‘My skinny, sexist, exciting days as a TWA flight attendant’

Ann Hood was 11 years previous, residing in a small Rhode Island city within the Nineteen Sixties, when she picked up a ebook known as “How to Become an Airline Stewardess.” The handbook described breakfasts in New York, dinners in Rome and boyfriends in each metropolis on the earth.

“The airline stewardess leads a life completely different from the routine of any other working girl,” its creator declared. To Hood, this sounded simply nice. 

Her seventh-grade steerage counselor thought in any other case. “Ann, smart girls do not become airline stewardesses,” he sniffed.

Hood proved him improper. Not solely would she work as a flight attendant for TWA, however she would additionally change into an creator within the course of, writing her first novel whereas logging lengthy hours up within the air. Her new memoir, “Fly Girl” (W. W. Norton & Company), chronicles her time flying the pleasant skies from 1979 to 1986. 

It was, she writes, “one of the most demanding, sexist, exciting, glorious jobs a person can have.”

Ann Hood with her flight attendant group. New hires had to maintain their hiring weight, even if many of them, like Hood, had starved themselves before their final interviews to look as slender as possible.
Ann Hood along with her flight attendant group. New hires needed to preserve their hiring weight, even when a lot of them, like Hood, had starved themselves earlier than their remaining interviews to look as slender as attainable.
Courtesy of Ann Hood

Hood was born in West Warwick, RI, in 1956. During her senior 12 months finding out English on the University of Rhode Island, she lastly fessed as much as her dream of changing into a flight attendant. “Do we get free tickets?” her initially skeptical father requested. When Hood stated sure, he gave her his blessing.

Her first interview, with American Airlines, consisted solely of strolling backwards and forwards throughout a room as a dour lady appraised her legs. Her six-week coaching for TWA, nonetheless, proved more durable than school. 

“People were sent home every day because they failed written tests, showed a bad attitude, got too frightened during emergency procedures, or just got homesick,” Hood writes. She discovered to “evacuate seven kinds of aircraft,” ship infants, administer oxygen, apply eyeliner and lipstick with out a mirror, extinguish fires, combine cocktails, “brush off passes from male passengers” and “make a baby rattle out of two plastic cups and a couple TWA propeller-shaped swizzle sticks.” 

A Pan Amm airhostess serving champagne in the first class.
A Pan Am hostess serving champagne within the top quality within the golden age of journey.
Getty Images

Hood handed with flying colours, and was despatched to Boston. New hires endured a grueling six-month probationary interval, the place they needed to fly “on reserve,” with out a set schedule, able to take flight at a second’s discover. Instructors popped up on flights to quiz them about security and repair, or met them after touchdown to measure their hemlines and even weigh them. “Other than missing a flight, the number-one reason new hires got fired . . . was for being overweight,” Hood writes. 

New attendants needed to preserve their hiring weight, even when a lot of them, like Hood, had starved themselves earlier than their remaining interviews so they’d look as engaging as attainable in TWA’s stylish Ralph Lauren uniforms. So Hood — 5-foot-7 and 120 kilos — and her 5 flight-attendant roommates would sit within the sauna of the YMCA, “trying to sweat off the pounds.” They took diuretics, tried loopy diets and generally “just drank water until a pound or two came off.” One of her roommates handed out from starvation whereas packing for a visit. (The weight requirement was eradicated in 1991.)

Lufthansa flight attendants being served at the Pan American World Airways stewardess school in Long Island in 1960.
Lufthansa flight attendants being served on the Pan American World Airways stewardess coaching college in Long Island in 1960.
Getty Images

“The doorman was always calling us with flower deliveries,” Hood writes of the bachelorette pad she shared along with her co-workers. Men confirmed up, and the ladies “went on their boats and zipped around in their Porsches or sat in their box seats at Fenway Park” — that’s till their pagers buzzed, whisking them away to “Vegas or Wichita.”

Flights had been concurrently thrilling, difficult and grueling. Hood describes discovering “a pile of toenail clippings” in a seat pocket, administering oxygen to a passenger having a coronary heart assault, and making an ice-cream sundae for Richard Gere in top quality (asking if he wished nuts “still makes me blush,” she writes). 

Author Ann Hood today.
Author Ann Hood at this time.
Beowulf Sheehan

She witnessed a younger lady die of a drug overdose, comforted numerous grieving passengers on their method to funerals and as soon as watched the mile-high membership in motion, as each man in top quality one after the other obtained as much as go to a lady within the toilet throughout a visit from Boston to LA. “How did they know she would go along with that?” a naive Hood requested her fellow attendant later that evening over margaritas. “They hired her,” he stated laughing. “She was a prostitute.”

Eventually, she started working on worldwide flights. She wept seeing the pyramids in Egypt, and loved a 24-hour romance throughout a layover in Portugal. “One of the biggest love stories” of her life started “at 35,000 feet,” with an aspiring actor with whom she would transfer to Greenwich Village.

Fly Girl

Hood ultimately wrote and bought her first novel, “Somewhere Off the Coast of Maine” — based mostly on her brother’s group of school mates. She went on strike in 1986, after TWA’s new proprietor Carl Icahn introduced a 44% % pay lower for flight attendants, and was ultimately fired. She labored at Presidential Airlines for a 12 months, however hung up her uniform shortly after her ebook was printed in 1987. 

Hood married, had youngsters, wrote and taught. Yet she by no means stopped romanticizing air journey.

She writes: “Being a flight attendant brought me everything I had dreamed.”

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