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Air hostesses were not always on planes: when they began to be hired, and how requirements for them changed

The stewardess profession always caused genuine delight among travelers. Men admired their sophistication and beauty, and women envied the lifestyle, which involved endless trips, accommodation in expensive hotels and relaxation on azure beaches. Lenta.ru report.

Photo: Shutterstock

However, in fact, the work of flight attendants, although not without a certain romanticism, always involved hard work, damage to health due to the constant change of time zones, and often an unfulfilled personal life. In addition, many employees in this field were repeatedly subjected to harassment of men and humiliation, because airlines often attracted customers with their charm, but did not care about their safety.

The management made strict demands on the appearance of the flight attendant candidates, intervened in their relationship and discriminated against all possible grounds. But over time, it became clear that short stewardess skirts were not practical to use as a competitive advantage, and passenger satisfaction with the quality of service came to the fore. In this regard, the priorities of air carriers in hiring employees have changed.

What hardships the girls faced for many years who dreamed of connecting their lives with the sky and flights, and what awaits them after the coronavirus pandemic - in the gallery of Lenta.ru.

On the subject: 'We are at maximum risk': cabin crew on work during a pandemic

The world's first flight attendant, Ellen Church, and seven other female nurses, 90 years ago, accompanied 14 passengers on a 20-hour flight from Oakland, California to Chicago. At a very young age, Church dreamed of becoming a pilot, but gender stereotypes of that time did not allow her to achieve her cherished goal. Nevertheless, she did not abandon the dream of flying, gathered a group of nurses and convinced Boeing that lovely ladies should accompany travelers on board.

“Imagine what aviation would look like if young girls became permanent crew members. Imagine the effect this would have on people traveling. Imagine how valuable they will be to us by serving food carefully and caring for the well-being of passengers, "Boeing manager Steve Simpson wrote then in a letter to the boss. On May 15, 1930, a Boeing 80A took off for the first time with women serving as housewives on board.

Then the requirements for stewardesses were quite simple and radically different from the usual modern realities. They had to wear a watch to constantly check over time, monitor passengers in order to avoid violations of safety rules, and also have a train schedule in case the aircraft made an emergency landing.

Over time, expectations grew, and the quality of service became higher not only on earth, but also in the sky. In order to better cope with responsibilities and meet all standards, airline employees went through various trainings. For example, in May 1946, Trans World Airline crew members were instructed in caring for travelers, captivating them, and not losing their temper. In addition, the girls were taught reading and French lessons, and also received vital vaccinations.

The presence of older women among crew members was categorically excluded. Firstly, marketers believed that youth and a fresh look attract customers much more. Secondly, only unmarried girls, whose lives are not burdened with relationships, could become a stewardess. That is why in those days, flight attendants did not stay in service for more than three years.

Photo: Shutterstock

Since the image of the stewardess was extremely sexualized, in 1950-1960 they tried to make the appearance of the flight attendants as charming as possible. Mini-skirts, revealing slender legs, bright makeup, emphasizing their beauty, and costumes that clearly outline the figure. Armed with all of the above attributes, the girls went to work and struggled to beat off men.

Gradually, new responsibilities began to appear in the work of stewardesses. So, on their fragile shoulders fell cleaning salon, mending seats and even help in refueling airliners, which led to changes on some airlines. Uniform designers finally realized that women working at height needed comfortable clothing in the first place.

Nevertheless, many carriers continued to perceive cabin attendants as a showcase to attract consumers. By the way, in the 1970s, National Fly Airlines launched a scandalous advertising campaign with a girl urging her to "fly on it." National even shot a video that was shown on TV. “I will fly on you like no one has ever before,” the stewardess flirted in the frame. The result was not long in coming - airline sales increased by 23 percent.

In 1968, a new era of human rights protection began, and the U.S. banned marriage and relationships for flight attendants was lifted. In addition, carriers were no longer allowed to set age restrictions and to employ exclusively young female employees. And in 1971, men also achieved equality - since then they, too, could become flight attendants.

Meanwhile, in the USSR, the requirements for the appearance of stewardesses were as stringent as for fashion models at Paris Fashion Week. Each girl had to meet clearly defined parameters: height not more than 162 centimeters, weight not more than 52 kilograms, age not older than 25 years. So all Soviet stewardesses looked almost identical - their uniforms were particularly strict, and their hair was always pulled back. And even the shades of makeup were clearly regulated by the employer.

In addition to their appearance, Soviet flight attendants had to meet other standards: to have good manners, higher education, preferably in the field of medicine or psychology, to be sociable and stress-resistant.

Progress did not stand still, and by 1990 the only important condition for hiring flight attendants was a completed higher education. And then US President George W. Bush recognized the importance of the profession and declared July 19 National Flight Attendant Day. Later, the holiday went international, and now it is celebrated on May 31st.

Today, airlines set different regulations for their employees. And, in spite of modern feminist movements, they make mistakes in this, causing general outrage. For example, in 2019, the Norwegian carrier issued a 22-page document with personnel rules. It, in particular, contained a ban on wearing flat shoes without the permission of a doctor. In addition, women were encouraged to do certain makeup: to color their eyes, apply a light foundation, tinting moisturizer and powder.

Other carriers, in contrast, sought to get away from all sorts of prohibitions and requirements for the appearance of stewardesses. For example, the British airline Virgin Atlantic in March 2019 announced that from now on its employees are not required to apply for a job. A distinctive feature of the representatives of these airlines has always been bright red lipstick Upper Class Red brand Bare Minerals. However, the company management decided to give them "greater freedom of expression."

Photo: Shutterstock

And, for example, in March 2018, Hong Kong's flagship airline authorities Cathay Pacific for the first time in 72 years allowed flight attendants to work in trousers. Since the company was founded in 1946, the official uniform of stewardesses has consisted of a white blouse with the Cathay Pacific logo, a red skirt with two cuts, thick black stockings and black high-heeled shoes. If desired, it was possible to supplement the suit with a red jacket. However, members of the cabin crew association finally won the right to replace the skirt with trousers.

On the subject: Professional secrets: cabin crew told why they never get sick

Although some organizations still have not overcome the stereotypes about the appearance of flight attendants, it is much easier today to take this position than 70 years ago. If only because any person can now become a flight attendant, regardless of skin color, age, gender and degree of attractiveness.

The coronavirus pandemic irreversibly affected all spheres of human life, especially the aviation industry. Crew members were at risk of infection due to the fact that many people continued to travel even during an exacerbation of the situation. To protect their employees, some airlines decided to abandon their usual elegant uniforms. For example, AirAsia recently introduced new employee costumes designed specifically for the coronavirus pandemic. Other organizations at least demanded that all flight attendants and passengers wear masks and gloves during the flight.

Nevertheless, not all showed concern for employees. Many airlines had to seriously reduce staff due to financial losses, and their flight attendants went to work part time in supermarkets, and sometimes in strip clubs. Some experts admit that after a pandemic, the profession may disappear altogether, and later travelers will nostalgically examine photos of charming girls who tried to make the flight of passengers comfortable. In the meantime, the flight attendants who have remained without work do not lose hope and every day are waiting for the opportunity to greet travelers again and wish them a pleasant flight.

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