Being a flight attendant looks very glamorous from the outside. Is it?
There are definite elements of glamour. You go to the most exotic places, great parties, amazing hotels and have access to celebrities, business leaders and luxury products at duty-free prices, but there is a also a real underbelly to flying. It’s a manual shift-work job with lots of injuries. [Many are] addicted to sleeping pills, and it can be very isolating.
You have met many celebs through your work. Who’s your favourite?
Lily Allen. She was such fun and she was really funny. She was just so upfront and really refreshing.
You also hit it off with Katy Perry. What was that like?
I think I was good at disarming her. Celebrities are always on guard and talk in very small terms, so they aren’t misquoted. I told her that she had kissed a girl and liked it and made 50 million, but I kissed a girl and didn’t like it and was making her breakfast – it hardly seemed fair. She laughed and it really broke the ice. We talked about all sorts from Hollywood to my book and gay rights.
Tell us about the more bizarre celebrities. Any nutters?
Yes, but sadly a lot of that was cut out of my book for legal reasons. I’ve dealt with people whose list of demands would make the biggest diva’s blush.
What about the regular folk (well, as regular as you get in first class). What were they like?
(Laughs loudly) Boring. No, just joking. What are regular folk? (Smiles again). They are generally okay, but people do weird things in the air and can be quite a handful!
So what was the weirdest thing anyone ever did on a flight?
On a flight to South Africa, I was clicked at and when the passenger got my attention, they said “Boy, git me an apple juice” in an Afrikaans accent. That took some getting used to. I’ve also been propositioned to join a gentleman in the toilet. He left the door open with his old fella hanging out and asked me if “I wanted a bit”. It was very tempting, but I declined (giggles).
Who was the worst person you ever looked after, celebrity or otherwise?
A very large man on a flight from Frankfurt that was merrily making his way through several cheese boards and beer. We could smell this almighty stench, only to see that his adult incontinence diaper had exploded everywhere. The colleague I was working with was pregnant and she threw up as an added extra.
Yikes. It’s quite the career you’ve had. What was the highlight?
Probably getting to take my mother and sister around the world, and being able to live in Hong Kong, UK, Sydney, Melbourne and Brussels. It gave me an international perspective.
And what were the worst parts?
Definitely breaking my back at work and having to learn to walk again. That, alongside the fact that I had been caught up in legislative changes regarding injuries at work; while my lawyers sorted it out, I was administering my own pain medication and fell asleep on oxycontin while cooking and burned my house down while I was inside it. I’d say that was a definite low point.
How did you make the transition from flight attendant to author?
It was very cathartic to write, and when I was told I could no longer work as a flight attendant and had so many restrictions job wise, I tried to use what I had at my finger tips to write a book. My back is a real problem and we may be looking at more spinal surgery. Each operation needs a very big recovery.
What advice would you give to anyone who’s considering a future career as a flight attendant?
If you are going to do it, use it to see and enjoy the world. Travel is such a wonderful thing so, I think, enjoy it and don’t get caught up on the company hamster wheel.
Finally, tell us a secret…?
They are all in the book, Confessions of a Qantas Flight Attendant. You’ll have to read it and see…
Confessions of a Qantas Flight Attendant is available now, RRP $34.99. Visit randomhouse.com.au for stockists.