A former Singapore Airlines (SIA) stewardess of two years, Hilary, wrote a rather lengthy post on April 30, 2015 commemorating the first anniversary since she quit flying.
Over 6,500 words long, she shed some interesting insights of the job that is coveted by many local girls.
To cut the long story short, we distill the essay and highlight 27 hard truths about being an Singapore Airlines air stewardess.
1. She was like the Hulk.
"Now that I've quit flying I feel like my lifespan has increased by 10 years - no more stress or pekchek-ness (frustration). After I quit, my parents told me that I became myself again. I was less grouchy, less quick to anger & I was nicer again."
2. Cabin crew wear many hats.
"You are not only a waitress in the air, but also a safety officer, baggage porter, bar tender, toilet cleaner, policeman, babysitter, maid etc. The list goes on. Many girls don't know this before they join and they're in for the shock of their lives once they start the job."
3. SIA Training is a bitch.
"Even during the 3 months of training, it was so tiring because we had so many lessons and also exams. Exams such as role-playing and MCQs on the computer and the passing mark was 80% sometimes. STC was literally like a secondary school, they way the trainers treated us, how our attire was so important etc."
4. The higher hair 'hump', the more senior you are.
"After we became more senior, all our hairstyle and makeup changed, our 'hump' started to get higher the more senior we got. If you look at some stewardess you'll see that their hair will be very high and poofy at the crown of the head- that's the "stewardess hump"."
5. You work so hard, you can't help but fall ill.
"I began to get sick of it. I could work well, I did my job well but because of the irregular eating/sleeping hours, I fell ill so many times especially during my first year. I took at least 7 days of MC during my first year and it's wasn't chao geng one.
6. You will miss some of the most important days of your life
"In this job, you'll miss out on birthdays, weddings, Christmas, Chinese New Years etc & it is very sad. In 2013 I spent Christmas Eve & day alone in the hotel room in New York & I felt so shitty."
7. Including not being by your grandma's deathbed
"There was once I was still on probation and was on standby. Standby meaning that control centre could call you up for any flight...
My granny was critically ill, she could pass away any moment.
I took the trouble to get a doctor's note from the hospital, saying that my granny was critically ill and I went all the way to control centre to pass them the note. They said ok, they would put a remark next to my roster:
"TURNAROUND FLIGHTS ONLY, GRANDMA CRITICALLY ILL"
They said they would call me up for turnaround flights so I could still be in Singapore.
That night, I received a call from control. I got called up for a flight.... TO AUCKLAND.
I called control immediately and told them why was I called up for a 4 day flight? I thought you were supposed to call me up for turnaround flights only?
And you know what they said?
"Girl, you cannot expect us to NOT call you up on standby you know??? You no need to work?"
I was boiling.
"I'm not telling you NOT to call me up, but I had a remark next to my roster about calling me up for turnaround flights only?"
This was the best, the woman replied
"WHAT REMARK? DONT HAVE!"
Wa. I wanted to flip table.
"YES THERE WAS. You want me to show you? I took a screenshot."
She kept silent.
"What's the point of me taking the trouble to get the doctors note and coming all the way to give it to you???"
Anyway long story short, I had to do the flight. Crew will know how people in control centre LACKED compassion.
Anyway back to my story, before the flight I told my IFS (In Flight Supervisor) my situation and he asked me if I was sure I wanted to do this flight. I told him I didn't have a choice cause I was on probation and I didn't want things to get complicated and as a result I would get extended. During the flight, I couldn't work at all, my heart and mind wasn't focused that day. I kept thinking of my Granny lying unresponsive in the hospital.
When I got into Auckland, a few hours after checking into the hotel room, my mum called me. Granny passed away.
I bawled my eyes out. I was so so sad, so angry with control, so upset that I didn't get to say bye to my granny. To make it worse, I was all alone in the hotel room crying non stop."
8. You need to have strength and stamina.
"The work is really super labour intensive!! Crew will enter the aircraft about 20 minutes before boarding of passengers. Within these 20 minutes there's so much to do!!!!!!
• Set up newspaper trolley, cut all the newspapers meant for 200+ people and display them nicely
• arrange the menu cards
• dress the toilets with moisturiser, edt, toilet paper and rolls, make sure lavatory call light is working
• combine headset bags, 3 into 2 because 1 bag only has 50 headsets and there are probably more than 120 people in the cabin.
• heat up towels
• do a security sweep for the cabins
For the stewards
• organise galley
• make sure there's enough coffee and tea pots and breadbaskets
• check meals with the caterer, make sure all the meals and special meals that's supposed to be there, are there.
