At a recent press event, I bumped into a model that I previously photographed, and discovered that she has been flying for the past four years. For those of us who aren’t in the airline business, flight attendants are always intriguing; they meet so many different types of people, they will always have stories to tell. For this particular flight attendant, she kindly answered all my burning questions about being cabin crew. My takeout from all of this: I think flight attendants are the most patient people in the world. They have to deal with our crap — literally.
And with the recent EVA Air butt-wiping incident, I had to start with that.
NOTE: She spoke with me on condition of anonymity. Her name and the airline she works with have been omitted from the article.
Do you have to wipe butts?
“No. We don’t have to do it. Our main role is safety. In case the plane goes down, we are there, right? So service is secondary. Of course, that’s also our job, but it’s the smallest bit of our job.
Would you do it? So how can we be doing it? I don’t know why she (the EVA Air flight attendant) did it actually. You don’t have to. If he can fly, it should mean that he can independently take care of himself. This is a daily thing, you poop every day right? Why do you need someone to clean your butt? And if you know that you’re gonna have someone to clean your butt, then obviously you’re gonna poop throughout this whole journey, right? So why didn’t you bring someone? So obviously he’s taking advantage of the situation. This is ridiculous, I won’t do it. But if he honestly, is like this elderly, really very poor thing guy, and he genuinely cannot, then of course I would help him. He’s obviously taking advantage of this situation. But this is not the worst, there are so many more worse things we’ve seen.”
What can be grosser than that??? 😱
“Really gross things I have seen would be this passenger who was really sick, so she went into the toilet and the toilet bowl was just there, but she had to puke in the sink. I was the most junior one so I had to clean the sink. I had to scoop the puke out of the sink and pour it into the toilet bowl and make sure the toilet is ok again. Actually, I think I have a high tolerance for all these things.
Talking about puke, there was this one passenger — I think it was his first time travelling. He had some alcohol but I think he didn’t know that he couldn’t take it when he’s higher up versus when he’s on the ground. This guy was sitting at the back. So he drink, drink, drink right… he ate, then he went to bed. So after around two hours, we were going to land… and he was going to get up and go to the toilet. When he got up, he massively projectiles his puke on three rows of passengers. His puke was on people’s hair, on people’s clothes, on the chairs, on the TV monitors… That one was really gross. I didn’t see it at first; I was doing something else. My leader went and then she saw it and then she was like [puking sound] and then she came in and puked in the galley. She’s like [waving her hand to go out]. I was like ‘ok, ok, I go, I go’. Then in the end I was like ‘wah, holy shit man’, then I just threw the guy in the toilet and was like ‘ok, you go and do whatever you need to do’. We still have some time. I went to wear gloves, wear a mask, and then I went to take a lot of towels to clean whatever I could on the seats, and I gave out towels and tissues to the people around. It was a full flight, so I couldn’t move anyone. They had to sit in their soaked seats and outfits and just make do with it. At least we were going to land soon so it’s not too bad. The other passengers were surprisingly understanding; I thought they would kick up a big fuss. But they were just like ‘ugh this is so gross’ but then they were like ‘ugh ok whatever’ and they just sucked it up and sat there. I think they were being quite understanding that there was really nothing you can do, you know? I cannot open the door for you, we’re not landing anytime soon — like now — so you just have to deal with it lor. If they think it’s bad, what about us?”
Back to poop. Have you seen any?
“Have! But not me; my friends experienced it. And for both kids and adults! So there was once — I don’t know whether you saw the video — there was this woman who peed in the middle of nowhere, in the galley, outside the toilet because she couldn’t tahan. It was online. Ours was like, people just poop lor, on the seat or in the aisle. And then they just leave it as it is. Then you cannot leave it what! So someone has to clean up and that someone is us. I shall not mention nationalities (not Singaporeans, though). It’s so embarrassing lah!
There are also interesting things that happen in premium classes, but of course not as much; not as gross. Of course the same thing happens when I open the toilet. It still looks like it’s from economy — the tissue paper is everywhere, the toothbrush is left everywhere, it’s just messy. People don’t flush; it’s normal. They just leave it lor. And then you expect the next time you go into the toilet, it’s clean. But then someone does it right? It’s us. So that’s one thing that I cannot understand. You won’t do that at home, right?!”
