The best seat on the plane, sex at a 10,000-meter altitude, regulated appearance: what a UIA flight attendant told us about her work
Moreover, why you shouldn't sew up anything before the air travel, why the entire crew doesn't take pictures before the flight and greet the plane, touching the fuselage
Oksana Yakovleva belongs to that girl type you want to be similar to. Perfectly styled hair, neat makeup, a beautiful suit that fits perfectly. She's a UIA flight attendant, and it seems that she was trained for this since childhood. Under her belt, she has 220 thousand passengers transported over 5 years, more than 3 thousand flight hours, and 853 flights.
Today, July 12, Oksana has a professional holiday, and on this occasion, we asked her about everything that we'd wanted to know so much about flight attendants, but could never ask because we only meet them on board.
Oksana's first flight happened when she was 11. Then it seemed to her that "all flight attendants know 10 foreign languages, have 3 higher educations (in psychology, medicine, aviation, and they completed sommelier and self-defense courses), have a model appearance and match the 90-60-90 parameters."
— Did this prompt you to master one of the most romantic professions?
— It wasn't my childhood fascination with the profession of a flight attendant that brought me into the aviation sphere (Oksana shares) but rather wanting to break the myths or stereotypes in my head and prove to myself that I'm no worse.
I did it when I was 24 when I decided to leave the routine banking sector in the past and changed my trouser suits to an aviation uniform. I've been in the sky for 5 years. And to be honest, I didn't expect that I'd stay for so long. We all come to fly for a year or two, and then we're surprised at the number of flight hours in the flight book. And I'm grateful to the profession that I can look at these years, not with regret about the lost time, but with the thought "Wow! Keep that coming!" Easily! After all, there's still a lot of things ahead, because I don't plan to leave aviation. I feel at home on board.
— With this attitude, you can stay in the sky for life! Is there any kind of career growth for flight attendants?
— The flight attendants have a career ladder: from an ordinary flight attendant to an onboard instructor. There's no age limit for the profession, and flight attendants can fly as long as their health meets the medical flight-expert сommission requirements. There are flight attendants who are healthy by all criteria at 80 years old (I think you know the Guinness record for the oldest flight attendant in the world), and there are those who don't pass a medical examination at 21 years old.
Sex at a 10,000 altitude and 90 seconds for the plane to burn away
— Are there any smoking flight attendants or pilots? After all, you can't smoke on the plane. How do they cope with addiction? Were there any cases when passengers smoked during the flight and what could be the consequences?
— The plane burns away in 90 seconds. It's not news, it's a fact. The same smoking policy applies to the crew as to the passengers. Smoking regular and electronic cigarettes, cigars, vapes, hookahs, you can continue the list… is prohibited without exception. In case of violation of this rule, the police are called on board upon arrival.
— I know that there's an unspoken club, a mile-high club. For people who've managed to have sex on board on a flying plane. Have you come across such passengers? What should the flight attendants do in such cases? Try to pretend not to notice what's happening or try to calm the couple's passions?
— This is the most popular question from passengers, which has been answered hundreds of times, but for some reason, people don't believe it. Probably, this stereotype will last forever. You can watch "Just Married" movie (USA, 2003), where the main characters decided to "seclude" in a standard toilet room on an airplane. And in general, the answers will show immediately. To say that the toilet is cramped for two people is to say nothing. During my work, I haven't heard that there was such a case in the airline. And I don't advise doing this, as the restroom is one of the dirtiest places on the plane.
Make-up, skirt and nails length, heel height and hairstyle, a second hand on the watch, and even a smile: everything must comply with regulations
In the photo, all the flight attendants are in heels. Oksana explains: the heel must be stable, 3 to 5 centimeters. Walking in heels is difficult, so on long-haul flights it's allowed to wear ballet flats, but only for the duration of the flight.
— Flight attendants look their best. Is it true that to get into flight attendants, you need to meet physical parameters (height not lower than some number, weight not more than a certain number)?
— The flight attendant is the face of the airline. We need to always look perfect from head to toe and strictly follow the documents governing our appearance. Most of the criteria are due to safety: the length of the skirt and nails, the height of the heel and hair, a second hand on the watch, and no unnecessary accessories.
— I often noticed that flight attendants have full makeup, and even the color of lipstick is the same for everyone. Are there makeup and hairstyle instructions for flight attendants?
— Each airline has rules regarding the uniform and its elements, makeup, and behavior, which leads to a harmonious appearance of the flight attendant (lipstick and nails color, gloves and handkerchiefs, eyelashes and hairstyle, posture, and smile).
Only 10% of passengers knowingly wear masks and protect themselves. How are inadequate passengers dealt with?
Flight attendant training lasts approximately one and a half to two months (theory, practice of emergency procedures, and intern flights). At the interview, interviewers test candidates for stress resistance, quick action response, conflict resolution, teamwork, and other necessary qualities for work. "This is the basis of behavior that promotes a readiness in flight attendants for any situation at any moment," Oksana explains.
