With their immaculate hair, carefully-pressed uniforms and lipsticked smiles, flight attendants appear pure and wholesome. But behind the cabin curtains lies a world of sex, alcohol and dirty tricks. An ex-hostie lifts the lid on what really goes on when passengers aren't looking.
A light and a tampon for attracting attention
New cabin crew have initiation tricks played upon them, ranging from having the lifejacket whistle replaced with a tampon (awkward when you're supposed to mime blowing into it during the safety demonstration) to the Captain ordering them to go to the middle of the plane and jump up and down to help get stuck wheels to come down before landing.
Sex in the air
At the very back of long-haul aircraft, there's a little door resembling a cupboard that opens into a tiny stairway leading to some in-built bunk beds. This is where cabin crew sleep on long flights. Some enthusiastic crew have been known to have sex in there.
There's a concoction known as "jungle juice" a potent combination of spirits and juice or soft drink that cabin crew make for drinking when they go away. If you see a flock of flight attendants swaying gently as they check in at a hotel, it may be an indication they drank it on the bus from the airport.
Your room or mine?
Talking of hotels, crew may have room parties to decompress after a flight. This can include various drinking games, getting to know each other better and other shenanigans. Many a photo of a dishevelled hostie wearing a captain's hat has emerged from such parties.
Are you going to eat that?
The cabin crew might not be eating the same food as you. On occasion, they might even be tucking into a spare lobster from first class or smoked salmon from business class. Perhaps some untouched posh chocolates re-appropriated from passenger trays. Official crew food, however, isn't all that different from economy fare.
Thou shalt not fart
There's an unwritten rule that crew must never break wind in the galley. In such a constricted space, that would be downright anti-social. Instead, there's an unofficial long-haul manoeuvre known as crop-dusting, in which the offending flight attendant slowly releases the pressure from their gut while wandering through the cabin. This is not covered during training but learned on the job.
In the event of an emergency
If you hear the pilot say something like "will the senior cabin crew member report to the flight deck immediately" over the PA system, say a prayer read your safety card. This is an alert for an emergency, before the pilots brief cabin crew on a plan of action. Don't start screeching and grab your lifejacket yet though — your best chance is to stay in your seat and listen to the crew's instructions.
If you feel rather flushed on a night flight, it may be because the crew have turned up the heating as a way of getting passengers to go to sleep instead of ringing those damn call buttons with relentless requests for drinks. This is generally quite an effective technique.
Vomit and much, much worse
The job can be dirty for cabin crew: being handed bags of vomit or dirty nappies, for example. Or dealing with bathrooms that have been mistaken for squat toilets or thrown up in. There are stories of burst colostomy bags and violent gastro bugs. You get the picture.
The Mile High Club
Passengers do join the Mile High Club. Most often in the toilets. The giveaway is the flimsy door vibrating (plus occasional grunts and queue outside). On more than one occasion, I had to interrupt with a knock and innocent "Are you okay in there?" Sexy? Romantic? Hygienic? I think not. Get a room.
Fancy an upgrade?
You might slip through the curtain, sink into the back row and think you’ve got away with it. But trust me, you haven’t. The crew have a passenger list that tells them exactly who is sitting where. If you get an upgrade, that’s fine, but otherwise don’t take what you haven’t paid for. And beware the walk of shame as you’re marched back to your rightful seat.
*the author's flying career was based in the UK and ended in 2000, so some of this information may be out of date/location.