Working as a flight attendant was once a fairly glamorous job, and in some parts of the world it still is. However outside of the COVID era world travel itself is no longer as rare, so the job lacks some of the mystique it once did. And since travel is no longer the province of the wealthy, and has become much more democratized, that too has lowered the status of those who work in air travel.
Flight attendants are in a customer service job with safety duties as well. At most US airlines they’re unionized.
In the regulated era of US airlines, carriers competed over how much they could give to passengers since they weren’t permitted to compete on price. Planes, too, weren’t nearly as full. Now with passengers being given fewer amenities and – until recently – seats more crowded and closer together, passengers aren’t even happy.
Working as a flight attendant has been transformed over the last 40 years from high status to much lower status in American esteem. One day a year though we’re supposed to re-elevate the role. Yet somehow I’ve never really internalized that May 31 is international Flight Attendant Appreciation Day.
The World Congress of Flight Attendants launched in Rio in 1973, at the initiative of the flight attendants union of Brazilian carrier VARIG (the remains of which are now part of Gol). That conference ended May 31.
World airlines are becoming smaller, needing fewer cabin crew. In the meantime flight attendants continue to travel and serve their airlines and customers as essential workers.
With travel down more than 85% most of you won’t be able to do anything in person to go out of your way to thank flight attendants, and social distancing would probably preclude it anyway. America Airlines CEO Doug Parker, though, certainly honored one flight attendant this weekend, though he would probably say she honored him.