How risky is a cabin crew job

The dark side of the flight attendant's life

From TRAVELBOOK | November 09, 2015, 5:56 p.m.

The flight attendants are on strike at Lufthansa. Their day-to-day work is often presented as rosier than it is. Although they fly to the most beautiful countries in the world, many suffer from health problems and social isolation.

Another strike at Lufthansa. Tens of thousands of passengers are affected, at airports you can see unsuspecting faces of people who do not know how to get on vacation, home or to a business meeting. This time it's not the pilots who stop working, but the flight attendants. After countless strikes on the railways and at the airport this year, very few people are likely to understand the situation of flight attendants.

There are still many who believe that flight attendants have the best job in the world, after all they are paid to fly to new places every day, and they also have the opportunity to travel relatively cheaply with their own airline.

The truth, however, does not look as rosy by far, as studies and experience reports from flight attendants themselves suggest. For example, Sarah Steegar, who has been with the job for 17 years, reports on the “Flyertalk” website that the job is “glorified and has real downsides that are often overlooked”.

Social isolation

Meet your mother for a quick coffee during your lunch break, or spontaneously go shopping with your best friend on Saturday: that is not possible with flight attendants. Because while most people have regular working hours, these are constantly changing for flight attendants. They miss birthdays, family celebrations and just can't stop by their friends.

Sarah Steegar feels the same way: “I miss a lot of events and holidays with the family,” she writes. Building new relationships, be it partnerships or friends, is difficult, if not impossible.


Although they are constantly surrounded by people at work, flight attendants often suffer from loneliness and miss someone they can trust outside of their professional environment after work. Contact with friends and relatives via smartphone and computer is no substitute for a real conversation.

“What you want right now is to be with someone,” says Steegar. A person you know and in whose company you feel comfortable. “Sure, we have colleagues and we do something too, but they are more acquaintances. It's not the same. "

No time at the goal

It is a common misunderstanding that flight attendants travel the world for work, so to speak, and get to know the most beautiful cities and countries. Because they often don't see much of the places they fly to. The schedules are too tight, so most of them use the time on site to relax. Going to the beach in Rio for a moment, or shopping in Paris quickly - this often only happens with jet lag and under time pressure.

Health problems

The health problems associated with frequent flying are also often underestimated. And not only flight attendants, but also other frequent flyers, such as pilots and business people, are affected, as the study "A darker side of hypermobility" published in August this year revealed, with jet lag being one of the most common and causing further complaints .

Jet lag not only affects the sleep-wake cycle, but also digestion - for up to six days after a flight.

In addition, the risk of a heart attack can increase as a result of jet lag, according to the researchers. According to the study, crew members can even impair their intellectual capacity in the long term.

The studies also list other risks due to an irregular and unbalanced diet, a lack of opportunities to exercise, and sometimes increased alcohol consumption.

Financial frustration

The salary varies greatly - from country to country and from airline to airline - as does the regulation of working hours. A flight attendant tells TRAVELBOOK that she is paid from the time the aircraft starts moving (“off-block”) - until the aircraft comes to a standstill (“on-block”). In the US it is said that payment only starts when the doors are closed. For example, the American flight attendant, blogger and author ("We have just forgotten our cruising altitude. A stewardess tells") tweeted Heather Poole in February 2015 that her flight was canceled and she is now sitting at the airport with "angry passengers" and not get paid.

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