Being a Steward Is Not Just a Job, It’s a Way of Life

While you are coming home from a party early in the morning, I’ve got my suitcase on my way to work. While you’re taking your first coffee break, I’m on board heading for Beijing planning my visit to the Great Wall of China. And, dear reader, while you were finally concluding that late meeting at work, I was writing this piece in my favourite diner in New York. How? I work as a steward for KLM which I’ve been doing for more than 18 years. I see I am using the word work. In fact, it’s really a way of life.

The variety and unpredictability offers a sense of freedom that makes me truly happy. At home, I’m just Ingmar to my friends. But just before taking off, somewhere between my front door and the KLM Crew Centre, I become a steward—something of a “displaced person”. Then I check in. I forget all about home and start one of my voyages to an average of five intercontinental flights that I make each month.


I’m not complaining

It might sound terribly exciting, but that particular blade cuts both ways. You’ll see us arriving at the gate, eight or ten blue uniforms chatting away happily. It might make you forget that each of these flight attendants is leaving something behind at home. All too often, I have to cancel dinner dates with friends or one of my colleagues is sad because she won’t be able to be there when her child receives his swimming diploma. This coming Christmas, for example, I’ll have to disappoint my girlfriend because I will be abroad.
I can’t really complain because I’m responsible, at least in part, for our flight roster by way of our online request system. But in the end, being a steward means having an unpredictable life.

Way of life

There are more than 10.000 flight attendants at KLM

It is a precondition of my work that I have to be more flexible than the average worker. The same goes for my colleagues. There are more than 10.000 of us. For that reason, the briefing—the first time we see each other—is always an apprehensive moment. Will I know anyone? Are they nice people? Will I get along with them? Whatever the case, each time, I have to go through the process of making acquaintances and build up that team feeling with which we’ll have to work for more than ten hours. The first time I travelled together with my ex-girlfriend to New York, she sighed and said, “Now I understand you get on so easily with new people”. An occupational habit, I guess.

Way of life

Pursue your own way of life

Sometimes I envy people for their regular lives, the café where they like to hang out, their circle of friends, the gym where they go to work out. But then I remember the time an African minister proudly showed me photos of children while sitting in a bus in Houston. Or the mountaintop in Taipei when I peered through the misty morning light out over the tea plantations. Or Graceland in Memphis, where I found myself just a few weeks ago with my best friends. And in a few weeks I will be  climbing Table Mountain in Cape Town for the third time. Then I realise—once again—just how lucky I am and that, ultimately, everyone has to give up something to pursue their own way of life.

It’s a ‘displaced’ life that we lead

In the many conversations I have with customers onboard, I discover again and again that so many of you are interested in that “displaced” life that we lead. I’ll be happy to tell you more about that in future blogs. Not just about what our jobs entail—the flight prep, working onboard, arrivals—and about some of our secret routines and rituals, but also about the more personal side of my life as a steward. What it’s like to spend a large portion of my life in hotels. To be a man working in a world populated largely by women. The advantages—and disadvantages—that it has for my personal relationship. And all the stories I hear from interesting, emotionally moving, sometimes bothersome, but mostly inspiring passengers.

All I can say is: hope to see you on board.

Posted by:   Ingmar Beldman  | 
Join the conversation Show comments

Troy Whelan

What a captivating outlook on Steward life. KLM is my favorite Airline in the World.


Thanks troy!
More blogs will follow soon. And thank you for the compliment! Gr ingmar

Au Kah Kay

I would like to hear about the training that KLM cabin crew go through before they get their wings.


Dear Au Kah Kay,
That is indeed a good suggestion! I will certainly discuss this option with the editor. Of course we cannot go too much into detail on the topic of flight safety. But there must be enough to tell you about!
Thanks, ingmar

Leon de Groot

Being a KLM steward in the early seventies, I recognize everything in your story. It’s a pity that Beging was not a KLM destination at my time, so I did not walk the Chinese Wall. But I stayed with a very nice family at Bonny Lake in Alaska and I loved being in Indonesia and Japan, the Safari’s in Kenia. I knew the streets in New York as in Amsterdam, the place I’am born in 1943. I’am looking forward to your coming stories. Have nice flights!


Thanks Leon!
First of all i’m pleasantly surprised that someone working for KLM in the 70s is still fllowing us on this blog-site.
You never leave the blue family, right?:-)
I love what you say about NY.. My close friends sigh when i say i know every street and avenue in NY. They know my passionate love for this city.
Thanks for your respons!

