I knew from the age of 15 that I wanted to be an air stewardess. A girl’s ultimate dream. To explore the world… what a wonderful cliché! So that’s what I told them at my job interview when I was 21. I, of course, added that I liked to be surrounded by people and am pretty caring.
Thousands of passengers later
Many years and thousands of passengers later I am increasingly coming to understand that the contact I have with my passengers is one of the most important things that make my job enjoyable. A long, tedious, night flight can be brightened up immeasurably by an enjoyable conversation with a passenger who can’t sleep. Someone might come to the galley to hesitantly ask for a glass of water – “Sorry to disturb you”. Sometimes this is the beginning of a whole life story.
People fascinate me. I’m curious about their stories. Without them my work would be superficial and routine; a monotonous sequence of meals and drinks. I sometimes see this when I fly with other airlines, where the work on board is carried out as if by robot. At KLM it’s different, because we – the cabin crew – are allowed to be ourselves.
Passenger ‘1A’ or ’42K’ becomes a person
The need to ask questions sometimes leads on to something else. Often a conversation goes no further than a fleeting exchange of information – “Would you like chicken or pasta? And something to drink?” Sometimes someone is exceptionally funny and brings laughter to the shift. Every now and then, if there is time and the vibe is right, we can make real contact with a passenger.
This is precisely what happened with a two-year-old boy en route from Nigeria to the Netherlands; the terminally-ill woman who had a bucket list to get through; and the glamorous journalist with an incredible zest for life. These are just three of the passengers who have made a huge impression on me over the last few years. So much so, that I still remember them and ask myself how they are.
I write about them because I cherish their stories. Passenger “1A” or “42K” becomes a real person through the story. I am grateful to these passengers for making my job worthwhile. And today I am taking the step of sharing my stories with you. I’ll be back very soon with a new passenger. I am also curious to hear about any special or personal stories that you have heard on your travels. Recently, or long ago….