• for business class is even worse because there's crockery instead of trays and the guys need to arrange everything."
9. SQ girls have it tougher than the boys.
"The girls are the ones who face and serve passengers most. Our duties are all cabin-related. The boys are in the galleys. They are like a chef in the kitchen so most of the times, they just do galley work like heating up meals, preparing drinks, arranging stuff etc. The stewardesses are the ones who face the wrath of passengers most of the time."
10. There is office politics in the job.
"I was very blessed. I didn't get zapped by other senior crew (hierarchy is a big thing in SQ. Like even when you eat you must ask your senior to eat first etc)."
11. Apologising gets you out of tough spots, explaining won't.
"In this job, you cannot argue or explain your actions. For example if your boss asks you "why you do this??" And if you try explaining yourself, it is seen as being argumentative and defensive. You should just say "sorry I won't do it again". Even if you are right, you are wrong sometimes. It doesn't make sense and I hate this.
And if your boss tells you off and tells you how to do things the "correct" way, you just gotta suck thumb and say "oh I'm so sorry. Thank you for sharing with me I will take note". I cannot stand it. Obviously I don't mean it but I HAVE to do this to survive. No choice."
12. Singaporeans really can complain.
"It's like in a buffet, you pay $30 but you will eat $60 worth of food. Same goes for some of the passengers that fly SIA. Not all like this though. Quite sad that some Singaporeans especially behave this way. Whenever we see Singaporeans onboard, we sigh because it means there are bound to be complains."
13. Preferential treatment of Ang Mohs is a myth.
"We gotta be extra careful when handling Singaporeans because they aways think the crew are biased to the Ang Mohs. We are really not biased. It's just that Ang Mohs are generally more friendly & they tend to engage in more conversation with the crew.
Ang Moh passengers tend to be more polite than Asian passengers."
14. Polite Asian passengers are almost like unicorns.
"But some Singaporeans/asians are really sooooo nice which is so rare and when I do find these gems, I make sure I am extra extra nice to them!!! I will definitely go all the way to accede to their request. I also really like all the old makciks they are soooo cute and friendly!!!
Mostly when I see Singaporeans on board I will be nicer to them because... 自己人 (Singaporeans) what. Usually most are quite nice but there's this large handful that really behaves as if they own the airlines. Very proud & very rude.
Let me give an example.
This is the difference between an Angmoh and a Singaporean:
*this does not represent ALL angmohs and ALL Singaporeans. Some Singaporeans are nice*
(THIS IS A TRUE ACCOUNT)
Me: Hi Sir welcome onboard!!!!!!!
Passenger: Oh Hello!! How are you??
Me: I'm fine thank you, how are you?
Me: Hi Sir welcome onboard!
Passenger: Straits Times.
When asking for a drink:
(BTW THIS IS A REAL LIFE ACCOUNT )
*presses call light*
Me: Yes mam you pressed the call light? Can I help you?
Passenger: Oh yes if it's not too much trouble could I please get a coke? Only when you're free, no hurry! Sorry for the trouble and thank you so much!
Heart melt. I love this kind of passengers. So polite & sweet how to say no??? No matter how busy I am I will stop, drop and roll to the galley to get her a coke. And when she got the coke, she was so thankful!!! She was like
"Oh thank you so much!!!! Sorry to trouble you again!!!"
SINGAPOREAN LADY(True story)
*presses call light*
Me: yes mam you pressed the call light? Can I help you?
Passenger: ONE COKE.
No please, no thank you, no nothing.
Even when I brought the coke to her, SHE DIDNT SAY THANK YOU. Sometimes I just say "you're welcome" even if they didn't say thank you and I'll walk away #likeaboss I really cannot stand rudeness!"
15. Cabin crew dread Sydney flights.
"There was once I did this flight to Sydney. It was a A380, it can take 399 passengers in economy class so you can imagine the chaos. Sydney flights are really really tough and A LOT of crew always take MC for Sydney flights, yes it's THAT bad. You practically walk all the way to Sydney and you work until your panties become a G-string."
16. Working in Business Class is as shiok as the seats.
"I was very blessed that I went for business class training and during my last 4 months of flying life, I worked in business class and it was HEAVENNNNNNNN.
It's so much easier. On a 777 aircraft, 228 people in economy vs 46 passengers to serve , what would you choose? Of course 46 which was business class.
Business class service has more finesse, you don't rush the meal service like in EY (economy). It's a table layout service so it's starts with appetiser, maincourse, dessert and it ends with cheese and fruit.
