Dubai, United Arab Emirates (CNN) – In her newly published book Fly Girl, New York Times best-selling American novelist Anne Hood recounts her memories of her adventurous years as a flight attendant for TWA Airlines. “I came of age when the jet plane came of age,” she said at the end of the golden age of air travel.
She witnessed the first flight of the Boeing 707 that heralded the beginning of the era of air travel as a child growing up in Virginia and Washington Dulles International Airport under construction.
When she was 11, after her family returned to her hometown of Rhode Island, she read a 1964 book called How to Be a Stewardess and decided it would be.
She noted, “Although it’s a sexist job, I was tempted to talk about a job that would allow you to see the world and I thought, okay, I could work.”
When I graduated from college in 1978, Hood started submitting job applications for airlines. “I think 1978 was a really interesting year because a lot of the women who went to college were thrown out of their old ideas and stereotypes and their aspirations for the future. It was a confusing time for young women.”
The term “flight attendant” was a novelty, a gender-neutral development of the word “flight attendant” and the deregulation in the airline industry was almost imminent, ready to change things.
But overall, the flight is still charming and sophisticated, and the flight attendants are still seen as “a beautiful and sexy adornment”, as Hood says, even though they have fought for women’s rights and against discrimination.
The stereotype of stewardesses with short skirts accompanied by male passengers remains painful and books such as “Coffee, tea, or me?” My Trainer’s Memoirs, published as facts in 1967 but later discovered to have been written by Donald Payne, a managing director, contributed to the populism.Public Relations Director for American Airlines.
Some of the worst conditions for working as a flight attendant, related to age and losing a job in case of marriage or childbirth, were removed, but other conditions remained.
What is even more shocking is that women have to maintain the weight they had when they were employed.
“All airlines include a chart in your application, which shows your maximum height and weight allowed, and if you do not fall within this interval, they will not interview you,” Hood said.
“But once you get hired, at least with TWA, you are not allowed to reach the maximum weight. And you have to maintain the weight when you get hired, which in my case was about 15 kilograms less than the maximum allowed.”
She recalled: “A colleague of mine was fired because of this. What was horrible, despite its impact on women, was that this situation was not abandoned until the 1990s.”
Hood was one of 560 flight attendants employed by TWA out of 14,000 job applicants in 1978, and was acquired by American Airlines in 2001.
She initially underwent intensive training that lasted several days in Kansas City, where cadet flight attendants learn everything from aircraft parts names to emergency medical procedures, as well as safety protocols for seven different aircraft, including the nicknamed Boeing 747 Queen of Heaven.
Chateaubriand dish .. air
Hood said her favorite aircraft for work was the Lockheed L-1011 TriStar because “just domestically, it was operated by Eastern Airlines and TWA. It is a practical wide-body aircraft, with internal passenger seats, two on each side and then four in half. ” , so that everyone could get out easily. “Everyone was happy on that plane.”
And the flight, at that point, was magical.
“People were dressed for the flight and remembered the food with pleasure. This is not what I see today. I can compare the trip before with a good hotel, or maybe a cruise on a cruise ship. Nothing was plastic and class “The economy was very comfortable,” said Hood.
She was reminded of her Ralph Lauren dress and Chateaubriand dish cooked to the liking of first-class passengers, who also had a choice of Russian caviar and lobster stew to match Dom Perignon’s champagne.
Not everything was pink. Because smoking was allowed on the plane, it was a nightmare for flight attendants.
Are you having sex on the plane? “It was common on international flights to see a man going to the bathroom and a minute later a female passenger joining him, sitting next to him, or something,” Hood said. She stressed that she has not witnessed this on every trip, but has done so.
“International flights were not as full as they are today, so you could see that in those five-seater middle sections of a 747, a couple would lift their armrests, put on a blanket and hide under it. I can not say. What “They were doing it,” Hood explained. “But it seemed suspicious.”
As for travelers flirting with flight attendants or asking them out on a date, it was also common. “I met passengers, but it was a disaster for the most part,” she said. “But in 1982, I met a guy on a flight from San Francisco to New York. He was sitting in the 47F seat – and I met him for five years.”
An empowering job for women
Hood said: “Work was 80% fun and 20% boring. On some trips, especially those that were not full, there was plenty of time to fill it. Only then could you serve people a lot of food and offer them those many kinds of drinks, “Watching a lot of movies. It made my job fun. I liked connecting with people. I liked feeling them. And I still like to fly today. “
Hood left her job to focus on her writing career in 1986, and by that time, many things had changed. The repeal of regulations that eliminated federal controls on everything from tariffs to lines went into effect, changing aviation forever.
Airplanes are full of more seats and are no longer fun, but the concept of flight is becoming more democratic, available to a larger section of society.
Hood said she is proud of her career as a flight attendant.
Stewardesses describe them as “a force. They are very united, independent. In the cabin, they make all the decisions. They find and fix mistakes. They know how to handle an emergency. They visit cities they do not know, do not they know and they succeed ”.
She concluded: “It’s an empowering job for women, but it’s sexist. It’s just as contradictory in itself today as it once was.”