Leon de Groot

Nov. 30, I wrote being a KLM Steward, but at that time we were called Hofmeester KV (Kort verband), = Steward for a limited periode of time. In my case a period of 3,5 years, because I had, what we called a Moscow visa (Cold War period) , otherwise you only flew for a period of 2 years and 8 month. Stewardesses had a 5 year contract. That idea came from Mckinsey, cabin attendants were young and cheaper. Only pursers were fully employed and were called the “Kerncorps”.
So I knew exactly the date of my last flight for KLM, when I started my short KLM career. So you can imagine that I explored the cities where we landed, because you never knew will I on that route again.
Except New York and other big cities with more daily flights. When the first KLM Boeing 747 arrived, we had a period of longer stays on the Far east routes, the reason was that a limited group of cabin attendants had a permission to fligh with the new wide body. I better stop writing before it ends in a novel, but for sure when you got the KLM DNA, you will stay with the KLM family the rest of your life.
P.S. I could not imagine that in my time working in the Royal Class, years later I was flying as a Royal Class passenger to my Far East business trips. Of course I liked to talk to my former colleagues and noticed that the stop-overs where shorter than in my time.
All the best Ingmar!


a novel? why not? you seem to be loaded with good stories:-)

Leon de Groot

Today it’s Christmas day, I remember being in Johannesburg without any Christmas feeling at all, because it was summer there and very hot. A year before (1970) I spend New Years eve in New York. A lot of crew members where staying in the Edison hotel and a KLM party was organized. At midnight we all stood on Times square and entered into the New Year. Far from home but very nice colleagues.

Wouter Toet

Thans for THE Good service as from 67


Thanks! I you mean 1967….. Well, i’m a senior but not that senior:-)


Dear Ingmar,

I’d love to know more about how your schedules are set? Who does them and how do they do that? What is a typical month of the routes you fly? I’d probably have many more questions, after you answers these ones ;)



Well, i can tell you that we have this sort of super-computer program that works out all the scedules. It does so first of all based on filling up all the flights with personel and secondly it is directed by the imput of our request-system. Through this request-system i have the possibility to fix my scedules for about 70%.
Me personally, given the fact i work in a 100% contract, i have about 5 flights a month!
If you have more questions let me know!


What a great beginning for your blog!
Looking forward to reading more about You and Your adventures as a steward for KLM!
Thanks for sharing with Us!!!


Thanks Ricky! Thanks for the inspiration:-)


What a wonderful story..I used to work for KLM on the ground and I also loved every minute of it..Good luck with your blog.


Thanks ‘collegue’.
If it would fit the specific ‘premise’ of this series of blogs, i would add a blog about the collaboration between Ground- and Flightcrew. Many costomers would be served in knowing what it all takes to have these services lined up! It’s ‘rocket science’ in itself:-)))


Hi Ingmar,
Leuk leuk leuk!! Kijk uit naar de andere 7!
Anja (SIN)


Dank je Anja! To be continued!

Nico Schoots

Hi Ingmar, als ex hofmeester kv, kijk ik uit naar je blogs, mijn eerste vlucht was met een DC 9 naar Londen, ja ik weet het vorige eeuw. groet Nico Schoots


Beste Nico.
Ik schaam me…..wat is hofmeester kv?? Heeft dat te maken met het Koninklijk Huis?
Ik word nieuwsgierig:-)
Gr ingmar

flequent flyer

I also work like that… i am not a cabin attndand but i work for a consulting company. I meet you on your flights several times a week. I can understand you. I talk t


I can tell you that the most ‘homy’ feel on board is when i recognize costomers from previous flights. It happens when you get more senior. These people have an equal amount of fascinating stories!
The only difference is that right after the flight you have visit a next meeting.
I visit my bed:-)

flequent flyer

To you very often and we all agree: this is the way of living, we try to take the best from the time speng at homes, we envy friends with regular lives., we loose many important momentsin life of our families. But this work style is like a drug. You get used addicted t


I know…i know…
I notice, through the years, that my circle of friends consist of mostly the same kind of ‘breed’:-) independent people…
How is that with you?


Thank you for sharing. KLM is our favourite airline, and ewe try to fly with KLM whenever we go to Europe and come back home to Canada.

On behalf of my partner and me, thank you for the excellent service KLM flight attendants give. You make our trips comfortable and safe.

Happy flying!


Thanks for the nice compliment!
I have family in Canada so i try to fly there more often then usual! I’m very glad that we have so many destinations in Canada to serve. Edmonton is that latest.
Were are you from?
Don’t tell me that you are, like many Candians, from one of those “around-the-corner-of-excessive-outdoor-fun” cities…. Makes me jealous!!:-)

Brian Hewitt

I find KLM to be a very good airline. The cabin crew are always friendly and polite, and always willing to help you. Keep up the good work!


Thanks! We will!
Gr ingmar

Ludo Put

Mooie blog. Ik zit sinds 1973 in een soortgelijk beroep. Ik ben werkzaam bij de politie en werkte tot voor 15 jaaR OP VOLLE ONREGELMATIGHEID. Ik kan de feestdagen en week-ends biet meer tellen dat ik gewerkt heb. Sinds 7 jaar ben ik ten gevolge van eenCVA ongeschikt en kan nog steeds niet wennen aan het 24 uur prt dag thuiszitten. Mokn oudste zoon is een co;;ega van je en doet het voor zover ik begrepen heb met evenveel plezier. Hij pltste de link naar deze blog op zijn facebookpagina en ik las hem met veel plezier en begrip. Ga zo door. Ludo.


