I’m a former flight attendant and here’s why a working life at 38,000ft isn’t always glamorous, from the strains of ‘smiling all day’ to customers spitting on the floor and peeing on seats
- Marika Mikusova spent five years working for a ‘luxury airline’
- The 33-year-old has penned a book about her career – Diary of a Flight Attendant
- She spoke exclusively to MailOnline Travel about her life at 38,000ft
- READ MORE: Which passengers are least likely to be bumped from a full flight
Keen on a high-flying life as cabin crew?
Before you send your CV off to a prospective airline, pay close attention to the recollections of former flight attendant Marika Mikusova, who spent five years working for a ‘luxury airline’.
The 33-year-old, who has penned a book about her cabin crew career called Diary of a Flight Attendant, revealed to MailOnline Travel that the job can sometimes be distinctly unglamorous.
When we asked her how the reality of being a flight attendant compared to the preconceptions, Czech Marika, who lives in Prague, said: ‘All of us pretty soon realised “flight-attending” is not just about looking glamorous and smiling. It’s just a fragment of the duties.
‘I experienced a passenger telling me “you are just an air waitress”. Ouch! Yet, I had to remain professional and deliver his preferred meal and whatever he asked for service-wise.
Former flight attendant Marika Mikusova, who spent five years working for a ‘luxury airline’
‘What passengers don’t know – and I can’t blame them, it’s not common knowledge – is that we are primarily trained to get them safely out of the plane in case of emergency. Sometimes this part of the job is underappreciated from the passengers’ point of view.’
What were the toughest aspects of the job?
Marika said: ‘Smiling all the time! Really, try to smile the whole day. It will take its toll on you. Like apologising to a chair when you accidentally bump into it while going to a bathroom in the middle of the night.’
She explained that rude passengers didn’t help, adding: ‘I can imagine that a lot of my colleagues struggled at the beginning and had to learn how to politely deal with rude passengers without yelling at them back.’
Marika, who lives in Prague, said: ‘”Flight-attending” is not just about looking glamorous and smiling’
What were the toughest aspects of being a flight attendant? Marika (above in Dubai) said: ‘Smiling all the time! Really, try to smile the whole day… ‘
READ MORE: EASYJET REVEALS WHICH PASSENGERS ARE LEAST LIKELY TO BE BUMPED FROM AN OVERBOOKED FLIGHT
Every year tens of thousands of people with valid plane tickets are bumped off flights because they’ve been overbooked. Overbooking is not illegal and every airline does it to maximise its revenue – because there is almost a zero per cent chance that every passenger will show up for their flight…
And jumping from one time zone to another took its toll.
She said: ‘Going to bed at different hours inevitably messes up your body clock. And if you don’t take good care of yourself, you might end up ill a few times per month. I experienced coughing and had blocked ears countless times a year.’
Then there was the strict code of conduct – and the ease with which crew could find themselves being reprimanded.
Marika revealed: ‘What I personally found demotivating about the job was the atmosphere of fear in which we had to work. Even minor nonsensical misconduct got us a first-row ticket in our manager’s office. If you forget to bring a customer his drink and he complains, your supervisor has to write a report for the airline about it.’
And Marika had her patience tested fairly often by passengers.
She said: ‘Customers spat on the floor, peed on the seats, we found traces of excrement on the toilet wall once, and one passenger wanted me to bottle-feed her baby – she seemed to think it was my duty.
‘And passengers would ask for our phone numbers.’
Marika Mikusova’s book, Diary of a Flight Attendant, is out now
Marika revealed that her airline created a group to help cabin crew maintain their mental health – ‘but it wasn’t much use’.
She said: ‘We were scared to talk about our mental health issues because we might have been found “unfit to fly” and on that account fired. For that reason most of us kept for themselves the sad reality of what was happening inside of us.’
Would she ever return to the skies?
Marika added: ‘Under a few conditions, yes. First of all, the flying hours would have to be decreased to a manageable level. Because if you fly too much, you can’t rest properly and sooner or later you might start having multiple health problems.
‘If the working environment – i.e management – changed and was more understanding rather than backstabbing, then yes.
‘Though when it comes to passengers, there is nothing to be done about certain behaviours. But no matter how “complicated” the passengers were, I wouldn’t change them. And I wouldn’t even have to if the first two conditions were met.’
Marika Mikusova’s book Diary of a Flight Attendant is out now. Click here to order a copy. You can find Marika tweeting at twitter.com/letuska_m and her Instagram account is here.
Marika, pictured above in Rio de Janeiro, revealed that one passenger wanted her to bottle-feed her baby – ‘she seemed to think it was my duty’
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