next time you board a budget airline, be nice to the crew.