(CNN) – Anne Hood, an American novelist and best-selling author of the New York Times, says, “I grew old when the jet age came,” and her latest book, “Fly Girl,” is a reminiscence of her adventurous years as a TWA flight attendant. At the end of the golden age of air travel.
Growing up in Virginia as a child, she saw the first flight of a Boeing 707 – which ushered in the era of passenger jet travel – and saw the construction of Dulles Airport.
At the age of 11, after she returned to her hometown of Rhode Island with her family, she read the 1964 book “How to Be an Airline Stewardess” and her mind was set.
“Even though he was a hell of a sexist, I was tempted because he talks about a job that allows you to see the world and I thought, well, it might work.”
When she graduated from college, in 1978, Hood began sending job applications to airlines. “I think 1978 was a really interesting year, because many of the women I went to college with had one foot in old ideas and stereotypes and the other foot in the future. It was a kind of confusing time for young women.”
“Flight Attendant” was a newly quoted term, a gender neutral upgrade from “Hostess” and “Stewardess” and the deregulation of the airline industry was around the corner, ready to shake things up.
But for the most part, the flight was still exciting and sophisticated, and as Hood says the flight attendants were still “beautiful and sexy jewelry,” even though they were already fighting for women’s rights and discrimination.
The stereotype of stewardess still survives in miniskirts flirting with male passengers, popularized by books such as “Coffee, Tea, or Me? The Unhealthy Memoirs of an Airline Stewardess” – published in 1967 as factual, but later Turned out to be written by. Ben, American Airlines PR Executive.
Some bad requirements for being a flight attendant – such as age restrictions and losing a job in case of marriage or childbirth – were already removed, but others remained.
Perhaps the most shocking thing was that women had to maintain the weight they had when recruiting.
Hood says, “All the airlines sent a chart with your application, you saw your height and maximum weight and if you don’t come in, they won’t even interview you.” “But once you get hired, at least on TWA, you can’t go up to that maximum weight. You had to live on your hired weight, which in my case was about 15 pounds more than my maximum limit.
“My roommate was fired because of this. The really terrible thing about him, except what he did to women, is that the ban was not lifted until the 1990s.”
Hood was one of 560 flight attendants out of 14,000 applicants hired by TWA in 1978, then a major carrier, acquired by American Airlines in 2001.
The job began with a few days of intensive training in Kansas City, where cadet flight attendants will learn everything from aircraft part names to emergency medical procedures as well as the safety protocols of seven different aircraft. The list includes Boing 747, the queen of the sky.
“It was kind of awful, because it was so big – and CDs, spiral CDs that lead to first class that you don’t have to go up and down often,” says Hood. “I kept thinking: Don’t travel. I finally got used to it.”
Hood’s favorite plane was the Lockheed L-1-11 TriStar.
Christopher Dehrer / Moment Editorial / Flickr Vision / Getty Images
She says her favorite aircraft to work on was the Lockheed L-1011 TriStar. “Domestically, only Eastern Airlines and TWA flew. It was a very accessible, efficient widebody plane with a beautiful setup of two seats on each side and then four seats in the middle so that everyone could get out easily. No one was unhappy about it. .Air. “
He says flying was still exciting at the time.
“People dressed to fly and remember the food well. It’s really different than it is today. I can only compare it to a beautiful hotel or maybe a cruise ship. Nothing was plastic and the coach was great,” says Hood. Who remembers Ralph Lauren-designed uniforms and carved chattaubrind and cooked for first class passengers who also had a choice of Russian caviar and lobster bisque to go with their Dom Perigan.
It was not all a bed of roses. Smoking on board was widespread, and it was a nightmare for flight attendants.
“If you went on a five-day trip, which wasn’t unusual, you had to pack a different whole uniform because you would smell like smoke,” says Hood. “Boy, I was glad when it stopped. The front rows of each section were considered non-smoking, but the whole plane was full of smoke because you couldn’t stop it going backwards. It was ridiculous.”
What about the Mile High Club? “On international flights, it was not uncommon to see a man go to the bathroom and have his seatmate join him a minute later,” says Hood. “It doesn’t happen on every flight, but you see it.
“International flights weren’t usually as crowded as they used to be, so in those middle sections of five seats on the 747 you can see a couple putting on an armrest, taking a blanket and disappearing under it. I can’t say what they do. Was doing, but it seemed suspicious. “
It was also common for passengers to flirt or ask flight attendants outside. “I dated passengers, but it was mostly devastating. It was never what I had imagined. But in 1982, I met a guy on a flight from San Francisco to New York. He was sitting in a 47F – and I dated him for five years. . “
An empowerment work
Hood quit his job in 1986 to focus on his writing career.
Hood has seen her fair share of strange things on board. “The strangest would certainly be the first-class woman who was seen breastfeeding her cat. I mean, I can’t say it was actually happening, but she had her cat in her breast.
“And then the guy who flew all the way in his tight-fitting and his dress shirt and tie, because he didn’t want to roll up his pants for the job interview. Or the guy on the 747 in Frankfurt who was riding his bicycle. Under the wing,” she said. States.
That said, the routine will start sometime, and not every flight has a wonderful focus of adventure and glamor.
“I would say the job was 80% fun and 20% boring. On some flights, especially the ones that weren’t very full, there was plenty of time to fill up. Played. I made work fun. I loved talking to people. I loved the experience. I still love flying today, “says Hood.
She says it was really possible to visit and experience the cities she traveled to. “Sometimes your layover was really short or you were tired, but most of the time, the city was just outside the gates. I took great advantage of it when flying internationally.”
She quit her job in 1986 to focus on her writing career, and by then things had changed. The deregulation, which removed federal control over everything from fares to routes, was fully implemented, replacing flying forever.
Planes were filled with more seats and coaches ceased to be fun, but flight was also democratized and made available to a much larger section of society.
Hood says he is proud of his career in the sky.
“Flight attendants are a force. They are very unified. They are independent. In the cabin, they make all the decisions. They have to troubleshoot. They are there for emergency stuff. They land in cities where they don’t know anything or anyone. No and find their way.
“It’s a work of empowerment, yet it’s a work of sexuality. In itself, it’s just as contradictory today as it was when I started,” she says.
Still, she recommends it as a career option.
She adds, “I was 21 when I was hired, and it gave me confidence, it gave me peace and the ability to think on my feet.” “To take charge of that plane, and once I landed, to walk through a city and feel completely at home – or at least decide how to feel at home in it.
“I don’t know if it should be a function of someone’s life – if they want it to be that good. But I think a few years of working as a flight attendant can change your life.”