Somehow the passengers in business class are a lot easier because all they want to do is sleep. Some do not even want to eat anything. We have to offer some passengers food and drinks because during the whole flight they don't even take anything."
17. Economy Class (EY) is a mad house.
"EY on the other hand.... Everybody wants to eat everything and drink everything lull period is not lull at all, the call lights go on and it's like a Christmas tree seriously, so many adhoc orders like biscuits, beer, drinks, gin tonic etc even AFTER meal service. It's really very scary sometimes. In business class however, lull period the crew are so free cause all the passengers are sleeping or doing their work.
This is why sometimes after business class is done with meal service, the leaders will send crew down to EY to help out with the meal service because there are just not enough men power in EY."
18. Understaffed. Overworked.
"On a 777, say it's a full flight in EY. There are only 2 galleys & 6 crew to serve 228 passengers. It is really VERY little, even one extra crew would make such a big difference. I heard on thai airways, there are 2 stewardesses PER aisle!! On a 777 there's only 1 stewardess per aisle. The leading (green uniform) has to "downgrade" and do a blue colour's job and take the other aisle, at the same time she has to do her green uniform duties such as sales, write reports etc.
They are very poor thing, really worked to the bone."
19. Flying can save you money...
"... I'm thankful for being able to visit so many countries (although we have only 24 hours on shorthaul flights and 1.5 days on longhaul flights) and flying helped me save so much money! Plus because of this I managed to pay for my wedding."
20. But only if you can resist temptations.
"Also another very important thing- I didn't fall into the trap of buying branded things
I think also another major why I left was because I hated the culture and the vices associated with this job.
Flying can be bad especially if you end up falling into the life of vice.
It's temptation island- pretty girls, handsome boys, 4 star hotel rooms.
Being surrounded in such a work environment you really really have to keep on guard and watch yourself to make sure you don't give in to temptations like drinking, smoking etc. Not ALL crew drink and smoke and party but majority do."
21. Cabin crew love to swear.
"Once I started flying, every one around me was cursing and swearing so much. F here, F there, F every where. I was constantly in this toxic environment and I was hearing curse words non stop and unknowingly such things got to me."
22. The writer will dissuade her daughter from from joining the profession.
"All in all, if you ask me if I would let my daughter fly next time, I would say no. I would definitely discourage her but it's also dependent on one's personality type. My parents were crew before and upon hearing my interest to join the airlines, they actually told me not to. The airlines today and 30 years ago is so different.
It was like a holiday last time. They used to have 7 nights in Paris but now, only two nights. What sights are you going to see? When you reach the hotel room you just crash out of fatigue and when you wake up its God knows what time already. The next day is your last day in that country and what can you do with a fatigued body? How much can you chiong to see? And next morning, back in the metal tube on the way back to Singapore."
23. Salaries deflate when cost of living goes up.
"30 years ago crew earned $5k a month. 30 years later they earn minimum $3.5k a month. On good months $5k but why is it that 30 years ago and now crew are earning the same?? Actually lesser now.
Last time if Meepok was 20 cents but now it's $3 shouldnt the pay go up too??? And the company keeps decreasing the allowances, super not worth it to fly now."
24. Cabin crew are often disrespected.
"The only thing that people say that really hurts crew a lot is when they look down on us. They think being a stewardess is a lousy job, a job where people who are not smart/can't study do. Just a high class waitress serving and cleaning up after people.
This has happened so many times to many crew and one stewardess told me this story as it happened to her.
There was this Singaporean father and his young daughter.
The father told the daughter and pointed at the stewardess and said
You better study hard next time. If not you'll end up like this Aunty here becoming a stewardess
He said it in front of her.
She told me that she felt so so so angry & hurt.
The best thing is, THIS STEWARDESS HAD A DEGREE AND SHE WAS FROM A LOCAL UNI.
These days most crew are degree holders. Even if they aren't, you shouldn't even look down on them. It's really very very hurtful."
25. Promotion is hard to come by.
"Getting a promotion is so hard. You have to go back to training school, take courses like wine course, ACTA course, join a CCA etc and all these on your off days you know? It's as if you don't need to spend time with your family and after your course, off you fly again. No life."
26. Flying is bad for the body.
"And also another reason not to fly for so long is because of health.
But I've heard stories of stewardesses having difficulties conceiving. Some have to quit first, rest their bodies for a few months and only then are they able to conceive.
So just imagine the amount of stress flying puts on your body!"
27. And finally SIA really stands for...
"SIA stands for SORRY I APOLOGISE and applicable for fellow crew & passengers."
You can read her full entry here.
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Top photo from here.