We spoke with TikTok’s favorite flight attendants about travel during the pandemic, what their jobs are really like, and their vision for a better future for travel.
Of all a flight attendant’s responsibilities, serving you drinks and snacks is the least pressing of their duties—by a long shot. Flight attendants at most major airlines are trained in delivering babies, hand-to-hand combat, and fighting fires while the plane is flying high above the clouds.
If you weren’t privy to this information before (and you want to know more), look no further than the world of #FlightAttendant TikTok.
“It’s our job to make sure you safely get to where you need to go,” says Travasha Winfrey, a flight attendant based in Atlanta who also happens to have over 271,000 followers on TikTok. The video-focused social media platform has given over 800 million active users a look behind the scenes of the sky-high profession like never before.
“It’s amazing to see over 1.6 billion views on #FlightAttendant as cabin crew like @nutmaeg and @lifeofasassystew chronicle their global adventures,” says Greg Justice, TikTok’s Head of Content Programming. “[They’re also] sharing practical travel tips, and teaching us all how to have more fun at 35,000 feet.”
Flight attendant content is so popular on TikTok that Sandra Kwon started a flight crew-related series on her account even though she hasn’t been a flight attendant for over 10 years.
“I did a series about my previous jobs and my followers loved [my flight attendant stories] so much, they kept asking for more,” says Kwon, whose TikTok @jeenie.weenie boasts 3 million followers. “I feel like it’s because it’s a career that many people have thought of pursuing. Getting to fly around the world and get paid is a pretty sweet job in theory. So to get to hear real flight attendant stories, facts, and what the job actually is—I think people are really enjoying it.”
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While the profession has always been a source of cultural fascination, there is also perhaps no job that has borne witness to COVID-19’s impact on the travel industry more than flight attendants. Not only have they been hit hard by staffing cuts and furloughs—the TikTokers have not been spared—they also experienced firsthand the dire situation airlines faced at the start of the pandemic.
“We went from full flights to barely any passengers,” says Morgan Turner, a 24-year-old flight attendant who goes by handle @_morgannaaa on TikTok. “Airports were like ghost towns.”
“We had never seen flight after flight with as few as seven passengers on the entire flight,” say Raul and Lolo, a TikTok flight attendant couple who were eventually furloughed on October 1st. “It was such a wake-up call to feel the repercussions of what was actually going on in the world.”
But many flight attendants continued on the frontlines of navigating an unprecedented crisis.
“We have been working this entire time,” says Jatsive Hernandez. “When people were in quarantine and working from home, we were waking up at 3 a.m. to head to the airport and get health professionals and military personnel to where they needed to go. We transported medical supplies, mail, and more. Many of us were scared to be flying, worried about what we could possibly be exposed to, but this is what we signed up to do.”
Though over 900 people have been banned from airlines for not wearing masks, Hernandez says that most passengers have been compliant with new COVID-19 safety regulations—and many have finally taken notice of flight attendants’ hard work.
“I have had several passengers thank me and tell me that they didn’t realize all the responsibility flight attendants have until the pandemic,” Hernandez says, noting that flight attendants are public safety professionals first and foremost.
In general, flight attendants are overwhelmingly eager to welcome passengers back to the skies. “I’ll never forget the day I had my first full flight in months,” Hernandez says. “The boarding process was a bit chaotic, but I remember looking down the aisle and thinking, ‘Wow, I’ve missed this.’”
Though many travelers have opted for alternative modes of transportation like road trips and short train rides, some flight attendants still believe there’s no replacement for the power of aviation.
“There’s just nothing else like it,” says Ammiel, a flight attendant with Frontier Airlines (he didn’t want to share his last name). “When that plane takes off and it’s morning time and the sun is just coming up and you pass through the sheet of clouds, you’re really seeing just how beautiful this world really is.”
Eight months into the pandemic, air travel isn’t anywhere near the passenger levels recorded before March, but the holiday season is poised to see a significant increase, and flight attendants are up for the challenge—in addition to the TikTok dance variety.
Below, we spoke with 10 flight attendants who’ve made a name for themselves on TikTok about their experience during the pandemic, what they wish you knew about their jobs, and their hopes for the future of travel.
