Airline Apocalypse – a personal take from the Inside

I’m a flight attendant, but I don’t work for Aloha, Frontier, or ATA. My company’s balance sheet is in the black for now, but that could all change tomorrow. The history of commercial aviation is wrought with stunning take offs, and piles of burning rubbish. TWA and Pan-Am grew too big and fell out of the sky. Others barely made it off the ground before fizzling out. Besides the recent bankruptcies, much of the industry has been on government life support for years.

I’m what they call a post 911 baby of the airline business. In my 6 years of service, I have so far missed so many of the extreme highs and lows. Whether it’s a bankruptcy, furlough, or a piece of the millions distributed to common pilots, flight attendants, counter agents, or even ramp agents. I’ve neither seen flaming plane crash bad nor winning the 401k-lottery good.

As a little girl, being a flight attendant was my not very imaginative semi-blue collar dream job. My mom said I would need something to fall back on if professional ice-skating didn’t pan out. When I expressed interest in the cosmetology program at my high school, my post-graduate degreed mother had a heart attack. I was forced into Ms. Moline’s advanced placement freshman English. The college track didn’t work out and I never get my cosmetology certificate. My bar and restaurant title was “waitress.”

Fed up with being pawed at and propositioned by men with breath of hot wings and beer, I looked to the sky. I felt like I had won Ms. America or American Idol when they finally selected me out of the masses. I knew it was after 911 and that working for any airline would be like living on a major fault zone in an exciting city like San Francisco. It seemed tantamount to accepting a glamorous job on the cruise ship Titanic, though I knew it would sink. Why not? I had nothing better to do.

Sometimes after dealing with too many weather, air-traffic control delays, drunk and cranky, abusive passengers, passengers who insist they fit into a single seat but are in danger of asphyxiating the Unaccompanied minor seated next to them, I would welcome the idea of munching on dry Raman noodles as I stand in the unemployment line.

Though there is a dark cloud hanging over the airline industry, only the minority believes in a ray of sun on the other side of the Horizon. The atmosphere is thick and somewhat apocalyptic. The air is looming with threats on all fronts, from Al Kaid, skyrocketing costs of crude oil, wilting economy, garbage stock rates, and the federal government. At all times, we have the media paparazzi trying to get a shot of the airlines, drunk and with their panties down like Lindsay Lohan stumbling out of a night club with a red nose and dark circles under her eyes.

The airline industry is an ugly little media darling. You cannot turn on CNN or the local news from day to day without hearing something about the airlines and most of the time it’s not good.

Especially after 911, I never expected to work as a flight attendant for a major carrier. I am surprised that is has gone on as long as this. I won’t be surprised if the big bad wolf pours gasoline over the straw house that is the airline industry.

I’m startled by those who don’t have a plan B, worried for those who have poured their whole lives into a belief in lifetime free travel and a comfortable retirement.