Enough about poop. How long does one stay in service?
“We are tied for two years — that’s the bond. If you leave within the two years, then you have to pay back the company. I’m not sure about other airlines but for the one I’m with, it’s two years because they spend a lot of time and money training us. So normally people who just want to come in and have fun usually leave when that two-year mark ends.”
Best thing about flying
“You get to travel for free, stay in high-class hotels for free and you can eat lunch in Japan, dinner in US, and then the next day you’re in Paris. So I think the whole travelling thing is the main perk for me because my family is not very well-to-do so I never got to travel on my own. So after joining my airline, I managed to travel to a lot of different places, experience cultures and also got to see the world a lot more. And you get paid while doing that. So I saved up quite a bit of money from my job as well.”
Worst thing about flying
“After a while, you get very lonely. Although you’ve visited all these amazing places, you go there alone. What many people would think is that it’s this group of people that I fly with all the time. Every flight is different. Every time I go into the flight, it’s all new people. So it’s all about ‘hello, nice to meet you, it’s me’, ‘nice to get to know you’ again. You have to build up the trust again. Sometimes you have great flights where you have very, very close friends, and then you don’t know when’s the next time you’re gonna see them — your schedules always clash, and then after a while, you’re just not so close anymore.”
“I think it would be Italy. The food is quite standard — it’s like pasta and pizza right? But in Italy, I feel that they have sight-seeing, which is very different. In Milan you get to see the city and the Duomo Cathedral, but when you move to Rome, you get to see something historical, you get to see The Colosseum. And then if you move further out of the city areas, you get to see the sea side, where there’s Cinque Terre. Have you heard of it? It’s like a fisherman village. There are five different villages in this small town and it’s very, very colourful. There’s a lot of different sceneries you can see in one country.”
Let’s talk about plane food
“We don’t do bottled water (in Economy Class), but maybe other airlines do. You can ask. If you have a bottle, we can refill it for you. If not it (water) will come in a plastic cup. As for alcohol, it’s free.
People also ask for instant noodles, which we don’t like to do. Usually it’s the last resort. For example, people who cannot eat certain kinds of meals and they didn’t order in advance, like vegetarian. So the only thing that’s vegetarian we have is maybe vegetarian cup noodles? That one is still ok. But people from certain places, they die die must eat soup, die die must eat cup noodles, then no choice… Because when you serve it, the whole world can smell it. When someone eats it and someone else sees it, and they know it’s free, then it becomes, “Can I have one?”, “Can I have one also?”, “Can I have one too?” Economy’s still ok, because you just give them a cup of noodles and chopsticks. But if you go to other classes, like more premium classes, you have to prepare in a more atas way with the plates and bowls, nice napkins, put some ingredients, make it look like some $10 noodles. So please don’t ask for cup noodles, or bring your own.” 😂
Most popular drink ordered
“Singapore Sling. Ya, I don’t know why leh. I don’t like it; I think it tastes weird. I find Angostura bitters too sweet and it’s weird. I think people just want to try it because it’s like a “Singapore thing”, you know?”
“In Economy, drinks are quite simple; so only in Business you get more fancy cocktails, and those will be in the menu. There are some nice mocktails and cocktails you can order. But for Economy, it’s quite standard, just soft drinks, standard cocktails — like the normal vodka orange… I think a nice drink is probably just juice with spritzer, like 7 Up and orange juice.”
Many reports claim the coffee machine is disgusting [Read Business Insider, Daily Mail]. Is it?
“I think it’s ok, I drink from it. I dare to drink from it. And they usually use good quality coffee, like illy. Even teas, it’s TWG for business. In fact, for coffee, there’s a filter for the water; but for normal water, there isn’t. Anyway, that’s what I heard. I’ve not seen it because it’s like inside the plane right? But from my seniors, they always say like “Don’t drink water from the tap because they never clean it. There might be algae, and it’s gross”. But when it comes out, it just looks like water — the normal drinking tap water that we serve. So that one doesn’t have a filter, and you just drink it. We serve people that. But normally my crew, they don’t drink that. They will avoid the water, but to me, I think it’s fine because it’s not like I drink it every day or drink two litres of it every day. Some people, they say that when you grow older, you’d get some cancer or some kind of disease. How do you know it’s that? To me it’s like if you’re scared then you don’t drink lah, you bring your own or ask for something else.”
Can you help yourself to the drinks?
“We can take it in the plane, we cannot take it down the plane. So if I want to drink Coke, then yes I can, but of course not alcohol lah.”
What do you eat?
“For food, our protocol is to serve passengers first. We basically are eating your leftovers. For example, Economy only has two choices — chicken or fish. Let’s say if everyone eats chicken, and then there’s only fish left, that’s what we eat. And then people are complaining like “I don’t have a choice you know, I paid for this! I’m only eating fish?”. Then in my heart I’m thinking like “Ya, we also don’t get a choice too”, like just eat lah! It’s either you eat or you don’t eat lor. If you really, really, die die cannot eat fish right, like if you’re allergic or something, then you should have known and you should have ordered in advance, like what you can or cannot eat.
Or like vegetarians, you already know that you’re a vegetarian, why do you come on board and think that we have vegetarian food for you? If you already know, you should just highlight it to the company to make an order for vegetarian food so you’re happy, we’re happy, everything’s settled. You come up and you expect like “Oh you ordered your vegetarian food for me? I’m so upset, I demand something from Business class! Don’t tell me you can’t find it anywhere on this plane!” Oh my god, if you’re so ya ya, why don’t you pay for Business class? Or if you already know and you’re trying to make our lives difficult, then just don’t fly with us. “I would never fly with you again!”. Sure. Thank God. Thank you. Bye. Don’t ever fly with me again. That’s what I think in my heart, but of course we don’t say it. If you’re nice, then I’m nice to you. If you’re not nice, then… I’ll try.”
When kids fly…
“For babies, they get the bassinet. If you’re lucky, and there’s not too many babies, you get the first row where you have a small little baby bed, the bassinet, for them to sleep in. We would give them a blanket and a soft toy. They get to keep the soft toy, but we won’t say anything if they bring the blanket home too lah. For baby meals, you have to order it. If you don’t order it, it won’t come. For children, also the same. We have child meals, but you have to order it. If you don’t order, you get what everyone gets. But we will serve you first. The children will be served first and they will have what they want to eat. Because not all children can eat spicy food or maybe different kinds of meat. They’re kids, so usually kids are priority for us. If your kid eats first, they are full, then the mother and father can concentrate on their meals after. So that’s one thing we are always made to do. And they have toys, of course, and children headphones. Because the ones we give are the plug-in ear ones so it may not be very comfortable for children. So they have this colourful headset.”
Can you keep these things?
“Sometimes they take it back. Aiyah… people just try to take back whatever they can, like cutlery given. I don’t know why people do that because it’s all reused, you know? We just wash it and then repack. But usually people ask for souvenirs, so if it’s for their children and if we have extra, we will give their children toys. It changes every season to the newest cartoon or movie that’s out.
We also have playing cards. The aunties like to ask for playing cards, then some more it’s now Chinese New Year period. So we get a lot of playing cards orders. We only have 12 (in the plane). Usually when they ask, it’s like one group of people will ask together. So maybe this group of six ladies. When they come up, the first lady will say, “Eh, you got playing cards or not? Give me, give me one”. So I will give one. Then the other lady will be like “Eh, 我也要leh,你没有帮我问 (Eh, I also want leh, you never help me ask)”. Then give lor. Then “Eh, 我也是要 leh”. Then boom! Six. Then after that some people will see you walking with it right, then they will be like “Oh, can we have it? Is it free?”. Then like “Ya, ya”, then 没有了lor (no more already lor). If we really don’t have anymore, then we will say that. They can ask for it on their way back.”
Asking to see the cockpit…
“Of course not. It’s for security issues. There are people who ask whether they can see it. This is up to the captain’s discretion; and after the flight lands and everyone leaves. Then maybe they can just see for a few seconds, that’s it lor. Just to know how it looks like. But of course they’re not allowed to go in and like you know study, make notes, take pictures. It’s not allowed lah. The only reason why we (flight attendants) should go in is to serve them and to clean the place. We try to minimise. Again, for security reasons.”
Upgrading to Business Class
“You can ask before you step into the plane — if there’s space. You go to the check-in counter with your luggage, then ask, “Is there space? Can I upgrade now?”. Then you pay for it. There’s no free lunch in this world. If like that, then everybody will buy Economy and upgrade for free, right?