Travasha Winfrey | @lifeofasassystew
“We [flight attendants] are just cut from a different cloth. We’re just a little bit zany, a little crazy. That’s just my personality. I was a professional dancer and professional cheerleader before I came to the skies. Coming from cheering professionally in the NBA and NFL—I love performing. I love making people smile. I always knew I wasn’t going to be a dancer forever, but since I transitioned into this industry, it feels like whenever I put on the uniform, I’m now performing in a way to make someone’s day great or performing in a medical or emergency situation, or whatever it is. I like being able to put on the uniform and be that person.
I went on maternity leave in February. I’m definitely missing passengers. I’m nervous about what it looks like out there… What I’ve heard from my coworkers is that the passengers have changed a little bit. It’s not as fun or happy-go-lucky as it used to be. I really do hope that that comes back. Ultimately, getting passengers safely from point A to point B is our job… but that’s not why I wanted to be a flight attendant. It was the other stuff: having an impact on people and making their travels just a little bit better. I wish that people knew that when we’re telling them to do something, it’s not us on a power trip. There’s a reason that we’ve been told to make sure everyone is compliant. I wish that people knew that we are people, too. We go through the same problems that everyone else is going through. There are people that are going through divorces. There are people who have had a family member die. But they’re working that next flight.”
“I wish that people knew that when we’re telling them to do something, it’s not us on a power trip.”
Kat Kamalani | @katkamalani
Salt Lake City, Utah
“I love waking up in a new city every time I go to work and getting paid to see the world. I haven’t worked as a FA through the pandemic because I’m on maternity leave, so I’ve only flown as a passenger. They are doing a lot to keep airplanes clean, passing out sanitation wipes, no beverages besides water. I hope that 2021 brings normalcy [back] to traveling. Airlines are suffering, but they’re doing everything they can to keep passengers safe. I’d still recommend washing your hands, bringing wipes, sanitizer, masks, and your own food just in case.”
Ralph Bediones | @rbedz
“I work for Cebu Pacific Air, the largest low-cost carrier in the Philippines. One day I’ll wake up in Dubai and then the following week I’ll be having steak in Sydney—all while meeting amazing people along the way. As someone who is really passionate about the job, the anxiety started to kick in [when the pandemic started]. So many questions entered my mind like, ‘Do we get to fly this month?’ or ‘Are we getting furloughed?’ ‘Does the airline file for bankruptcy?” I operated a Manila-Singapore flight back in August. A regular Singapore flight for us means a packed plane, but we only had seven passengers out of the 188 seating capacity. It was really sad. Of course, I stayed optimistic through the lockdown, and thankfully things are now starting to pick up. I can only hope for things to get better from here on out. [My hope is that] we will be more cautious when we travel and become more appreciative of the things around us. There are a lot of rules we must follow in this new normal and it’s really best to do your research beforehand. We all need a break from this seemingly endless pandemic and right now the best thing we can do to flatten the curve is to obey the health safety and standards. Always follow the health protocols not only by the airline you are flying with but also in the destination you are traveling to.”
Read all of our COVID-19 travel safety tips and resources →
Morgan Turner | @_morgannaaa
“It honestly blows my mind thinking about how things were only 10 months ago. I hope that things will go back to semi-normal sometime soon. I hope that people aren’t afraid to travel and fly because there are so many amazing things to see in the world. And I hope they can come up with a way that if something like this were to happen again, it won’t halt all traveling. I personally plan on going to Turkey [when it’s safe] and exploring!”
Anthony Robinson | @omgitstonyy9
“No day [as a flight attendant] is ever the same no matter what. The locations, the people, the interactions, the crews—I love that my life is always a new adventure, but being a flight attendant during this pandemic is exceptionally hard because people treated me as if I was a walking petri-dish filled with COVID-19. It didn’t help that I was flying back and forth between Shanghai and Beijing during the beginning of the pandemic. I want people to start traveling again [as soon as possible] because I do believe that the best gift to give anyone is the gift of travel. I want people to resume their bucket lists, their girls trips, their destination weddings… I will say that I hope that we keep the same cleaning standards that we are using right now.”
“I hope that people aren’t afraid to travel and fly because there are so many amazing things to see in the world.”