— I heard that flight attendants check boarding passes when passengers enter the plane for a reason: the task isn't to show the passenger a seat, but to once again make sure that the person is adequate and immediately sense in which part of the plane a person can sit, who might be a "problem" passenger. Is it true?
— At work, we don't check boarding passes from passengers at the entrance, except for flights to New York (it's the United States requirement). But speaking about the adequacy of passengers, it's a delicate issue, considering what your interpretation of the word "inadequate" is, and what you mean by this term. For example, a passenger in a state of deep stress may behave… unusual. And this will be the reaction to the flight, leaving the comfort zone, getting to a confined space, a large crowd of people. You need to talk to such passengers, inform them about everything that happens so that this condition doesn't develop into a severe panic attack.
Another example: a passenger who behaves inappropriately due to severe intoxication. In this case, there's a zero tolerance policy: we don't let such a passenger on board, since it's a direct threat to aviation security.
— How to calm down a person in flight if a conflict arises between passengers? Do you have instructions on how to proceed in such cases?
— Today, unfortunately, the main root of the conflict is Covid and the wearing of masks. Only 10% of passengers knowingly wear masks and protect themselves. Others protect themselves incompletely or even take off their masks after being told by the flight attendants. It's morally difficult to work in such conditions since repeatedly requesting passengers to put on a mask warm up the unfavorable atmosphere on the flight. Conflicts arise up to calling the police on board.
Flight attendant who's afraid to fly in planes (but only sometimes)
Flight attendants can work from 1 to 4 flights per day. The main restrictions are up to 9 flight hours per day, up to 90 per month, and up to 900 per year. The exception is direct flights, the duration of which exceeds 9 hours. For example, among Oksana's longest flights, Sanya, China—Kyiv, Ukraine about 13 hours, and also Kyiv, Ukraine—La Romana, Dominican Republic, 13 hours 40 minutes. Both flights were performed on Boeing 767s directly without landings.
— With such a busy schedule, you don't probably have time to walk around the city, do you?
— Often we have little free time on business trips since we should have a full post-flight and pre-flight rest. But if business trips for several days in one city, then I don't deny myself a walk or shopping.
— How many world cities have you been to for work? Does that magical feeling and anticipation of a new journey disappear when the flight attendant boards the plane as a passenger?
— I have 34 countries on my account. There's a list of must-visit places for the future, including Machu Picchu, Petra, Hawaii, Iceland, and Yellowstone Park.
To be honest, I don't like to fly as a passenger (of any airline). First, I, as a typical alarmist passenger, listen to all sounds and smell all the smells. Second, I don't control the situation. There are a million unanswered questions in my head. I see the wing shaking in the window (Oksana says and laughs, realizing the comic nature of the situation). I try to fall asleep as soon as possible, if possible. The flight seems like an eternity.
Romance and family life of air people
Oksana's husband is also a flight attendant, they met on a flight in Beijing, and he proposed to her in New York, 5 months after the start of the relationship: "My husband is my beloved, best friend, advisor, and colleague. We work and travel together, think in the same language, understand each other from a half-glance and often speak in abbreviations or aviation terms," the woman says. She says it has happened that she didn't see her husband for two weeks. Their schedules didn't coincide.
— We flew past or near each other in the sky, sat down in the КВР one after another, passed the baton in different cities of the world. Or we just came to the airport to pick each other up after a working day because we missed each other. And there are a lot of such couples in aviation. I think we're all united by a love of the sky and airplanes.
— We've all seen a photo of this incredible view from the cockpit of the aircraft. Do you go there at least sometimes to admire it?
— Often the flight attendants don't have time for this. There are flights when you don't realize that you're at an altitude of 10 thousand feet, because "work is in full swing" from takeoff to landing. Therefore, I envy the pilots a little: Everest, ISS, Greenland, thunderstorms in the distance, sunrises and sunsets, the Eiffel Tower or Manhattan: everything is in full view. And thanks to the pilots every time they call in the cockpit in their spare minute to share these moments.
— Each profession has its own tales and traditions. Do flight attendants have them? For example, the obligatory ritual "for good luck" before the flight.
— There are many signs regarding aviation. For many years I've adhered to the classics: not sewing up anything before the flight, not taking pictures of the whole crew before the flight, greet the plane, and putting the hand to the fuselage.
Life hacks from the flight attendant. How to fly with maximum comfort?
— You, like no one else, know how to do it. So where is the safest and most comfortable seat on the plane?
— The yesterday-proven "safest place on board" according to British scientists' theory may turn out to be the most tragic one tomorrow since all emergencies are more or less different from each other.
- The first life hack: don't make assumptions about the place in the cabin, just remember that the plane is the safest type of transport today, and the primary task of the crew is to safely deliver the passenger from point A to point B.
- Second life hack: you need to cross your fingers and hope that you're lucky. But seriously, not to play with luck, buy seats in advance with a large seat pitch, emergency row, and the first row of coach class.
- Often passengers take absent-mindedness (hello to all documents forgotten at home), and the worries on a trip. Therefore, the third life hack: always take a good mood with you, as many people forget it at home!