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Memoirs of a Flight Attendant

When I got the phone call asking to come for an interview, I was already flying on a hundred OMG’s!!!!

 

To make a great impression, I bought a suit, had my hair professionally done, and spoke to as many flight attendants as I could. The best advice was to remember the customer comes first at absolutely all costs and in the team assessments… don’t be bossy lol.

 

12 of us made it through out of 5000 applicants and I remember turning up for training, feeling like the luckiest person alive. It was back in the day of bowler hats and sophisticated suit jackets.  Our trainers told us under no circumstances were we to break the uniform code and I was good with that. So proud in fact, I made sure I wore that bowler hat everywhere. Petrol stations, the local dairy, supermarket, you name it. I was a flight attendant and everyone was going to know!

 

Image: John Wheatley

 

My colleagues turned best friends and I have so many stories. There were the politicians sitting in the emergency row (for legroom) unable to understand what putting the bag in an overhead locker was for through to drunk millionaires demanding words with our Captain because we had for safety reasons, diverted to Brisbane. He had a 5 million dollar deal to make on the ground and as far as he was concerned the weather was fine. He upset surrounding passengers by explaining how he knew. In his world apparently, when the sky is blue outside a jetplane 30k feet in the air, it is a strong indication 109km gale force winds are not happening on the ground… Mr. Know-It- All was one of Wellingtons’ top businessmen.

 

There was flying on 9/11, counselling a full flight of terrified passengers. Then there was the ‘Air New Zealand almost going under’ moment where we didn’t know if we could get back to Wellington with crew control warnings of halting all flights.

 

Lightning bolts, wind storms, and crazy turbulence were all in a day’s work that sometimes made you wonder if God had decided to use the plane as a human milkshake blender. Then there were days when you became to understand how the pilots got a reputation for being the best in the world just for returning you home… in one piece.

 

Seared visualizations of flight attendants walking down the aisle with skirts accidentally tucked into their knickers after a bathroom stop. The flight attendant who bent over to pick up his safety demo gear and split his pants on the day he wasn’t wearing undies!!!

 

My favourite part of the job though was the passengers who needed me. I sat with a woman on landing who screamed until touch down. I made good friends with an awesome man who had no arms or legs that an unthinking ground staff member had boarded last and wheeled down the aisle like he was in a freak show. The beautiful unaccompanied minor who I had prized out of the arms of his grieving father to take back to his mother in Australia.

 

Oh, and I can’t forget how with all the crazy and fun stories, the overnights, the occasional grouchy purser, the after-work parties – all of it made us family.  It’s been 23 years since I got my wings and although I’m now an ‘ex flight attendant’,  the friends I made have become my forever people. Over the years we’ve lost some of us who traded their wings for real ones. We’ve helped each other grow our families, work through divorces, new loves. We’ve cried and laughed so so much and because of all that, I’ll always be an Air New Zealand Flight Attendant at least in my heart.

 

Raquel Roderick
1998 to 2004