I’m asked often and in varied ways how and why I became a flight attendant.
“How did you get into the airlines?”
“What made you decide to do this?”
“Did you always want to be a flight attendant?”
I decided to answer these questions. To let you know a little more about myself, what I did before, and how it is I ended up here—a full-time flight attendant.
The short answer to the question of how I became a flight attendant is “It fell into my lap.” But the way it happened felt a little like it was meant to be. A twist of fate, divine coincidence, or just another surprise turn on life’s road. Whatever you want to call it, I love this story. And retelling it reminds me to be grateful for ending up here, right where I belong. Somewhere I never knew I wanted to be.
So here goes, my flight attendant origin story. Buckle up, we’re going back in time.
My Flight Attendant Origin Story
How I became a Full-Time Flight Attendant
North of Boston, Massachusetts
I needed change.
I had been bartending—at the bar I planned to work in for the summer after college while I figured out the next step—for five years. It was a lot of fun, but I felt like I had stayed way too long. Like I’d been to the bar and the afterparty and now the birds were chirping, sunrise reminders of my still being there. I felt stuck. Like I was wasting something in myself.
It was this sticky, wasted feeling that made me long for something new. A new job, a new city. A new adventure. I was uncertain about what to do next, but the need for change propelled me. Even without a destination, some forward movement was better than none.
I decided I would go before I had a place to go. I began applying for jobs in marketing and writing and web admin around the country—Oregon, Chicago, Seattle. I didn’t care where I ended up and I didn’t care much what I’d be doing. I just felt the deep need to move. I set a cutoff date and gave my two months’ notice at the bar. If I didn’t have a job by then, I’d pack up my things and move to Portland, Oregon, where my brother lived.
Great, we had a plan(ish). And a backup plan(ish).
That two-month cutoff date came before a job offer did. It was mid-September. I said my final goodbyes to the coworkers and regulars I’d been working alongside and serving for years. There had been so many good people. On my last night of work, I received cards and gifts and kind words—not just from my favorites, but also from unexpected sources. It was a sweet, but not sad goodbye. A cup-filling, wing-lifting sendoff.
A photo from my bartending days- a 70s theme party
Having a blast hosting another theme party at the bar with my best coworker and friend.
The next day I packed my suitcase and flew to Ireland to spend ten days with a friend who was living there. While in the emerald country, I took day trips to Northern Ireland and to the Cliffs of Moher in the West. We did a weekend road trip around the Ring of Kerry, stayed in Killarney and Kinsale. I laughed and drank Guiness and did a lot of walking on cobblestone streets. It was the perfect segue. A pause between my old life and the new one I was about to start. But I had no idea just how wild and different that new life would look.
The plan after Ireland was to spend the week at home with family and my then girlfriend, making the most of my time with loved ones before we began new, long-distance relationships. I was moving to Portland. The furthest I could go from Boston and still be in the U.S. My mom requested a week off from work to drive cross country with me, and I walked around with a constant pit in my stomach composed of equal parts excitement and anxiety. I had a plan.
But when the time came to execute that “plan”, when I’d returned from abroad, refreshed and invigorated—a paved road to a glowing blank slate of opportunity before me—I found an unexpected surprise. An email that would change the whole shaky thing.
Michaella and I on my trip to Ireland, before my life changed.
Earlier in 2013
I bartended on Wednesday afternoons. A bowling league would come in each week like clockwork, and while I was shaky on the names, I knew what each of them drank and had it ready before they asked. We even opened the bar early for them so they could drink before they bowled. This is how I met Diana. She worked for an airline, in ground operations, lifting bags and towing planes. And on Wednesdays she came in to bowl with her dad and all his bowling buddies.
We began our acquaintanceship first over pineapple margaritas, and then with travel talks across the bar. She worked in travel, I adored travel. We talked of weekends away and trips to be taken. Comparing notes and tan lines. Destination brainstorms—things to do and what to eat there. In my life today, travel is one of the best bond builders I can think of. In my life then, it was more novel. And I looked forward to our Wednesday travel chats.
Then one day, on a Tuesday afternoon out of the blue, she messaged me over Facebook.
“My airline is hiring flight attendants. The application is open tonight from 7-9 if you want to apply.”
You read that correctly. Flight attendant hiring was so competitive at that time that they literally only opened their application window for two hours. I would find out later that thousands of people had applied in those same two hours.