But there are times when we upgrade people. For example, when there’s a medical emergency — like maybe this person is dying; having a heart attack. We call for a doctor. This doctor comes and helps and everything is fine. Then of course we cannot put the doctor back what, we have to do something in return. So maybe we’ll just put him in a Business class seat until we land just to like you know, thank him.
It really depends on what’s the situation. I’ve never been on other airlines so I don’t know what their protocol is, but for us… for upgrading of seats, I personally don’t know, because it’s under ticketing. So it’s all about the ground staff. So when people ask us and the plane is still on the ground, I’ll just ask them to go out and ask the ground staff. Usually the answer is no because it’s too late already. If you are upgraded, you have to think leh. Then how about your food? I have to hurry and bring up another set of food. What about if there’s 10 people? Then it’s quite impossible for me to get food for all 10, right? And then what if there’s only chicken left, then you get upset, and you say, ‘What’s the point of upgrading? If I’m in Economy, I get to choose chicken or fish’. Wah, then again lor, problem. Walao, you cannot please everyone. This is what I’ve learnt.”
Regarding celebrities on board
“I don’t see a lot because I don’t work in First class; only the higher-ranking (cabin crew) work in First class and Suites, and that’s where they (celebrities) usually sit. But sometimes when I’m in Business class, I do see famous people, but I try to treat them like normal. Maybe in the galley I’ll be like —arhhhh!! — and then when I come out, I’m like ‘Hi ma’am’, ‘Mrs blah blah blah’, ‘Mr blah blah blah’. I’ll just treat them like normal because I don’t know about how celebrities feel. But if I were in their shoes, I just want to be normal, you know? I don’t want people to see me as what I am, but who I am. I just treat them like normal and give them their privacy.”
Taking photos with celebrities on board
“I don’t ask unless they ask us. So no, I’ve not taken a photo with anyone actually. I think we wouldn’t ask the moment we see them. We probably would assess how the situation is, whether we built a rapport with the person, then maybe ask? Usually they’re ok.”
Passengers asking to take a photo with the Flight Attendant
“For me, I’m ok because I know that we are the main purpose why you fly with us and like of course I look good, you want to remember this flight, so ok. I’m totally fine with that. But some cabin crew, they don’t like to be photographed, they feel like it’s invading their privacy. So it’d be nice if you ask — I mean there’s so many of us right? You can just try one and the other one. Sometimes they’d (passengers) just put their phones at the aisle right, then they’ll video you working which is worse because we’re so unglam! Like we’re talking, then maybe our mouth is in a weird shape, or when we’re bending down, or picking something up. So if you ask it’d be nicer. Sometimes they’ll just sit there, then hold their phone up, then when you walk past, or when you’re serving, they just snap, snap, snap. Then all their pictures will have this weird angle, which is freaking ugly lah! And I don’t know why they would want to keep that. And there are also people who take rude photos. For example, taking a photo up the skirt, or from the front when we bend down.”
Do you call them out?
“Some people will actually… I shouldn’t be doing that (calling them out) in front of everyone, but we will let the relevant authorities handle it if we suspect. Or if we’re uncomfortable, we can change rows with a guy. So a guy would work instead and then we’d be inside the galley. So that makes me more comfortable and I don’t know how you’re gonna take photos of a guy in a nice, sexy way. So that’s how we will handle it. And if we really think that he has a photo, I wouldn’t ask him because if I ask him, maybe he would just throw his phone somewhere and say, ‘I don’t have a phone. How dare you accuse me?’. Then it’ll become a huge hoo-ha right? If I really suspect, then I’ll just tell my leaders and see what they want to do. Usually once we land, the police will come or something.”
I read about a secret bunker on board for crew to sleep in…
“Yes. Not all planes. So usually it’s the planes where we do long-haul flights; those that we go to Europe or US because the flight time is so long, we need to take turns to rest so that when we are taking off and landing, we are in our most alert state to help you evacuate in case of emergency. It’s not really a secret, it’s just that people don’t know where it is. But it does say there ‘crew rest facility’, just that people don’t notice it. It’s really tiny — like a capsule. It’s also different on different aircrafts. For 380, it’s like a double bunk, like a double-decker. When you go in, you can just lie down. You cannot sit up, your head will hit the top. You have to manoeuvre your way in.”
