(CNN) — “I arrived of age when the jet age arrived of age,” suggests Ann Hood, an American novelist and New York Moments very best-promoting writer, whose most current book “Fly Girl” is a memoir of her adventurous yrs as a TWA flight attendant, correct at the close of the Golden Age of air travel.
As a child, rising up in Virginia, she witnessed the 1st flight of the Boeing 707 — which ushered in the era of passenger jet journey — and watched Dulles airport staying created.
At the age of 11, just after she moved back again to her indigenous Rhode Island with her family, she browse a 1964 e book titled “How to develop into an airline stewardess,” and her head was made up.
“Although it was sexist as hell, it enticed me because it talked about possessing a job that allowed you to see the entire world and I considered, very well, that may possibly do the job.”
When she graduated from school, in 1978, Hood begun sending task purposes to airways. “I consider 1978 was a definitely interesting calendar year, due to the fact a lot of of the girls I went to college with had 1 foot in previous strategies and stereotypes, and the other foot in the potential. It was type of a confusing time for youthful ladies.”
“Flight attendant” was a newly minted phrase, a gender neutral improve from “hostesses” and “stewardesses,” and deregulation of the airline marketplace was all around the corner, ready to shake factors up.
But for the most aspect, flying was continue to glamorous and complex and flights attendants were being nevertheless “gorgeous and hot ornaments,” as Hood places, it, even though they had been previously preventing for women’s rights and in opposition to discrimination.
The stereotype of stewardesses in miniskirts flirting with male travellers continue to endured, popularized by textbooks like “Coffee, tea, or me? The uninhibited memoirs of two airline stewardesses” — released as factual in 1967, but later on revealed to have been penned by Donald Bain, an American Airways PR executive.
Some of the worst specifications to be hired as a flight attendant — these kinds of as age restrictions and dropping the occupation in scenario of marriage or childbirth — experienced now been lifted, but many others remained.
The most surprising one particular, most likely, was the reality that females had to keep the weight they had at the time of selecting.
“All airlines sent a chart with your software, you seemed at your top and the optimum body weight and if you did not tumble inside of that, they wouldn’t even job interview you,” states Hood. “But when you bought hired, at minimum at TWA, you could not go up to that most weight. You had to continue to be at your hiring weight, which in my situation was about 15 lbs . less than my utmost limit.
“My roommate got fired in excess of this. The truly horrible detail about it, other than what it did to gals, is that this restriction was not taken off until eventually the 1990s.”
Hood was one particular of 560 flight attendants, out of 14,000 candidates, employed in 1978 by TWA, then a important provider, acquired by American Airways in 2001.
The task commenced with a few days of powerful instruction in Kansas Town, wherever cadet flight attendants would master anything from plane aspect names to crisis professional medical methods, as properly as the safety protocols of seven diverse plane. The list bundled the Queen of the Skies, the Boeing 747.
“It was variety of terrifying, for the reason that it was so significant — and the stairs, the spiral stairs that led to first course that you had to go up and down not occasionally,” suggests Hood. “I would maintain thinking: do not vacation. Sooner or later I received used to it.”
Hood’s favored airplane was a Lockheed L-1-11 TriStar.
Christopher Deahr/Minute Editorial/Flickr Eyesight/Getty Visuals
She states her beloved plane to get the job done on was the Lockheed L-1011 TriStar. “Domestically, only Eastern Airlines and TWA flew it. It was a very approachable, workable widebody aircraft with a attractive set up of two seats on each side and then 4 seats in the center, so everybody could get out conveniently. Nobody was unhappy on that plane.”
Flying was even now glamorous at the time, she states.
“Men and women dressed up to fly and remembered the foods in a excellent way. It is really genuinely distinct from now. I can only assess it to getting in a wonderful hotel, or possibly on a cruise ship. Nothing was plastic and coach was tremendous good,” states Hood, who remembers donning her Ralph Lauren-built uniform and carving chateaubriand cooked to flavor for to start with class passengers, who also had a option of Russian caviar and lobster bisque to go with their Dom Perignon.
It wasn’t all a bed of roses. Smoking on board was common, and for flight attendants it was a nightmare.
“If you went on a 5-working day vacation, which was not unheard of, you experienced to pack a separate complete uniform since you just would scent so much like smoke,” Hood suggests. “Boy, was I happy when that stopped. The entrance rows of every part have been considered non-using tobacco, but the complete aircraft was crammed with smoke mainly because you could not maintain it from heading backwards, it was preposterous.”
What about the Mile Substantial Club? “It was not unusual on intercontinental flights to see a gentleman go into the toilet and a minute later his seatmate be part of him, or some variation of that,” claims Hood. “It failed to materialize on each flight, but you observed it.
“International flights generally were not as comprehensive as they are now, so in those middle sections of 5 seats on a 747 you could see a pair place the armrests up, acquire a blanket and disappear underneath it. I can not say what they have been carrying out, but it looked suspicious.”
As for passengers flirting or asking flight attendants out, it was also frequent. “I did day travellers, but that was mostly disastrous. It was in no way what I experienced imagined. But in 1982, I met a guy on a flight from San Francisco to New York. He was sitting down in 47F — and I dated him for five a long time.”
An empowering position
Hood left the occupation in 1986 to aim on her writing occupation.
Hood has observed her reasonable share of weird matters on board. “The weirdest would absolutely be the female in initial course who appeared to be breastfeeding her cat. I mean, I won’t be able to say that it was in fact happening, but she experienced her cat to her breast.
“And then the person who flew the whole way in his tighty-whities and his costume shirt and tie, for the reason that he failed to want to wrinkle his trousers for a work interview. Or the person on a 747 in Frankfurt who was using his bicycle down the aisle,” she reveals.
That explained, the regime would in some cases kick in, and not every single flight was a wondrous concentrate of adventure and glamor.
“I would say the job was 80% exciting and 20% monotonous. In some flights, specially people that weren’t quite full, there was a great deal of time to fill. You can only provide individuals so considerably food stuff and so several drinks, and perform so a lot of motion pictures. I produced the work entertaining. I cherished speaking to people today. I cherished the truly feel of it. I however enjoy flying these days,” states Hood.
She states it was indeed feasible to basically stop by and knowledge the cities she traveled to. “From time to time your layover was seriously brief or you were just drained, but for the most portion, the town was right out the door. I extremely considerably took edge of that when flying internationally.”
She left the position to emphasis on her crafting profession in 1986, and by that time factors experienced altered. Deregulation, which taken off federal control about anything from fares to routes, experienced appear absolutely into result, changing traveling for good.
Planes became filled with much more seats and coach stopped remaining as nice, but flying was also democratized and manufactured obtainable to a far bigger share of modern society.
Hood states she is happy of her vocation in the skies.
“Flight attendants are a power. They’re really unionized. They’re independent. In the cabin, they make all the selections. They have to troubleshoot. They are there for the emergency stuff. They land in towns wherever they never know nearly anything or everyone and locate their way.
“It really is this kind of an empowering career, nonetheless it truly is a sexist task. In itself, it is as contradictory now as the time in which I commenced it,” she suggests.
Nonetheless, she recommends it as a job solution.
“I was 21 when I was employed, and it gave me self esteem, it gave me poise, and the capability to think on my ft,” she provides. “To choose demand on that plane, and the moment I received off, to stroll into a town and come to feel totally at home — or at minimum determine out how to truly feel at residence in it.
“I really don’t know if it must be someone’s life’s function — if they want it to be that, great. But I believe a couple several years performing as a flight attendant could alter your everyday living.”