I had never thought about becoming a flight attendant. Had never given flight attendants any thought at all. They were a part of the background noise in my travels. (In fact, you can check out the post “7 Things I wish I knew Before Becoming a Flight Attendant” to read all about the misconceptions I held and others hold.)
But what I had thought about, many times, was incorporating travel more prominently in my life. Weaving it into the fabric of my day-to-day rather than having one-off adventures once a year.
I had started my Peace Corps application—twice—and left it unfinished both times. I had signed up for an au pair service online that matched families and nannies around the world. I had explored sites like coolworks.com and looked at opportunities working in national parks or on organic farms around the world. I’d even thought about working on cruise ships. I had been looking into schemes for free travel, ways to integrate exploration, and a lifestyle that looked different than office by day and TV at night. I’d been on the hunt for this thing for years. Yet somehow, I had never thought of this very obvious path: I could work for an airline.
With that Facebook message, something clicked. It felt like a lightbulb moment. Why didn’t I think of that?
I touched up my resume, wrote a cover letter, and sat down at 7pm to apply. But, despite it feeling like a flick of fate, I still hadn’t formed any emotional attachment to the idea. My feelings would not have been hurt if I didn’t get the job. I wouldn’t be let down if I didn’t hear back. And that’s a good thing, because it would be more than six months before I’d hear anything about my application.
It came at a surprising time, a time of transition. I received the email inviting me to interview to be a flight attendant the day I came back from Ireland—seven months after sitting down at 7pm to apply. It came after I had already made some semblance of a hazy plan. After I’d made peace with “winging it” once I got to Oregon, building a life for myself. It was the perfect time to be invited on this journey. My life was an open road, and I had no idea where it was leading.
After some debate, I decided to push back my cross-country move by a few days to participate in the “blitz” interview in early October—the first of several dates offered all the way into December. Later, I’d find out this was a good decision since seniority is everything in commercial aviation and getting in early has serious advantages.
New job, new awesome coworkers, who dis?
When the big day rolled around, I packed up all my belongings in my little Kia Spectra and kissed my very accommodating partner goodbye. My mom and I kicked off our cross-country road trip with a stop in New York, where my interview would be held. I would pass (with flying colors, apparently) the interview that seemed more like an episode of Survivor than an employment opportunity. And on the third day of our cross-country road trip, in the rolling hills of West Virginia, I got the call offering me a position as a Flight Attendant Trainee.
I asked if I could call them back. I’m just like that. I like to weigh my options. Analyze and over-analyze a thing to death. I considered turning down the offer, despite having spent 6 hours in various rooms the day prior, selling myself for this very position.
I had my doubts. I second guessed. I worried that going from one service job to another was a lateral move—that I still wouldn’t be getting anywhere. I worried the pay was too low. That it was the wrong choice. That I’d later feel stuck again.
Thankfully, I had someone else in the car to talk some sense into me.
“Just try it for a year. If you don’t like it, quit.”
The sagest of motherly advice.
Just fucking try it.
My flight attendant training class. 30 days of intensive learning and some friendships that will last forever.
I took the advice. I decided to try it for a year. And you already know the rest of the story.
Seven years later, I can’t imagine leaving this job. The doors it has opened, the people I’ve encountered, the places I’ve been able to see, and the experiences I’ve lived—all resulting from this job, from that advice, from that Facebook message, from that bowling alley bar.
I had the itch to move. And boy, oh, boy, did I get what I asked for.
Truthfully, I’ve always felt the urge to move. And perhaps that is why this job feels so much like home.
I’ve sunk in and made myself comfortable in this life. I don’t feel stuck or wasted. Instead, the feeling is one of being held in soft support in your favorite comfy chair. I can leave if I please, but I don’t want to just yet. My job is not my everything, but it is something I enjoy, I am grateful for. It has changed the course of my life. It is something I hold dear. I wish this kind of soft comfort, perspective-shifting, world-opening contentment on every person who gets up and goes to work. I hope that each of us can find a path that feels like home.
Do you have a job you love? Did it feel like fate that you ended up in it? Flight attendants—what is your origin story? One worth retelling? Did you play flight attendant as a little kid? Or fall into this life by accident, like me? Let us know in the comments! And feel free to leave suggestions for future flight attendant and travel-related topics! If anyone is interested in learning more about becoming a flight attendant, reach out via comments, my email, or find me on Instagram @theAWheel.
Cheers all, and until next time.
Scroll on to see some of the dope places this job has taken me.