Regarding dead people on board…
“I know this not because I’m flying; I know this because I know someone who works with the dead. He’s in the funeral industry. He says that most flights have one in the cargo. We (cabin crew) would actually know it. The captain would know because it’s on the report — what we carry. So it would say ‘human remains’. Usually they don’t tell us because some people are spooked out by it. But it’s very normal, it’s just a body. People need to go home still. It’s not cheap actually.”
Anyone die on your watch?
“On the flight itself, I have not seen it but I probably am prepared for it. If someone passes away on board, we have a body bag for it. We don’t zip all the way because they have to be identified and certified dead. We do it to the neck. They are placed back on their original seats. There’s nowhere we can put them. They’ll be put back on their original seats in their body bag but it gets covered. It’s still treated with respect, they still look like normal people. They are usually seated with their families, which can be very sad. If there are other seats, you are more than welcome to move because not everyone is comfortable with it. If it’s a full flight, then no choice. And you have to respect people. I mean they just died, you can’t be so heartless and selfish. If it’s your own family member who died, would you do that? Just tahan lor…
It hasn’t happened on any of my flights, but I’ve heard of others. It can be quite sad. Some do CPR all the way until we land but still cannot. Some you don’t even know but they died in the toilet. It’s like this person has been in the toilet for so long. We are supposed to check every few minutes. We do check if someone is in there and it’s been too long. More than 20 minutes is too long. We check every 20 minutes. If it’s more than that, I will knock first to see if everything is ok. Sometimes they would just knock back, so ok, someone is inside, maybe pooping or changing diapers.”
Dealing with criminals on board
“That one I’ve not seen and never heard also. We have people who are not allowed to land because they are deported; maybe like they overstayed or something. But it’s very simple; we have their passports and they just sit at the last row. They are treated like normal — they get to eat what they want to eat, they get to go to the toilet… Usually we already know that the police have dealt with them, and that’s why we get their passports. We are told that these people need to be handled differently; when we land, when everyone goes off, they’ll be the last, and we hand them to the relevant authorities that will come.
Unless there are crazy people on board, like they are drunk, and then start beating everyone, or just being really nasty, then we do actually have a way to tie them down to their seats. But we still let them drink and go to the toilet, it’s still normal, like 有人性 (humane) lah. But that’s very extreme, like we give two warnings, then if you still want to be like that, then we’ll tell the captain. Then the captain will sign a letter, then you have to acknowledge it also. The police would come if you still don’t behave yourself. Then we would do that (tie you down). Because you are out of control, you’re being a risk to everyone. You’re a flight risk and there’s no way we’re going to land now. So that’s the only way. We just have to make known to you this fact, then if you don’t want to listen, then ok, this is your last chance already.”
Long-lasting makeup that you actually use when flying
“I kinda knew that this question was coming so I’ve prepared for it. For me, more so, I have very, very dry skin. It’s super dry; we fly in the air, where the hydration level is very low and then we go through different extreme weather conditions — like maybe today is -20 and tomorrow we’re back in Singapore, and then after that we’re in Dubai. It’s really crazy on the skin! For me, I make sure I go for a facial every month. That’s a must.
For makeup products, we have a standard set of colours. I think some people know that. For me, I like to choose makeup that is super long-lasting because I’m very lazy to touch-up my makeup, and sometimes you just don’t have time — like if you eat halfway and someone calls you, you have to go out. You cannot be like ‘wait ah, I do lipstick first’. There’s no time. For me, I use Maybelline’s SuperStay. They have this foundation which I’m using now. It’s 24 hours long-lasting. It covers a lot of your blemishes and it stays on.
Their lipsticks also, they really stay. It’s quite impressive because I’m the only one who doesn’t need to touch-up their lipstick no matter what we eat. Even after touching down, we go and have dinner, come back, even after steamboat or barbecue and your face still looks fresh. The lipstick and the foundation is good.
