This article originally appeared on MUNCHIES in December 2014.Welcome back to Restaurant Confessionals, where we talk to the unheard voices of the restaurant industry from both the front-of-house (FOH) and back-of-house (BOH) about what really goes on behind the scenes at your favorite establishments. This time, we take our column to the open skies to talk to the gravity-defying bartenders you encounter on the regular: flight attendants.I fly about 75 hours a month. Mostly domestic, although I've done international before too. Typically, I do at least two flights a day when I'm working. But there are definitely certain destinations and flight times that are more full of wasted people than others.Recently, I worked Thanksgiving flights, so I saw a lot of hammered young people. They get tons of drinks at the airport or on the plane because their parents are going to pick them up from their flight, and they know they won't have to drive on arrival, so we see a big uptick in drinking then.Or maybe they feel like they need some social lubrication before seeing their families.Flying brings out the worst in people—a lot of flyers act so stressed out. They get so upset when their bag doesn't fit in the overhead compartment, and they'll ask us to lift it, but we're not allowed to because we could get injured and there's liability involved. But sorry—if you packed your own bag, you should be able to lift it. If you have a frustrating passenger or a crazy one, news gets around to the other flight attendants. I'll see my friends post statuses that are like "Oh god, I just dealt with a crazy girl we almost had to kick off the plane!"
The most common drink orders I get are vodka and orange juice, or Bloody Marys. The orders that annoy me are when people ask for really specific brands. They'll ask for a top-shelf vodka brand, and it's like, Come on, this isn't a fully stocked bar.
Generally speaking, people in first class handle their liquor a lot better—generally, you're going to find the crazy-ass drunk passengers in coach.
But the douchiest thing people ask for isn't alcohol, it's "sparkling water." Right—here's a club soda with lime.I prefer to work first class, where the drinks are free. People there fly more often, and they know what and what not to expect from us. Most of them are businessmen who are going to have a car pick them up. They're usually very nice—as long as you keep their drink full, they won't really bother you for anything else. But often times, it does feel like I'm tending bar.I've had to cut people off before, and it's a lot easier to do in coach than in first class. It's hard to say, "OK, you bought this expensive first-class ticket, but now you have to stop drinking." They're more entitled there, because the drinks are free.In a post-9/11 world, we're really discouraged from letting people get overly drunk. When it happens, it's usually because they've popped some sort of pill and there's a reaction, or because they hit up the airport bar beforehand. Generally speaking, people in first class handle their liquor a lot better—generally, you're going to find the crazy-ass drunk passengers in coach.Usually, it's obvious when people need to be cut off, because they can't walk. Recently, we had a woman whose husband was basically physically escorting her onto the plane because she was so wasted. The girl at the gate was like, "How about we book her on another flight? Looks like she's had a little too much to drink. Let's get her some water." And he was like… "Well … OK, I think you're right."If someone seems really drunk as they're getting on or once they're in the cabin, we can talk to the captain, and he ultimately has the authority to decide who's gonna fly on his plane. That goes for people who are really rude to us, too. Most captains are like, "Let me know if you have a problem with anyone, and I'll get them off before we take off."Often, on transcontinental flights, people will take an Ambien or something, and if they mix that with alcohol and they don't go to sleep, they just end up like nonsensical zombies. It's like that scene in Bridesmaids.We had one guy who came on a delayed flight—I think he had already popped his Ambien—and when we got up in the air, he got ready to leave the lavatory, but he face-planted—totally fell and passed out. It was kind of scary, but we got him back awake and to his seat. Thankfully there was a doctor on board, and he was like, "Yeah it's just Ambien." But then you worry, are you going to be able to get these types of people off the plane when we land? Usually we can shake them awake, but if they pass out and don't wake up, we have to call EMTs.My first week that I was a flight attendant, I was working first class on one of our smaller planes by myself. It was a flight to Vegas, and literally my entire cabin was a bachelor party full of men. The majority of the sexual harassment that I've endured on a plane was concentrated on that one flight. One of them dropped a cookie in his lap and was like, "Don't you want to eat it?" with the grossest laugh. One of the attendants from the back had to come up to the front and stand with me for the majority of the flight because she was like, "You really can't be up here alone right now." Nowadays, I would tell them, "You can't say that stuff to me." But at the time, I was only in my first or second week of flying, and I wasn't used to being in first class all alone.Return flights from Vegas, the mood is very different—everyone is visibly hung over and they don't want anything to drink. Unless, of course, they won a bunch of money, and then they're all happy. Sometimes you get people who have been partying up until they got on the plane, and they smell. No one wants to sit by them.
MAKE IT: Bloody Mary with Gin
We can't drink during the flights—you aren't even supposed to sit at a bar if you're in uniform. We can be drug-tested too—they can breathalyze us. I've never seen it done, but if they suspect that you're drunk and working, it can happen. Sometimes if we're non-revenue flying, we can drink. If you know the other flight attendants and you're in coach, they'll bring you free drinks as long as you're not in uniform.
I put that I'm a flight attendant in my Tinder profile, and I get a lot of free cocktails because of it. Or if I mention what I do for a living at a bar, a lot of guys are like, "Do you want a drink?"
Getting hit on by businessmen definitely happens. I have an innocent face, so it has happened to me, but I have a friend based in Miami who gets numbers multiple times a week. She's the typical blonde bombshell, kind of tall. I have resting bitch face, so I don't get numbers quite as often. One time I had a little old man tell me that I had a sexy PA voice when I was doing the announcements, and I was like, really? I had a really bad cold so it sounded like I had been smoking cigarettes non-stop for 20 years.But it's not as rampant as people think, not like the 60s-style stewardesses. For starters, our uniforms on my airline are not cute at all. My mom retired from being a flight attendant in '99, and they're the same uniforms that she used to wear.I put that I'm a flight attendant in my Tinder profile, and I get a lot of free cocktails because of it. Or if I mention what I do for a living at a bar, a lot of guys are like, "Do you want a drink?"As told to Hilary PollackThis article originally appeared on MUNCHIES on December 12, 2014.
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