467. Be a flight attendant
Attempted May 2000
Newly single and newly graduated from college with a degree in an area of study I was no longer interested in pursuing, I was looking around for any job that might be interesting. I was living in Virgina Beach and I wasn’t in love with the area – it’s beautiful, don’t get me wrong, but it wasn’t the right place for me. I spent hours on job web sites answering any ad that sounded even mildly interesting and that I was sure I’d be able to do.
One of the ads was for American Eagle Airlines – they were hiring flight attendants. I applied. I landed an interview. In Dallas, Texas.
Holding national interviews in one location isn’t a problem for you when you’re an airline. There’s at least a few empty seats on each flight anyway – so why not just use them to fly your candidates to you? They sent me detailed instructions about calling to reserve a tentative spot on a flight from Virginia Beach to Dallas. I was informed that the interview started the moment I entered the airport in my home town. I was to dress for an interview from the beginning to end. I was also told that I would need to be flexible, as they could only fly me standby, there was no guarantee that a seat on my flight would actually be available for me once I got to the airport. So I wore a business suit for traveling, and packed another business suit for the following day in a garment bag.
I got to the airport, checked in for my flight, and boarded the plane in Virginia Beach without incident. During the flight, I carefully watched the flight attendants. I landed in Dallas late at night and caught a shuttle to a nearby hotel. A shuttle was picking me up the next morning to take me to my interview, so I had to be dressed and ready to go at 7:00am. I asked for a wakeup call and fell asleep to the TV in my room.
I woke up the next morning, anxious and nervous, the way I always am on the way to an interview and got ready with time left to enjoy the hotel’s free continental breakfast before my interview. I headed downstairs only to find the dining area filled to the brim with college-age people. I grabbed a muffin and a cup of juice and sat down to eat. When the shuttle from American Eagle arrived, we all stepped outside – everyone there was interviewing at American Eagle that day. None of us had even realized it. We laughed and chatted on our way to the airlines’ offices.
As soon as we arrived, the grand test began. We attempted to check in at the front desk for our interviews, only to discover that all of us were scheduled for the same interview slot and that the airline had made a mistake and that noone was available to do interviews until at least 10am. We all shrugged it off – some of us sat and waited in the waiting room, while others headed for the cafe across the hall for a more substantial breakfast. I chose the waiting room, and sat patiently reading a book.
A few people began to trickle in who had just flown in that morning rather than spend the night in Dallas. A girl arrived in a wrinkled cotten dress and sandals and was turned away for her interview – she’d been told to dress in business attire for her entire flight – she was sent straight back to the airport. As she passed me and the guy sitting on the next couch on her way out, he sing-songed “Yeah, honey. Lay off the Doc Martens.” I laughed, I couldn’t help it. We struck up a conversation and hit it off immediately. We were buddies throughout the long day that followed, and called each other Karen and Jack.
Finally, everyone returned from the cafe and we chatted and waited for the multi-step interviews to begin. The first step was a group interview. They herded us into a small-ish room ringed with chairs. An interview leader came in and asked us some typical interview questions that we had to answer standing up in front of the group. A few people were sent home after the group interview.
After that, they took us to a test room where we had to take a logic or IQ test. The goal was not to complete the entire test, but to answer as many questions correctly as you could – answering correctly was more important than completing lots of questions. We waited while they checked our answers and a few more people were sent home.
Then came a presentation about the airline, given by a current flight attendant. She talked about her job – the things she liked, the things she didn’t like, the perks she got, her salary, her benefits, etc. That was followed by a presentation about the requirements for the job. You had to have 20/20 vision, be physically fit (there was a test you had to pass), not have tattoos, be healthy…wait, you can’t have tattoos? Oh, just not visible tattoos. If they’re covered by your uniform, you’re okay. Whew.
Next came another big test, though it was unannounced. They put us all in a waiting room to await our individual interviews. And left us there. For hours. By this time it was around 2pm and we’d only had our continental breakfast at 6:30 or so that morning. Everyone was hungry and tired, but we were being watched and we all knew it.
Finally they started calling names and taking people to individual interviews. There was no rhyme or reason the order people were being called – we tried to figure it out. Was it alphabetical? By birthdays? As far as we could tell, it was just random. I ended up sitting there until nearly 5pm – I was the last one called. I was afraid the interviewer wouldn’t be able to hear my answers over my growling stomach, but I was cheerful and upbeat and ended up making it to the final round of the interviews – the physical examination.
After my individual interview, I was escorted to yet another waiting room, to find the rest of the candidates who’d made it to the final round. We were all excited. They sent men to one locker room and women to another. We had our eyes tested, were poked and prodded, had blood samples taken, etc. Then we were sent back to the airport and told we’d hear from the airline one way or another within a couple of days.
I hadn’t been instructed to make any kind of reservation or arrangement for my flight home, mostly because they had no idea how long I’d be there for the interview – I could have been sent home as soon as I arrived at their offices that morning. I had no idea even what terminal I should be headed to – so the shuttle driver suggested I head to the terminal where I’d arrived as it was most likely the one I’d be leaving from.
I was so hungry, I had big plans to sit down at one of the nicer restaurants in the airport and eat a big dinner before boarding my flight home. But when I got to the ticket counter, it was to discover that there was but one seat left on the very last flight to Virginia Beach for that day – if I missed it, I’d have to wait until the following morning, and it was already too late to check any luggage. The very nice man at the ticket counter printed me a boarding pass, helped me stuff my garment bag into my suitcase, and flagged down a golfcart to take me to my gate – in another terminal. I had five minutes to get there.
Unfortunately, the golf cart driver didn’t seem to understand the urgency. He kept stopping to chat and offer people rides. I was frantic. I didn’t have enough money for another hotel stay – if I missed the flight I’d have to sleep in the airport.
I finally made it to my gate to find everyone in line boarding the plane – that seemed a little odd for a flight that was supposed to have left already, but I was just glad to have arrived. I checked in at the desk and told the woman there that I was flying standby for the flight and handed her the boarding pass the man at the ticket counter had given me. She said, “No you’re not. You’ve already got a boarding pass. If you were flying standby, you wouldn’t be on this flight – it’s full.” Bless you, ticket counter man for giving me a boarding pass when I wasn’t technically supposed to get one. I got in line and made my way to my seat. The man next to me was nice and friendly and we had a nice chat that lasted all the way back to Virginia Beach. It was from him that I found out that the flight was delayed at the last minute. They had boarded the passengers, then discovered that the timing was out of whack – they hadn’t fueled the plane yet, and they’re not allowed to do that with passengers on board. So they had to get everybody off the plane, fuel the plane, and the line I’d actually waited in was the line to re-board the plane – is that lucky or what? If they hadn’t made that mistake, I’d have missed the flight for sure.
Thankfully, in 2000, they still served regular hot meals on airplanes, and I was so grateful for some food, I ate it all, even though we all know airplane food isn’t exactly delicious. I was so happy to be back home to my own bed and my own kitchen full of snacks.
I got a call two days later offering me the job on the condition that I removed my ankle tattoo. Even though women are allowed to wear pants uniforms, ankle tattoos are still considered ‘visible’ tattoos for female employees (they’re not for male employees). I refused, and they refused me the job. And that was that.