Edjamela Villasenor | @mollsayuste
“I’m currently working at Alphaland Aviation Inc. in the Philippines and my official title is Lead Cabin Crew. My favorite thing about being a flight attendant is the privileges like free tickets and hotel accommodation and meal allowance and being able to meet and work with amazing people. To still be able to fly through the pandemic and give my service to others is already a great blessing as a flight attendant knowing the number of people who have been laid off. Flying in this pandemic may be risky for my health and my family’s, but this is what I’m called for, to give my great service to my passengers in the midst of the crisis. [I can’t wait for] people to be able to fly again without fear and be able to enjoy new places with their loved ones. My advice for travelers thinking of embarking on a holiday trip is to care for others as you would care for your family. Simply wearing a face mask can go a long way. You are not just protecting others, but you are also protecting yourself and your loved ones.”
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Raúl & Lolo | @catchingflightsnfeelings
Austin, Texas & Washington, D.C.
“Our airline needed help from the very start of this pandemic. With both of us being so junior, we both took unpaid leaves of absence to try to alleviate the pressure so that hopefully our airline could push through and we wouldn’t get furloughed. Unfortunately, we were furloughed on October 1st of this year. Our lives have changed so much. We went from flying all around the world one day to being grounded for around eight months now and for the foreseeable future. It has been a struggle all around.
We always say you have to be a special type of person to work in the skies. There is so much simple joy in being a part of the passengers’ journey, whether that be sharing in excitement for their vacation, giving them travel tips and suggesting hot spots to visit, or being there to comfort those who are scared of flying or who are traveling for unfortunate circumstances like to a funeral. You get the pleasure to meet so many different people from all different backgrounds. There is magic in the possibility that each person that boards the plane can change your life or that you may change theirs. Being a flight attendant is a lifestyle that we love.
We can only hope that once this pandemic is under control that travel will bounce back better than ever. Travelers are not the only ones hurting. Countries that depend on tourism are taking a huge hit as well. We do hope that more people will travel sustainably, consciously, and respectfully. The world needs more travelers that will live by the quote, ‘Take only memories, leave only footprints.’ There are so many beautiful places that this world has to offer and we can only hope that we will all be able to continue exploring it soon. Stay safe, spread kindness, support small businesses, travel responsibly, and most of all, be respectful. Don’t wait until you’re retired or in the perfect situation to travel because one day the opportunity may just slip through your fingers.”
“There is magic in the possibility that each person that boards the plane can change your life or that you may change theirs.”
Jatsive Hernandez | @jatsiveh
“Being a flight attendant during the pandemic has been quite a journey. It’s been crazy to see all the changes that have taken place, the shift in how passengers behave on flights, going from having three passengers on a flight back to completely full flights. It’s been emotional as well, the aviation industry was hit hard and for a while, all I could think about was the fact that come October 1st, I may have lost my dream job. In a way, the uncertainty of it all has made me appreciate my career as a flight attendant even more than before.
I will never forget the eerie feeling of walking through the airport in March and April. DFW is usually pretty busy, there are always people running to their gates, kids screaming, people excitedly chatting with their friends, etc. But in March and April there would be times where I felt as if I were the only one in the terminal. For the first time in my year of flying, I would see more crew members than passengers roaming through the terminal. Many of my flights had two to five passengers total. The interaction between flight attendants and passengers changed drastically. It was almost like they were scared to get too close to us.
I hope international travel picks up quickly once borders open back up and the pandemic is more under control. I had many friends furloughed and would love to see them in the sky again soon. That will only happen if people start traveling again. I hope people finally take that dream vacation they have been putting off. I can’t wait to be able to do a full service again and interact with passengers like I used to. I miss chatting with the first time flier sitting in 12A, the couple sitting in 3D and F on their way to their honeymoon, watching passengers struggle to open the lav door and the laugh they gave when I showed them how to open it. Passengers can make this job stressful, but they also make it fun.”
Molly Swanberg | @flywithmolly
Minneapolis, Minnesota & Chicago, Illinois
“I’ve helped passengers grieve a loss, I’ve witnessed a proposal on one of my flights, I’ve calmed down an anxious flyer, and I’ve also held multiple crying babies. I love my job and all the chaos (at times) that comes with it.
It’s completely different now. Due to COVID-19, I haven’t worked a flight since July 22nd. There are so many new regulations that we have to follow. We get a temperature screening before every flight. We are not doing a snack and beverage service so we can limit our exposure between us and the passengers, and every single person must wear a mask at all times. It’s hard when you have to work up to four flights a day wearing the mask.
Listen to your flight attendants! We are there for your safety as well as our own! We don’t make the rules, we just enforce them. Bring your own snacks through TSA, then buy a beverage once you’re in the airport, since most airlines are not doing a snack/beverage service anymore. