Flying Low

Flight attendants are one of the customer service industry’s most taxed individuals on an emotional level. A great deal of research has gone into flight attendants and the emotional tolls they have. There are two reasons for emotional exhaustion to affect flight attendants and therefore the need for more emotional support in their industry. The first is being with passengers more than any other airline and airport related job. The second is possible trauma that can occur while on planes.

Flying and Disasters

The year 2001 showed the world that flying is not always safe, and in fact, is certainly dangerous. Even if it is now 2014, there are still issues with flying and possible danger. Earlier in the year a flight went completely missing. Another flight was blown out of the sky over a war zone and yet another recently crashed. These feelings of danger are something flight attendants have to deal with every time they go to work.

If you are a flight attendant, then you know in the back of your mind you have fears and anxieties regarding your flight. When these fears start to appear in the forefront of your mind, making the job no longer fun, or more difficult to do, it is time to seek emotional support and perhaps consider changing your job.

It is also the issue with flights such as terrorism and mechanical malfunctions that have increased the availability of emotional support for flight attendants. Airlines are realising it is imperative to their operations to assess flight attendants, provide emotional support, and ensure sound mental health is in place.

With high turnover and burnout, it was necessary for changes with regards to counselling, support groups, and information to deal with emotional tolls the job provides.

Airlines have in place counselling support but crew members do not use this service, why?

The answer is simple: This groups are run by crew members themselves and service users don’t feel comfortable as they are not confidential !

Passenger Interaction

In hospitality there are always going to be interactions with customers. A client staying at a hotel for a week may see the front desk for 20 minutes at check in and another 20 at check out. Most hotels make it easy for check out to happen automatically, without the front desk being sought. Perhaps an hour or half day tour will bring clients and employees together, but on the whole, flight attendants with passengers on planes for two or more hours tend to see more people and deal with the same people for longer than most hospitality industries.

This can take a toll, emotionally. A problem passenger or two or more can definitely make you more tired than a plane full of happy people. All types of passengers, from those afraid to fly, to those who are tired and irritable, are a part of the daily job.

Seeking Emotional Support

There is nothing wrong with seeking emotional support to help you find joy in your job again, to help you deal with fears, anxieties, or worries that occur because of your job. Post-traumatic stress is one possibility when working in the airline industry and it too needs to be dealt with; however, if you have an emotional toll that is not related to PTSD, you can still find help.

Group sessions help you meet other flight attendants, swap stories, and deal with work related stress. If you do not wish to speak about your emotional stress with others you have one on one sessions, too.

Getting Help before the Burnout

If you love your job then getting help before you are no longer able to work as a flight attendant is paramount. There may come a time when you do not wish to work on flights. You might be tired of always jetting off to a new place or the same destinations every week. It is possible. However, before this occurs you may also have to deal with stressors in the work place as discussed above. If you are not ready to retire as a flight attendant then speaking out, dealing with emotions, and finding support is the way to make sure you stay in your chosen career.

Your job is difficult. There are a number of things that can happen from someone being sick on the plane, from a child flying for the first time, to an easy, short flight. If your airline does not provide the emotional support you need there are therapists and other locations you can find it.

Images on Creative Commons license courtesy of Giorgio Montersino, FaceMePLS, BriYYZ

One thought on “Flying Low

  1. “This groups are run by crew members themselves and service users don’t feel comfortable as they are not confidential.” I question this statement as I work as a peer counsellor within an international airline and we abide by the same code of ethics any professional counselling service does. We are a member of the BACP and confidentiality is always at the forefront of our work with clients. I believe that the longstanding success of our service, spanning 30 years, is due to the fact we are also cabin crew, trained as crises counsellors, and have a real understanding of the job and all the challenges it can bring. My experience is that this is a real comfort to the crew community rather than a deterrent. Ultimately the interests of our clients remain at the heart of all services we provide for them, as I would hope they do with anyone who works in this field.


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