Dank je Ludo!
Ik hoop dat er op een zeker moment een verandering in je situatie komt, of dat je een andere uitdaging vind!
Succes en groeten aan je zoon van een collega:-)


You are not only a convinced steward but also a great writer. Proud of you! X


Thank you Kirsten!
It’s a way of life indeed, bringing me in connection with people all over the world and all cultures. And that is probably the biggest gift i ever had in my life:-)


Hold on…is this a family-chat, Kisten?


I loved reading this. So very interesting to hear about the role from your perspective.
I travel solely for leisure and I see some of the things a flight attendant/steward have to do and I genuinely admire their level of professionalism.
Thanks so much for sharing.


Thank you Shaun!
when will you next flight be and where to?


Think must be Glasgow ;)cu


Well an interesting view of a stewards live. I travel the world for 17 years now. And I have seen many places, good and bad. I do not make 5 international flights a month.
The advantage I have is that I spend weeks in a row in the same country and most of the time in the the same location and city. There I meet the local people and learn about local traditions, food and living.
Of course Ingmar has a very interesting job.
But to be honest I do not want to trade with his job.
I love the stories and experiences I can tell to my wife and our tow sons.
If you are wondering what I do for a living. I am an Engineer who is a specialist in Industrial controls and automation.
Enjoy your work Ingmar as I will do mine.


Hi Patrick,
Thanks for sharing! Your story recalls the many conversations i have with passengers like you. What countries made the biggest impression on you in this respect?
I think that the short-stay trips i make are certainly one of the disadvantages of my way of life. I compensate by other means for sure but in general we stay not too long in a place. And usually just big cities. Through the years i learned to compensate in ways of holidays and other circumstances in my personal life, that brought me in closer contact to other cultures. Regardless this volatile aspect of my job, that is what i like the most about it; meeting other people.


Former airline employee and really enjoyed and understand your blog. Yea KLM my favorite! Look forward to more from you and especially how you like the latest aircraft.


Hi Davis,
thanks for the compliment! i’m not assigned to the latest aircraft yet. so no stories from me. But there will be certainly blogs on this platform about the dreamliner! In fact, there is already a blog about the first flight. Check it out!


Hi Ingmar,Just finish seeing all your blog in the”Ohenro” trip you did in you tube and love it all the way.I know this is a few years ago but how is your knee?Any better?Take care.


You refer to the Buddhist pilgrimage on the Japanese island of Shikoku, the 1200 km ‘Ohenro’, which I did in 2013.
Well….first of all, thanks for physic-fitness:-) I’m ok and actually planning my next journey!!

This is another of those blessings, ‘perks’, if you like, that comes with my job. i would never have ‘noticed’ Japan, if i hadn’t worked for KLM. KLM has a strong connection with Japan – our onboard service to Tokyo or Osaka makes you almost feel like flying with an Japanese airline. So I started to be intrigued with this culture that is seemingly unrelated to ours. Now, after diving into it, I feel truly home:-)
I love Japan for everything that i understand….and mostly don’t understand about it.

Are you considering going to Shikoku yourself?

greets ingmar


Hi Ingmar,

Thanks for that; I envy YOUR job; always wanted to become a stewart but never had the chance to. Many of my friends, and even my brother was at one point, a steward. Love to fly KKM


Thank you Mark, hope to see you soon on board with us! when, after the meal-service, you see a blonde guy passionately typing on his iPad, it’s me for sure and we will have a chat:-)))


Dear Ingmar,

I just wanted to say thank you for your inspiration and great advice. I am 45 and have traveled a lot over the last few years – especially with KLM and one thing that strikes me is the strong bond the KLM crew always have – your warmth and friendliness to passengers is unparalleled and in reading your blog, I can understand why.

I have just decided to step off the career wheel and focus on doing something that gives me happiness and pleasure and which allows me to be a better Dad and husband. What that is, I don’t know yet, maybe I should try a job with KLM ☺️ Sounds like you have a great job, treasure it Ingmar and keep enjoying what you do.

Wishing you and yours a very Happy Christmas.

Best Wishes,


Dear Patrick,
Sorry for my late reply – blame the Holidays:-)).
I’m moved by your personal words. Apparently something of my enthusiasm and passion for my working life came across.
I’m mid forty too and i can relate to the issues most of our age-group is dealing with. Sometimes I consider a job not the problem but the human need for change and new ‘energy’. Something – a job – that used to be good in a previous stage of life has become functionless – or even a burden – in the next one.
I wish you and your family a happy 2016 and i sincerely hope you will find new energy in something you like!!

Myungsun Kim

Wow, I was so impressed of your part of life as a steward. I am Korean and I also worked as a flight attendant. So while I was reading your blogs, I totally understood what you wanted to say. I think the cabin crew.. is really attractive job. As you said, we sometimes, give up meeting someone and we can miss the memorable moment like my kids swimming diploma or christmas. But we could find out more big things in me and my family life. And colleagues are one of my family as well. Haha. So for those of reason, I want to be a cabin crew again. Someday, I hope that we could meet in the flight and work together. Take care!! I have the greatest respect for you!
Always happy flight :)

Anton Morel

Hofmeester KV …. bijna een halve eeuw geleden …. goede herinneringen zijn blijvend …. Groet Anton Morel

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