6 Things You May Not Know About Dating a Flight Attendant

March 7, 2015

I’m hurtling towards France on the Eurostar train out of London. Although I usually make an effort to look business casual when I travel, this time I’ve gone all out: freshly shaven, perfectly pressed tailored shirt, cologne applied liberally. Even my shoes are neat and polished to a fine onyx black.

I barely notice when we finally go under the English Channel. Maybe it’s because I had to wake up at 4:30 to get ready and catch the first train on the Underground, but more likely than not it’s because I know who’s waiting for me; the excitement I’m feeling after only a few weeks apart is more than I can stand. In this case, anticipation is almost more enjoyable than the moment itself.

The loudspeaker comes to life, announcing our impending arrival at Gare du Nord. No time for nostalgia when we pull in, just a quick visit to currency exchange to get the coins I need for the metro and I’m off again. My mind is still going from one feeling to another, but I focus on our last days together in Canada. We both celebrated with Sprinkles cupcakes and a visit to Niagara Falls, barely catching the bus back to Toronto. As cold as we were, it was nice to be with someone special so close to the holidays (not to mention escaping a rather conservative family for a few days).

Jumping from city to city, country to country, has always been a part of my life as a vagabond, and I often romanticized about finding someone with whom I could share these experiences. Hell, I did more than imagine it: there were years when I was certain I would never be satisfied as a solo traveler. Having a partner, both romantically and on the same journey, seemed like a far off fantasy. Ideal, but plausible? I had to give up on the dream just to stay sane.

Flight attendants are pretty cute too
“Flight attendants are pretty cute too” by Tom Purves

Now I’m living it, and discovering the realities of falling for someone who travels more often than I do. These are my impressions of dating a flight attendant for a foreign carrier based abroad.

Disclaimer: I will not mention which carrier she works for, her name, her home base, or all of her international stopovers to maintain anonymity. Nor do I claim to be an absolute authority on everyone who has ever dated an FA. These are my experiences and feelings on the subject.

1. Privacy is Easier

If you’re in an expensive city like New York or San Francisco and making under $70,000/year, you probably have a roommate or shared space. I know many people can make this work while dating someone, but sharing a wall with someone you may not want to overhear you while your significant other is spending the night is a bit of a mood killer.

Boston - Beacon Hill: Liberty Hotel
“Boston – Beacon Hill: Liberty Hotel” by Wally Gobetz

From my experience, when my girlfriend flies into the US, Canada, or Europe, she often gets 1-2 nights in a decent hotel covered by the airline. Although this means I have to fly over and meet her in random cities, the benefit of having a place arranged and paid for is not to be dismissed.

I should point out that these paid stopovers are much less common for FAs with domestic routes. They certainly get overnights in different US cities, but rarely two nights, and often need to return to their base at the end of a shift.

2. You Don’t Always Get Benefits

I’m referring to buddy passes, the wonderful invention by airlines to reward FAs, allowing them to bestow nearly-free tickets on friends or family of their choosing.

I used to think these were available to FAs and pilots on all airlines. Unfortunately, her airline only allows immediate family to fly free. This is hardly a deal breaker, though; it’s not like I chose to date her just because she was a flight attendant… in fact, we met in San Francisco when she was on vacation.

3. Stopovers are a Good Test of a Relationship

Some people start dating slowly, and maybe progress to spending three, four, five nights a week together before taking the next step. With flight attendants, you don’t have the luxury of being standoffish when it comes to meeting for drinks or spending a day together; she may only have 27 hours in a city, and you better believe you’re going to take advantage of all of that time. After all, her next stopover may not be for another three weeks.

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Stopovers are a test on both of you, as it requires planning; she may be exhausted or sick and not want to do anything but sleep when you first arrive (fortunately, my girlfriend is so full of energy 24/7 it’s quite remarkable). You have to make the effort to get a bus or plane to see her in a different city and forego work if her arrival is on a weekday.

Many couples in a good place haven’t taken the time to travel together, and that’s a shame; it’s necessary to discover quirks about yourselves, and to see how well you can stand your partner when you can’t escape. Stopovers give you a full day or two with nothing but time together: meals, downtime, dating time, exercise, leisure activities. If we had driven each other crazy that first time, I don’t think either of us would have wanted to meet again. As I’ve said on many occasions, couples who travel well together can last the test of time.

4. How Do We Meet?

Ah yes, the elephant in the room. The fact remains that time isn’t really the deciding factor when it comes for men or women to date flight attendants, it’s money. Money to book flights to see them when they have a night in a nearby city (meaning in the same country… or continent). I understand why some would shy away from such a commitment. Fortunately for her, I’m a travel hacker, finding the best deals, cashing in miles and points to get free flights, and even arranging a place we could both travel for her days off.

I mentioned my journey by train to France. What I didn’t say was that her stopover in Paris prompted me to take advantage of US Airways’ deal between Jan 15 – Feb 28 and book a roundtrip ticket into London and out of Munich for 30,000 points and $170. When she was in Toronto in December, I cashed in the 25,000 points I had earned from one purchase on my Alaska Airlines visa and made a quick escape from Dallas. And because her airline flies to the Philippines, we both met in Manila a few weeks ago, her on standby, me using United miles from Honolulu.

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I can understand how this is unsustainable to some, but I thrive on the thrill of meeting in foreign lands. Not only do we enjoy our time together that much more because it’s been a while since our last encounter, but often we take the time to explore new cities and countries together: we got soaked in Paris walking to the Eiffel Tower, drank some Tim Horton’s overlooking Niagara Falls, and enjoyed massages on White Beach at Puerto Galera.

5. How Often Do We Meet?

Her airline announces her monthly schedule on the 24th or 25th the month prior, meaning it’s difficult to make plans if her stopover is less than a week away, on the 1st or 2nd. We’ve gotten into the habit of meeting once a month for a few days, with a week in the Philippines for her vacation. And of course Whatsapp and Skype play a big role in the relationship.

It comes down to commitment and sacrifices. I’m willing to make the effort to see her on stopovers, and I know she appreciates it. In the next few months, she’s going to try to visit me stateside with her days off. I’m not pretending I have all the answers, or I’m completely satisfied with so little time together; for now, it works, and I’m happy.

6. Does She Wear the Uniform for You?

I honestly never understood this particular fetish, and feel embarrassed I even have to address it; thank Heather Poole for reminding me. Other than the fact she and I constantly travel due to the nature of our work, the fact she is a flight attendant is kind of irrelevant to the relationship. Sure, she shares horror and success stories from work, but she would do the same if she were an accountant.

Shenzhen airlines flight crew end of shift
“Shenzhen airlines flight crew end of shift” by Chris

Having been employed in customer service, I understand all too well the desire to separate work and play; men shuck off their ties after leaving the office, women slip into looser more comfortable clothes. Asking her to compromise that would be rather selfish of me.

So no: I’m not attracted to the uniform. Just the woman inside it.

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