When I tell people that I am a flight attendant, they usually clap their hands giddily and tell me how wonderfully exciting my life must be. They will go on about how lucky I am to visit exotic locales on the company dime, and how I must have seen just about every major landmark the world has to offer. I nod and say “yes’ at the appropriate moments, as telling them the truth would just end up making them think I was the world’s biggest…well, you know.
The life of a flight attendant may seem glamorous, but beneath my wonderfully coiffed beehive and my shiny name tag beats the heart of a woman that knows the seedy underbelly of the airline industry.
I’m not talking about having to put up with middle-aged, middle-eastern men pinching my butt as I dispense dinners, or having to dispose of sick bags after a particularly bumpy flight. What I am referring to is the place many of us have to live, which flight attendants less than affectionately refer to as crash pads. These are quarters that are usually shared by upwards of 50 flight attendants and pilots which are within close proximity to the major airports of the world. Of course I’m guessing about the number of people that live in the crash pads, since faces come and go on such a regular basis.
Before I get into some real details about these delightful living quarters, let me first answer the questions I’m sure you must have. Flight attendants do not make a lot of money, especially in the first few years on the job. Combine that with only perhaps 80 hours of guaranteed work per month and you have a recipe for poverty. Yes, you do eventually get travel benefits from the airline, but since the pay is so low, many flight attendants choose to pocket that extra money and head for the crash pads instead.
So what’s life like in a crash pad? If you have ever been camping or spent time staying in hostels as you backpack across Europe, you will have already experienced living conditions far better than those of the average crash pad. Imagine having to add your name to a waiting list for shower and bathing privileges, only to find that the people who bathed before you have obviously not been introduced to the wonderful world of cleaning products. You can find enough hair in those bathtubs to seriously wonder if Rapunzel met her untimely end there.
The average room in a crash pad hold about 4 or 5 beds, making romantic nights spent alone something of a challenge. That doesn’t stop some people from giving it their best shot, though. There are now websites dedicated to matching flight attendants with the cleanest, most beautiful crash pads in the world, but let’s face it, a gold etched toilet bowl is still just a toilet bowl. Still, I shouldn’t complain I suppose. I can always drown my sorrows in duty-free.