Jose Zepeda, who has been a flight attendant for a major airline for three years, says that nothing about the job really surprises him anymore.
“I am immune to weird things,” he tells Business Insider. “Farts, feet, loud mouths, bad hygiene, drunks, getting hit on by passengers, being asked, ‘Do you work here’ or ‘What airline is this?,” escorting passengers off the plane for idiocy, people trying to sleep in the isle, passengers smoking in the laboratory, children leaving Gold Fish crumbs all over their row, and vomit are all in a day’s work for us.”
And it’s all worth it thanks to the extraordinary perk that comes with the job: flexibility.
“I make my schedule and go wherever I want, whenever I want,” Zepeda says.
For flights attendants, the advantages of flexibility come in many forms.
For Zepeda, it means that, even though he is based in New York, he is able to work on getting his pilot’s licence in Phoenix, Arizona. To do this, he says he generally works trips that give him more than 24-hour layovers in Phoenix so that he can go to his flight school in the morning and then fly back out to New York or Miami in the evening.
Still, this flexibility has its limits, and for Zepeda, there is still a fear of missing out.
“While the flexibility is unmatched, every flight attendant has missed a holiday with their family, a friend’s birthday, a sibling’s graduation, and even a close someone’s funeral,” Zepeda says. “As much as we try to plan for certain days off, we are not always able to hold the trips we hope for or are able to trade or drop.”
Flight attendants usually submit their monthly scheduling choices in a process called “bidding,” and the more seniority they have, the more they’re able to determine which routes they fly and days they get to take off.
“The upside to this is that the longer you stay, the more seniority you gain. The more seniority you have, the more you can control or manipulate your schedule,” he explains.
Luckily, Zepeda says flight attendants are uniquely adept at making the most out of bad situations.
“One of the best qualities about flight attendants in general is that we are some of the most resourceful people on the planet,” he says. “We can take almost any situation or circumstance and turn it into gold.”
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