It was exactly one year ago today that I flew to Atlanta, GA (a whole 20 minute flight from Chattanooga) to interview with Delta. I was so excited and SO nervous. I don’t think the pit stains will ever come out of that shirt. I had practiced, I had prepared, and it was judgement day. Literally, they start judging you from the second you step out of your cab and onto the Delta lot. It was a 4 hour experience and I never stopped smiling the whole time, except when they gave me a conditional job offer. Then I cried some BIG HAPPY TEARS. Here’s a picture from that day, with 2 people I’m forever bonded with , Charles and Monique- my CJO buddies. We had just been dropped off at the airport for our flights back home after finishing up our paperwork to become Delta employees.
So…. why did I quit? It’s a question I get a lot these days, and there are a lot of reasons. But, truth be told, you probably won’t understand how any of them could be SO bad. In fact, I was warned about each of these things.. but I brushed them off. You see the pictures on social media of flight attendants traveling and loving life. I should know, I was seeing and believing the same thing before I got hired. But you don’t see the day to day struggles and complications of what a career in air travel can have. There were also a lot of reasons to stay, but in the end, for me, they weren’t enough.
**DISCLAIMER**: if you are 22 and fresh out of college, or in a point in your life where you can be flexible and need a change: 100% apply for this job. It IS awesome and has endless benefits, the biggest one being seeing the world. I don’t regret a single minute of my experience and would do it all over again.**
Here’s my reasons why, though, and be warned..they’re long:
- Location is EVERYTHING and Commuting is NOT
When you interview to become a flight attendant, you agree to go wherever the airline sends you. Moving is, without a doubt, your best option. Move where they send you. For me and Trent, that was a really big step that we weren’t ready to take.
I live in Chattanooga, TN. Have you ever been to the airport in Chattanooga? Did you even know Chattanooga HAS an airport? Probably not. It’s “cute”, that’s the nice way of saying tiny. But it has a soft spot in my heart, I spent a lot of time there and got to know several of the employees. That being said, it’s small and does not have a lot of options as far as flights go. Delta has 2 routes out of Chattanooga. One to Atlanta and one to Detroit. Atlanta was not offered to my class out of training as choice for base (where all of your trips start and end/ where you clock in and out). Atlanta would have been my easiest option in the system, but is also home to the biggest airport in the world. BEAST.
By some miracle, Detroit WAS offered to my class. So I decided to be based in Detroit, and commute to Detroit from Chattanooga. There were 2 flights to Detroit a day, one at 7am and one at 7 pm. Doesn’t seem so bad right? But there’s a whole slew of stress that comes with commuting, and a lot of it is technical so I won’t bore you with standby travel talk, but know that it is very risky as to whether you will actually get on a flight. So to be safe, most of the time I would go up on the 7am flight the day before I had a trip, and spend the whole day and night in Detroit- in a crappy hotel- that was paid for out of my pocket. One time I did not play it safe and tried the 7pm flight. The count went from 9 open seats at 4pm to 1 open seat and 2 people waiting on standby by 6:55pm. I paid $600 for that last ticket and got to work. I should have called out sick, because I was ready to throw up after that. Commuting=ANXIETY.
I will never forget in my first week of training we had a “meet and greet” with some of the different teams that support Delta’s flight attendants. I was talking with a lady from the on-boarding team, which works with flight attendants through their first 6 month probation period. I told her I planned to commute and her response was, “Well it won’t be easy, commuting is the number 1 reason we lose flight attendants in their first 6 months”. I remember going back to my room that day with my roommate (the best ever, ERIN XOXO) and launching into a fury of ” what a mean lady, why would she tell me that, she should be encouraging me, it’s our first week”. I flew for 6 months and 2 days before putting in my 2 week notice. That lady was right.
2. The difference between business and pleasure
The biggest thing we gave up when I quit was our ability to travel anywhere in the world. That statement has a lot of weight, and I did not take it lightly. ANYWHERE IN THE WORLD. But the day to day job of traveling, what I thought would be fun and exciting, became mundane. It wasn’t an exciting vacation with my loved ones. It was 4 flights that left me in Hartford, Connecticut with Suzanne (54) and Lawrence (45) who locked the door to their hotel room and planned to stay there until wake up the next morning. It’s not always as much fun and hanging out in cool cities as some instagrammers make it seem. Some of it is, don’t get me wrong.. but a lot of it is you, by yourself, FaceTiming who you wish you were with from the hotel room.
That was actually one of the last things I expected to bother me. When people said “it’s a little lonely starting out…”. I would think, I’ll make the best of it! I’ll explore on my own! Or, I love a good netflix binge- hotel here I come! But, it was actually just like they said… lonely. It was then that I started questioning “why am I doing this”.
