(CNN) — “I got here of age when the jet age got here of age,” says Ann Hood, an American novelist and New York Instances best-selling writer, whose newest guide “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 toddler, 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 along with her household, she learn a 1964 guide titled “Learn how to develop into 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, which may work.”
When she graduated from school, in 1978, Hood began sending job functions to airways. “I believe 1978 was a very fascinating 12 months, as a result of most of the girls I went to school with had one foot in outdated concepts and stereotypes, and the opposite foot sooner or later. It was type of a complicated time for younger girls.”
“Flight attendant” was a newly minted time period, a gender impartial improve from “hostesses” and “stewardesses,” and deregulation of the airline trade was across the nook, able to shake issues up.
However for essentially the most half, flying was nonetheless glamorous and complicated and flight attendants had been nonetheless “lovely and attractive ornaments,” as Hood places it, though they had been already combating for ladies’s rights and in opposition to 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” — revealed as factual in 1967, however later revealed to have been written by Donald Bain, an American Airways PR government.
A few of the worst necessities to be employed as a flight attendant — comparable to age restrictions and shedding the job in case of marriage or childbirth — had already been lifted, however others remained.
Probably the most surprising one, maybe, was the truth that girls needed to preserve the burden they’d on the time of hiring.
“All airways despatched a chart along with your software, you checked out your peak and the utmost weight and for those who didn’t fall inside that, they would not even interview you,” says Hood. “However as soon as you bought employed, no less than 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 acquired fired over this. The actually horrible factor about it, aside from what it did to girls, is that this restriction was not eliminated till the Nineties.”
Hood was considered one of 560 flight attendants, out of 14,000 candidates, employed in 1978 by TWA, then a significant provider, acquired by American Airways in 2001.
The job began with a couple of days of intense coaching in Kansas Metropolis, the place cadet flight attendants would study the whole lot from plane half names to emergency medical procedures, in addition to the security protocols of seven completely different plane. The checklist included the Queen of the Skies, the Boeing 747.
“It was type of terrifying, as a result of it was so large — and the steps, the spiral stairs that led to first-class that you simply needed to go up and down not sometimes,” says Hood. “I’d preserve pondering: do not journey. Ultimately I acquired used to it.”
Hood’s favourite aircraft was a Lockheed L-1-11 TriStar.
Christopher Deahr/Second Editorial/Flickr Imaginative and prescient/Getty Photographs
She says her favourite aircraft to work on was the Lockheed L-1011 TriStar. “Domestically, solely Jap Airways and TWA flew it. It was a really approachable, workable widebody aircraft with a stunning setup of two seats on either side after which 4 seats within the center, so everyone may get out simply. No one was sad on that aircraft.”
Flying was nonetheless glamorous on the time, she says.
“Individuals dressed as much as fly and remembered the food in a great way. It is actually completely different from in the present day. I can solely evaluate it to being in a effective resort, or possibly 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 first-class passengers, who additionally had a alternative of Russian caviar and lobster bisque to go together 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.
“In the event you went on a five-day journey, which wasn’t unusual, you needed to pack a separate entire uniform since you simply would odor a lot like smoke,” Hood says. “Boy, was I glad when that stopped. The entrance rows of every part had been deemed non-smoking, however the entire aircraft was crammed with smoke since you could not preserve 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 often weren’t as full as they’re now, so in these center sections of 5 seats on a 747 you can see a pair put the armrests up, take a blanket and disappear underneath it. I am unable to say what they had been doing, nevertheless it seemed suspicious.”
As for passengers flirting or asking flight attendants out, it was additionally widespread. “I did date passengers, however that was principally 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 positively be the girl in first-class who seemed to be breastfeeding her cat. I imply, I am unable to say that it was really 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 costume 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 stated, 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 number of time to fill. You possibly can solely serve folks a lot food and so many drinks, and play so many motion pictures. I made the job enjoyable. I liked speaking to folks. I liked the texture of it. I nonetheless love flying in the present day,” says Hood.
She says it was certainly doable to really go to and expertise the cities she traveled to. “Typically your layover was actually quick otherwise you had 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 the whole lot from fares to routes, had come absolutely into impact, altering flying endlessly.
Planes turned crammed with extra seats and coach stopped being as nice, however flying was additionally democratized and made accessible to a far bigger share of society.
Hood says she is happy with her profession within the skies.
“Flight attendants are a pressure. They’re extremely unionized. They’re unbiased. 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 in the present day because the time by which I began it,” she says.
Nonetheless, she recommends it as a profession possibility.
“I used to be 21 after 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 acquired off, to stroll right into a metropolis and really feel fully at residence — or no less than work out the right way to really feel at residence in it.
“I do not know if it needs to be somebody’s life’s work — if they need it to be that, nice. However I believe a couple of years working as a flight attendant may change your life.”