As the famous French writer Antoine de Saint-Exupery once wrote in The Little Prince, “Grown-ups never understand anything by themselves, and it is tiresome for children to be always and forever explaining things to them.” And to be clear I am not referring to any of my colleagues as “grown-ups” or “children” in the conventional or offensive sense, I am instead referencing the vast age difference between many of my co-workers and I.
While I’m not complaining about the variance of age within my workforce, I am simply pointing out that often times I am the youngest flight attendant on the plane, which often leads to references that elude me, company history that occurred before I was born, and the overall feeling of being left out. You see, the company I work for went through some tough times after September 11, like most airlines, and did not hire for quite some time. Fifteen years to be precise. For fifteen years things remained stagnant and stale at American, with no hopes of recovering from bankruptcy, no economic growth, no base transfers, no seniority shuffles or new-hires, no new routes, furloughs, headquarters threatening to lower wages and decreased working conditions, while simultaneously giving top executives bonuses. For fifteen years, animosity towards management built, hostility between work groups increased, bad blood towards the company rose, and staff morale plummeted.
And who can blame this workforce for being bitter after numerous concessions, worse labor rules, less pay, decreased benefits, and staff travel passes that are almost obsolete because of consistently full flights and low wages? None of us new-hires blame you for your hatred toward the company, in fact most of us feel bad for you, however it is a bit discouraging to start working for a company and constantly come to work to only hear dismal stories of furlough and bankruptcy. In fact, in the last two years of flying for my airline, I think I’ve only brought home feelings of depression, discomfort, and loneliness.
But please also consider how us new hires feel, coming into a workforce that is so much senior, and older then us, with no one in-between us and you. Do remember that for those fifteen years that everyone may have been miserable within the company that they didn’t hire anyone new, meaning the most junior people before the most senior new-hire class is about 16 years seniority. So please, from all junior, younger flight attendants who just began their flying career to all the senior mamas out there (and do keep in mind, I have absolutely nothing against most “senior mamas”, most of you are a pleasure to fly with!), please stop saying these following phrases to us, that we have grown tired of hearing:
- “I bet I have been flying longer then you’ve been alive.”
- When you say this phrase, which I hear just about every time I come to work, you sound old. And from all of us “youngins,” it is not a cute look. We are doing you a huge favor by telling you to stop saying this.
- “You’re just as old as my son/daughter,” or “You are old enough to be my child.”
- This phrase also makes you sound extremely old. No one wants to feel like they are working with their mother/grandmother. Plus its extremely awkward when trying to respond this statement. What am I supposed to say back that is not going to offend you or sound rude?
- “I was furloughed for (insert number of years here).”
- I understand you were furloughed for ten years. I know the company went through some tough times. But please, while I do feel extremely bad for you, I don’t know what to say back. I am only twenty-three, and I’ve never been furloughed in my life, nor did I know what that word meant before I started this job.
- “How did you get this trip?”
- I got it off Ebay, where do you think I got it from? Why do you all of you insist on knowing how everyone on the plane is flying the same crappy trip as you. Odds are, your friend Becky called in sick, and I am a reserve. You can see that “R” next to my name on the crew manifest, indicating I’m on reserve. (Shout out to NYC based crews for hardly ever doing this, but DFW & LAX crews are known for this.)
- “I’m just as senior as you because I am ex-(insert past airline here).”
- You’re seniority number is 12,000 and mine is 14,500. I know the new-hires start around 13,000. So yes, I can gather that while you flew for 40 years before with so-and-so, your company seniority does not reflect that. I’m sorry you got screwed over, but please keep in mind this all happened before I was even 5 years old.
- “I did reserve for 24 (or insert other ridiculous number here) years.”
- You kind of did that to yourself. You only wanted to fly international “IFS” only. If you went to domestic, back when we had the divide, you would have been off reserve. Plus don’t complain, you did one month reserve, three months line. I’m currently doing one month on, one month off.
- “I only did reserve for 2 months when I first started.”
- Once again reserve is a really sore subject, and I’ve been doing it for two years. One on, one off. I don’t want to hear about your glory days, while I was just called for this trip one hour and fifty-nine minutes ago.
- “Most new-hires are lazy, but you’re not.”
- Yeah, just no.
- “You’re too new to have a buddy-bidder.”
- Where does it say in the contract that you have to be flying for eighty years before you have the right to buddy bid? Yes we hold crap, and probably are not competing with you with what we can hold, so why do you care?
- “When I started flying we didn’t get our travel passes until after the first six, (or in some cases) nine months.”
- A lot of flight attendants say this in a bitter way. I understand that when you started flying many years ago, things were different. But with all the benefits we have lost over the years, shouldn’t we be happy that at least we gained one?
- “I don’t even use any of my travel passes.”
- Tell me again why you even work here?
- “I have never flown international, and have barely left the country in the last twenty-five years I’ve been flying.”
- OK, you domestic Debby, you’re definitely who I want to hang out with when I’m not working.
- “I only fly a couple days a month,” or “I’m a low-time flyer.”
- Most new-hires are broke. We barely make any money to support ourselves, especially within the first two years of flying. So do you think we want to hear about your rich husband and how you can afford to only fly two Chicago turns a month? I think not…
- “This isn’t a job you do forever, anymore.”
- Maybe it is, maybe it isn’t. Let us decide. We’re a very opinionated generation, and I’m sure we can draw that conclusion on our own.
- “I’m only qualified on two aircrafts.”
- Keep in mind that on mainline my company flys the Super 80, 737, 757, 767, 777-200, 777-300, and Airbus. How you managed to fly your whole career and only qualify on two aircrafts is something I can’t fathom. But I was forced to qualify on everything, and I hate it. Especially on reserve.
- “I can only hold London, and I hate flying it.”
- In a world where I can not even hold short Cancun layovers, with a Port-au-Prince turn tacked onto it, please don’t complain about how you can hold Europe. If you really hate flying it, please stop bidding it so us new-hires can finally hold something that is not dismal.
- “I only fly IFS (long-haul) international only.”
- If you are new, I know this is a lie. Unless you speak 12 languages (which if you do, kudos to you). No one wants to hear about how you only fly three Tokyos a month that depart on Tuesday, so that you and your girlfriends can all go to your favorite brunch place every week, while I’m flying seven three leg-a-day, three-day Caribbean trips a month.
So just as Antoine de Saint-Exupery once brilliantly stated, sometimes grown-ups need a little extra help when trying to understand things, and it is up to us, as the children, to try and help them out in explaining things to them. But it is not because they are older or outdated, it is because after years of being an adult, the magic within them becomes lost. After years of being told what is right and wrong, what they can and can not do, and years of not believing, it is up to us to help them re-believe again. So please, from all the new, junior flight attendants out there, stop using these dismal phrases and let us help you believe again in that magic and beauty you once upon a time saw in the world.