For eyeshadow, it depends. Sometimes I change it up. I use this palette from Sasa called The Balm Nude Beach eyeshadow palette. I also use NAKED (from Urban Decay) — just some very basic colours like brown. And then eyeliner… I don’t know why, but I really like Maybelline. Oh, and Heroine Make! Their eyeliner is good. I like to use the liquid kind and it stays longer, plus the colour is more intense. For us, we really have to look like we’re made up even when it’s super dark. That’s one of our criteria.”
“I use BelleWave right now. It’s actually a local skincare brand. I think it works very well for me because I have sensitive skin. It’s quite new, I think they just launched it last year. They are from Singapore but the products are made in Switzerland.
Masks are also very important, especially for hydration, I try to do them after each flight. Sunblock definitely, as we’re much higher in the air so more exposure to harmful UV rays. And I use Revitalash eyelash serum to help my lashes stay strong, especially if I do have extensions on.
Serums I swear by: Vichy 89 Hydrating Serum and Lancôme Genifique serum. Genifique is like one of the best. After I used it, I broke out so much lesser and I feel like I looked like I anti-aged. I also use a peeling lotion from Forlle’d weekly.
We (flight attendants) also always carry facial sprays — Avène’s Thermal Spring Water. I also have lip balm, and hand cream is a must because our hands are so dry.”
On free beauty items
“Some are sponsored products so I just try and see what works for me; some I buy. Buy and try, buy and try. Usually overseas because some places are cheaper, so just buy and try.”
What about hair?
“I carry hair spray as well! And no, I don’t use dry shampoo because our hair is usually fixed. The only thing we touch up is the baby hair.”
Things a passenger should never do
“Don’t bring your bad habits and manners on board. Hopefully passengers can be kind to us and treat us as a fellow human beings, and show us the respect we all deserve. Respect the crew, respect the person sitting next to you, respect the environment (the plane), respect the rules.”
Any traumatising experiences?
“I think it was one or two years ago… I was doing this flight to Guangzhou; it was a turnaround. It was a very long day for me. On the way back from Guangzhou, there was this one passenger with his wife and daughter, and they all spoke Cantonese. The seats were two, four and two. The mother and daughter were sitting at the sides, then the father was sitting at the aisle. I’ll be in the middle, right? This guy asked for beer, so we gave him beer. He hasn’t finished his beer and he pressed the call button. ‘Can I have beer?’. I say, ‘Ok sure, when you’ve finished then I’ll open a new one for you’. ‘No, but I want it now’. My response: ‘Ya, but if I open it now, it will be flat and won’t be nice right? It won’t be cold anymore. So when you finish then I’ll get a fresh one’, which makes sense. Then he pressed again, ‘ding-dong’, ‘ok, I want my beer now’. But he still hasn’t finished his previous one. ‘Yes sir, I’ll come back to you later. Together with your meal, I can serve you. How about that? So that it will be fresh and nice together with your meal’. So it makes sense mah, everything we do has a logical reason. Then he was like ‘no, I want it now’. So ok, I got him one. After that, while serving, we start from the back, he was in the middle. Then he pressed ‘call’ again, so I went over. ‘Yes sir, how can I help you? Do you need some more beer?’ He was like ‘no, give me my food now’. I said, ‘Yes sir, I’m coming now. Just give me a few minutes, I’m almost reaching you’. ‘No! I want to eat now!’, like serve me first then you can serve everyone. Why? Why you and not other people? Don’t tell me you’re old, like you need to eat medicine or what, that one I can understand. But you’re just a normal grown-up man, so entitled lah. Some more you’re sitting in Economy; if you’re sitting in First class and talk to me like that, maybe I can still understand — like maybe at home you’re rich and people serve you. But he was in Economy. I said, ‘Sir, please give me five minutes ok? I’ll come back to you’. I don’t care whether he complains about me already, because he wasn’t making any sense. Then when I reached him, and served him, he was very angry, he gave me the face. I told myself to just suck it up, I won’t see you ever again in my life.
