(CNN) — “I got here of age when the jet age got here of age,” says Ann Hood, an American novelist and New York Occasions best-selling creator, whose newest e-book “Fly Lady” is a memoir of her adventurous years as a TWA flight attendant, proper on the finish of the Golden Age of air journey.
As a baby, rising up in Virginia, she witnessed the primary flight of the Boeing 707 — which ushered within the period of passenger jet journey — and watched Dulles airport being constructed.
On the age of 11, after she moved again to her native Rhode Island together with her household, she learn a 1964 e-book titled “How one can grow to be an airline stewardess,” and her thoughts was made up.
“Though it was sexist as hell, it enticed me as a result of it talked about having a job that allowed you to see the world and I believed, nicely, that may work.”
When she graduated from school, in 1978, Hood began sending job purposes to airways. “I feel 1978 was a extremely fascinating 12 months, as a result of lots of the ladies I went to varsity with had one foot in previous concepts and stereotypes, and the opposite foot sooner or later. It was form of a complicated time for younger ladies.”
“Flight attendant” was a newly minted time period, a gender impartial improve from “hostesses” and “stewardesses,” and deregulation of the airline business was across the nook, able to shake issues up.
However for essentially the most half, flying was nonetheless glamorous and complicated and flight attendants have been nonetheless “stunning and attractive ornaments,” as Hood places it, though they have been already preventing for girls’s rights and towards discrimination.
The stereotype of stewardesses in miniskirts flirting with male passengers nonetheless endured, popularized by books like “Espresso, tea, or me? The uninhibited memoirs of two airline stewardesses” — printed as factual in 1967, however later revealed to have been written by Donald Bain, an American Airways PR govt.
A number of the worst necessities to be employed as a flight attendant — corresponding to age restrictions and shedding the job in case of marriage or childbirth — had already been lifted, however others remained.
Essentially the most surprising one, maybe, was the truth that ladies needed to keep the load they’d on the time of hiring.
“All airways despatched a chart together with your utility, you checked out your peak and the utmost weight and if you happen to didn’t fall inside that, they would not even interview you,” says Hood. “However as soon as you bought employed, a minimum of at TWA, you could not go as much as that most weight. You needed to keep at your hiring weight, which in my case was about 15 kilos lower than my most restrict.
“My roommate received fired over this. The actually horrible factor about it, apart from what it did to ladies, is that this restriction was not eliminated till the Nineties.”
Hood was one in all 560 flight attendants, out of 14,000 candidates, employed in 1978 by TWA, then a serious service, acquired by American Airways in 2001.
The job began with just a few days of intense coaching in Kansas Metropolis, the place cadet flight attendants would study all the things from plane half names to emergency medical procedures, in addition to the security protocols of seven totally different plane. The checklist included the Queen of the Skies, the Boeing 747.
“It was form of terrifying, as a result of it was so massive — and the steps, the spiral stairs that led to firstclass that you just needed to go up and down not sometimes,” says Hood. “I’d hold considering: do not journey. Finally I received used to it.”
Hood’s favourite airplane was a Lockheed L-1-11 TriStar.
Christopher Deahr/Second Editorial/Flickr Imaginative and prescient/Getty Pictures
She says her favourite airplane to work on was the Lockheed L-1011 TriStar. “Domestically, solely Jap Airways and TWA flew it. It was a really approachable, workable widebody airplane with a stunning setup of two seats on either side after which 4 seats within the center, so all people might get out simply. No person was sad on that airplane.”
Flying was nonetheless glamorous on the time, she says.
“Folks dressed as much as fly and remembered the meals in a great way. It is actually totally different from at present. I can solely evaluate it to being in a fantastic lodge, or perhaps on a cruise ship. Nothing was plastic and coach was tremendous good,” says Hood, who remembers donning her Ralph Lauren-designed uniform and carving chateaubriand cooked to style for firstclass passengers, who additionally had a selection of Russian caviar and lobster bisque to go along with their Dom Perignon.
It wasn’t all a mattress of roses. Smoking on board was widespread, and for flight attendants it was a nightmare.
“For those who went on a five-day journey, which wasn’t unusual, you needed to pack a separate entire uniform since you simply would scent a lot like smoke,” Hood says. “Boy, was I glad when that stopped. The entrance rows of every part have been deemed non-smoking, however the entire airplane was stuffed with smoke since you could not hold it from going backwards, it was ridiculous.”
What in regards to the Mile Excessive Membership? “It wasn’t unusual on worldwide flights to see a person go into the toilet and a minute later his seatmate be a part of him, or some model of that,” says Hood. “It did not occur on each flight, however you noticed it.
“Worldwide flights normally weren’t as full as they’re now, so in these center sections of 5 seats on a 747 you possibly can see a pair put the armrests up, take a blanket and disappear beneath it. I can not say what they have been doing, but it surely regarded suspicious.”
As for passengers flirting or asking flight attendants out, it was additionally frequent. “I did date passengers, however that was largely disastrous. It was by no means what I had imagined. However in 1982, I met a man on a flight from San Francisco to New York. He was sitting in 47F — and I dated him for 5 years.”
An empowering job
Hood left the job in 1986 to deal with her writing profession.
Hood has seen her fair proportion of weird issues on board. “The weirdest would undoubtedly be the girl in firstclass who seemed to be breastfeeding her cat. I imply, I can not say that it was truly taking place, however she had her cat to her breast.
“After which the man who flew the entire means in his tighty-whities and his gown shirt and tie, as a result of he did not wish to wrinkle his pants for a job interview. Or the man on a 747 in Frankfurt who was using his bicycle down the aisle,” she reveals.
That mentioned, the routine would generally kick in, and never each flight was a wondrous focus of journey and glamor.
“I’d say the job was 80% enjoyable and 20% boring. In some flights, particularly people who weren’t very full, there was a whole lot of time to fill. You’ll be able to solely serve individuals a lot meals and so many drinks, and play so many films. I made the job enjoyable. I cherished speaking to individuals. I cherished the texture of it. I nonetheless love flying at present,” says Hood.
She says it was certainly doable to truly go to and expertise the cities she traveled to. “Typically your layover was actually brief otherwise you have been simply drained, however for essentially the most half, the town was proper out the door. I very a lot took benefit of that when flying internationally.”
She left the job to deal with her writing profession in 1986, and by that point issues had modified. Deregulation, which eliminated federal management over all the things from fares to routes, had come absolutely into impact, altering flying perpetually.
Planes grew to become stuffed with extra seats and coach stopped being as nice, however flying was additionally democratized and made obtainable to a far bigger share of society.
Hood says she is happy with her profession within the skies.
“Flight attendants are a power. They’re extremely unionized. They’re impartial. Within the cabin, they make all the choices. They must troubleshoot. They’re there for the emergency stuff. They land in cities the place they do not know something or anybody and discover their means.
“It is such an empowering job, but it is a sexist job. In itself, it’s as contradictory at present because the time during which I began it,” she says.
However, she recommends it as a profession possibility.
“I used to be 21 once I was employed, and it gave me confidence, it gave me poise, and the power to assume on my toes,” she provides. “To take cost on that airplane, and as soon as I received off, to stroll right into a metropolis and really feel fully at house — or a minimum of work out the best way to really feel at house in it.
“I do not know if it ought to be somebody’s life’s work — if they need it to be that, nice. However I feel just a few years working as a flight attendant might change your life.”