3. Seniority is BIG and you are the lowest of the low.
The entire scheduling system runs on seniority, and coming in as a newbie you get, mostly, all the trips that nobody else wants. I’m not saying I wasn’t ready to “do my time”, but being away every weekend and every holiday was hard… harder than I imagined. In the beginning, it was new and fun and nothing mattered because CATCH ME IN LONDON. But after a while, the newness wore off and I missed my “normal” life. I can count on one hand the number of times in 6 months I was able to go to church on Sunday or go home to visit family in Kentucky. Making any kind of plans was difficult, because if I wasn’t working- I still wanted to leave that time open in case I could find a way to swap into a better trip or a trip at a different time. That’s one of the better aspects of the job- it IS very flexible, and if you’re good at it and spend A LOT of time on it- you can make your schedule how you want it. I never got that good.
4. Health goes on the back-burner
My physical and emotional health have never been worse than the past 6 months. Flight attendants have a freshman 15, and it’s real. I tried REALLY hard, and still felt my body turning to crap because CRAP was more convenient. I prepped food, I bought a food saver to seal it up and keep it fresh for days a time, I packed more in my lunch bag than in my suitcase. But What did I eat? Pretzels, almonds, cookies, or granola. Oh, and any first-class leftovers still warm in the oven and loaded with sodium. Oh, and COKE. All the caffeine I could get my hands on, because I was TIRED. 8 hours of sleep is not in a flight attendants schedule. I would usually try to get trips with an early report time as they would usually release earlier on my last day of flying so I could make my commuter flight home and be home that night. So being in the lobby ready to go by 5-6am was my norm. So I was getting fat, and always tired, maybe I should work out? I tried, seriously. Except have you been to hotel gym lately? They kinda suck. Unless you like one treadmill in a room with no air flow. Still fat. Still tired. Mix that with the anxiety of commuting, AM I GOING TO MAKE IT HOME?! I make it home! ahh a whole 3 days off. Well, 2 and a half, because–gotta commute back to start it all over again. Cue to me crying on the couch because I don’t wanna GOOOO.
5. TIME versus PAY
So we covered that I would usually leave home to commute to base about 24 hours before my trip. I would work 3 days (usually), and then commute home. I would try to work 3-day trips with an “early” release time, usually sometime around 1pm-3pm, so I could make the flight home to Chattanooga at 8:30pm without a problem. This meant, I would sit in the airport from early afternoon until 8:30pm and home in Chattanooga by 10:30– this was BEST case scenario. If I didn’t get an early release, I would have to pay for another hotel room or sleep in the flight attendant lounge for the night (not pleasant) and then leave out the next morning. As a flight attendant, you are paid by the FLIGHT hour, so only while you are flying are you making your hourly wage. There is also a small per diem for being away from base. So I would be gone for at least 4 days, up to 5 if I had to stay an extra night, for 16-18 hours of pay and some change. In my regular job, I was working the same 4 days and getting 32 hours of pay, and sleeping in my bed every night. That’s double the pay. And about none of the anxiety. This was probably the biggest piece of the quitting puzzle. And when I realized how much of a cut I was taking versus how much I was putting into this lifestyle… it did not add up.
6. My brain was turning to mush
Know how much thought power it takes to open a can of soda? None. “What can I get for you?’, “Pretzels or Cookies?”, “How do you take your coffee?” (People of the world-LEARN HOW TO ORDER COFFEE). This was the extent of my job, along with being a walking trash can. It is literally amazing how much trash some people can generate on a flight. And they will throw it at you in a heartbeat. And roll their eyes. Cute.
Overall, the job: Easy? YES. Stimulating? Nope.
So, Those are my top 6. I wish I could have summed it up in 5, but all of these felt equally important. There’s plenty more small annoying things- like people don’t know how take their headphones out when you’re asking them a question. But these 6 were the biggest impact on my daily life and what made me lose motivation to continue my flight attendant career.
I am SO glad I tried it though! Not only for the experiences I gained and places I got to see, but for the new perspective it gave me for my “mediocre” life. I LOVE IT. I love getting to spend all my time with my family and friends. I love going to work everyday and being home by 5pm. I’m much happier at work and excited to be there, I love cooking dinner and feeling like I have control of what goes into my body and not just what’s in front of me. I love being able to make plans more than a day in advance. And, SLEEP, I love being able to sleep!
Of course, there are still days when I wonder if I made the right decision, the job never loses it’s “luster” but I am truly better off in every way. I am excited to save our money and travel again soon. Of all the things I learned– learning how to travel has been one of the biggest lessons. HOW TO BE A GOOD TRAVELER, that’s a post for another day! Because, no offense, but so..so..so many of you are doing it wrong.
Until next time, friends!