Then when I was going to collect the trays, he and his daughter were in the toilet — the trays were with the mother. The mother was quite nice, very quiet, very sweet. The mother gave me the trays, but it was three trays stacked together with a mountain of their coleslaw and their little appetiser and then with a crushed newspaper on top and melted chocolate ice-cream all over it. Then she just gave them to me, ‘nah’. Then I was like, ok man, cool, I cannot scream at you, right? So I will just do it slowly and show you why it’s not acceptable. So I put it and slowly arranged it back to how it was when I gave it to you, because it’s not going to fit in the trolley. So while arranging, the father and daughter came back, and I kinda understand Cantonese. The father was saying some nasty things from his tone. Then the daughter started to kick me! The daughter was about five or six years old. She started to kick me from behind! At first, I was like ok, it’s 轻轻 (lightly) so I said, ‘Please stop it ok? Just give me a few moments. When I’m done, I’ll move for you to go back to your seat’. She was like ‘move, move, move!’. Then I said, ‘Yes. Can you please wait for a moment?’. I had to be firm because she was abusing me leh! If you were an adult I wouldn’t give you face already. Can you just wait? Then your mother still has to give me this kind of nonsense. What the hell man? This family is ridiculous leh! So I just touched the ice-cream and whatever and just shoved everything in. Then after that, she kicked me again! Wah, I felt so ugh, very angry. So I moved the cart but I still had to smile and say, ‘sorry to keep you waiting’. Then he said, ‘Ya! Make us wait so long!’ Wah, I really wanted to slap him. Sorry sorry, but I cannot lah. I had to be professional, smile and walk away and said, ‘Please stop doing that’. Everyone heard when I said it. ‘Stop kicking me because you’re not supposed to, just wait’. Nobody stepped up — nobody. I was quite disappointed. That was one thing that was quite sad. If I was a passenger, I think I would have done something.
When I was preparing to land, I was sitting at my door, so I would be facing him and his family. While we were landing, I was facing him and he came out of the seat and did this [two fingers in the eyes] to me. I was like… oh my god, and I couldn’t move because we were going to reach the ground and if I moved, it would be dangerous for everyone. I just had to suck it up. I cried in my seat. There was nothing I could do, I just teared. But you still have to look strong and be ready if the plane is going to crash. There are so many things that we just suck up without telling anyone.
When he left, he walked past me and said he was definitely not going to make my life easy, something like that. At that point, I couldn’t be bothered already. It’s not my fault; it’s just him being an asshole. Nothing happened after that but I felt so traumatised by the child kicking me! It’s very degrading. My job is to serve you and you all don’t understand that that’s not our main priority. It’s ok. We can suck it up. Then if you still want to treat me like your slave…
There are people who actually say things like ‘你看这个auntie ah，改次长大你没有读书啊，你就变成这样 (look at this auntie, if you don’t study, you’ll become like her in the future)’. In my heart I was thinking ‘你孩子如果有读书才可以变成我这样 (your child can only be like me if he studies)’. Sometimes it’s very degrading, quite saddening what people think of us actually. We have to be professional and we still have to smile, unless the person maybe uses the F word or touches us in any way, like punch us or slap us, then of course we can retaliate but still be professional because we’re in uniform.
There are so many things I would have done but I couldn’t. I did tell the seniors but you also have to see your luck with them. Some people don’t really take pride in their work or they don’t really care because you’re not injured. So for them it’s like ‘I don’t want to do anymore reports, I’m so lazy. I don’t want to help you’. Or, ‘Oh, ok ok, so poor thing’. Then that’s it. Excuse me? If it was your daughter getting kicked, do you think you would have handled it like that? You would have stood up for her right? Or your wife, or your sister?”
Final words for those thinking about flying as a career:
“Our lives, though blessed to be given a chance to travel all over the world, can get pretty lonely over time. You start to miss home and your loved ones, with each day you spend away from them. For example, we don’t get to pick and choose our flights and off days. We also have to plan our leave one year in advance and sometimes we don’t get the days we want either. So sometimes we end up missing the new year, Christmas, weddings, birthdays, Chinese New Year, countdown etc. And trust me, it’s not that we don’t want to be around, but it’s really not as easy as it seems. We can’t just take an MC without having it affecting our schedule or work performance, or take leave as and when.
Apart from that, there’re times when I’ve fallen sick overseas and I have nobody to take care of me but myself. Optimistically, I’ve learnt to be more independent than I thought I was. And to always be prepared with a personal ‘first-aid kit’ filled with medications and vitamins/supplements.
We don’t have fixed hours, some days we get up at 2am to start getting ready for the first flight. Other days we start work at midnight. There’s no constant, or a fixed routine. We gotta learn to be adaptable.”