Aussie Christina Podolyan lifts the lid on the brutal reality of working as a flight attendant

Aussie Christina Podolyan lifts the lid on the brutal reality of working as a flight attendant
  • PublishedMay 16, 2024

‘The spirit left my body… It was the scariest experience of my life.’

A former flight attendant has lifted the lid on the brutal reality of working at 35,000 feet in the air — from graveyard shifts and “scary experiences” to being on standby on days off just in case someone calls in sick.

Christina Podolyan, from Melbourne, worked as a cabin crew member for three years in her early 20s.

“The job is not as glamorous as you think,” she said in a now-viral video.

“Even though I had an amazing time going to places where I never ever dreamed of going, it’s good like that if you’re young and wanting to travel… But oh my god.”

She explained how making plans in her personal life was always impossible due to unexpected schedule changes.

“If you ever dare think about a plan — let’s say in two weeks time, I want to have Thursday off so I can go to dinner — don’t you dare think that because the aviation industry will know,” she said.

“They will find out exactly what you’re thinking and they will make sure to roster you on a nightshift of that day so you don’t finish until 9am the following day.

“You would never be able to make plans if you’re a flight attendant.”

Despite having her flying roster a month in advance, she would end up not finishing work on time because of delays.

“So this month I would already have the roster out for June and I would know exactly when I’m working, which is so hard because I sometimes don’t come up with plans until the night before, let alone what I’m doing on June 17, forget about it,” she said.

“I remember a few years ago, it was Valentine’s Day, I finally had a date.

“I was meant to finish the shift at 4pm, which I was like, okay great, the dinner is not until 7.30pm and I’ve got a three-hour leeway in case something happens.

“We get to Adelaide, guess what happens? The actual engine had issues so we were stuck there for three hours.

“So I didn’t get home until 8.30pm. He was probably not the one for me so maybe it was a blessing in disguise.”

Christina has lifted the lid on the brutal reality of working at 35,000 feet in the air.

When she was not flying, Christina was required to be on a “call out” — meaning she would have to be on standby to go into work at any time of day or night if a colleague couldn’t do a shift.

“The aviation industry is 24 hours so you could be called out any time from 3am and you could be asked to go to New Zealand or something. Then again, that was not guaranteed,” she said.

“It just means you need to have your phone ready for them to call you if someone happens to call in sick and cancel their shift.

“Do you know the excruciating pain of being 20 years old? Being worried about going out on a Saturday night because you could be called out to the airport in two hours time.

“Sometimes I would actually make no plans purposely on a Saturday night if I was on call out on Sunday — and I wouldn’t even be called. Do you know how painful that is?”

Christina said there were times she was required to be on standby at the airport for when cover was needed immediately.

“They get two to three flight attendants at a time to just chill at the airport and they’d pay you an hourly wage which is unreal, it was awesome,” she said.

“Basically let’s say something happens, like a crew goes up to the plane and let’s say they break their ankle… then someone can swoop in, be a hero and save the day.”

She said making personal plans was impossible due to unexpected schedule changes.

One of the things she dreaded about her job was having to wake up at the crack of dawn for an early morning shift.

“I was working from 3am and finishing at 2pm,” she said.

“Guys let me tell you, when people say they get used to it, they are lying to your face.

“Every time I heard that alarm clock go off, I was going through the Great Depression.

“So many times when I was getting ready for work to start at 3am, I needed to be in bed by 7pm.

“So by the time you get home from work, you’ve got three hours before you have to go to bed again.”

However, she was struggling to fall asleep because the graveyard shifts were affecting her body clock.

“I would try and go to sleep at 8pm because that’s when my body was used to it but I wouldn’t be able to fall asleep until 10pm sometimes,” she said.

“Then I would start getting stressed that I can’t fall asleep so sometimes I would not get to sleep until midnight.

“I would get up at 3am to get on a plane. God bless this whole plane… if something was to go down, I don’t know if I’d be able to help even myself.”

Despite working a hectic schedule, Christina said her job took her to places where she ‘never ever dreamed of going’.

Christina said one of the worst feelings was sleeping through her alarm clock on the morning of her shift.

“One time I had a flight to Cairns and when you have a flight, let’s say 7.30am, you have to actually get to the airport at 6.30am so you have a team briefing and you’d go on the plane, you investigate and make sure there’s nothing (amiss),” she said.

“So I set the alarm for 5am because I just had to get ready, and the drive to the airport was an hour long.

“I remember I woke up and there was beautiful sunrise… I thought, there seems to be light for 5am… It was 6.20am.

“I slept through my alarm — and by then, it was traffic time…

“The spirit left my body. I got up from my deathbed, it was the scariest thing of my life.”

Fortunately for Christina, a couple of flight attendants were waiting on standby at the airport.

“Thank god there was someone at the airport waiting to go on the plane,” she said, adding: “People sleep in all the time and it’s the scariest experience ever.”


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