I'm a flight attendant. It's my dream job — but traveling can be lonely, and passengers often disrespect us.

I'm a flight attendant. It's my dream job — but traveling can be lonely, and passengers often disrespect us.
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  • Insider spoke to a flight attendant at a major American airline about their job during the pandemic.
  • They started the job just four weeks before the pandemic began, and things "got intense really quickly."

This as-told-to essay is based on a conversation with a flight attendant for a major American airline. They spoke on condition of anonymity to protect their career, but Insider has verified their identity and former employment. The conversation has been edited for length and clarity.

In the spring of 2020, I finally landed my dream job of being a flight attendant for a major American airline. Although I'd dreamt of being a flight attendant, I never really thought it was something I could achieve — and then I did. After an application process that took two and a half months, I was offered my dream job.

I had just four weeks of flying before the pandemic hit. Then, everything changed.

In some ways, I think it was easier for those of us who didn't have a lot of pre-pandemic experience as flight attendants. It was almost like we didn't know any better, so we were able to cope with how strange our jobs became.

Suddenly, not only were we responsible for the safety of our passengers in the normal ways, but we were also responsible for making sure they complied with federal mask mandates.

Things got intense really quickly, and there were a few times that I had to break up actual physical fights between customers. That definitely wasn't something I expected when I started my dream job, but it was the reality of the situation.


Even though a lot of flight attendants were furloughed and some chose to leave their jobs, I never thought I would leave. Being a flight attendant was my goal, and all the things I loved about it were still there — I got to travel, take care of people, and have a flexible schedule.

Even during the worst of the pandemic, I never wanted to quit

I feel like this job was created for me to succeed in it. Every skill I have is helpful as a flight attendant, and I love it.

Even though I only had a month of pre-pandemic flying time, things definitely got harder once the pandemic hit. People were really scared — of the virus, each other, and the possibility of getting sick. Being in an airplane, in this enclosed space with people you don't know, is kind of a perfect place for those fears to incubate.

The federal mask mandate was really uncomfortable for people in the beginning

The mandate definitely got a lot better as time went on, because I think people just got used to the way things were. Customers understood that if they were flying, they had to comply with the mask mandate.

Some people still rolled their eyes when we asked them to put on their masks, but usually they did what we asked. In the beginning, we got a lot more pushback. People thought we didn't have the authority to tell them to wear a mask, but under the federal mask mandate, we did.


Now the CDC's mask mandate is over, I hope the interactions between flight attendants and the customers we serve get even better.

As a flight attendant, it's really important to create a social network

It can be really lonely to be flying all the time, and it's difficult to keep up with a social life because your schedule is so unpredictable.

But at my home base, I've been able to foster a strong friend group, which is really important. It's not healthy to just be focused on work and then just be alone when you're home. I don't think people realize how lonely being a flight attendant can be.

We're often disrespected and considered low-skill workers, but we're safety professionals

It's not easy to be a flight attendant. Plus, we're not just waitstaff on a plane — we're on the plane for the safety and protection of everyone on board.

It's a critical job. I wish people realized that we're there for the safety and security of the plane and its passengers. When a flight attendant asks you to do something, it's because we're trying to keep you safe, not because we like having power over you.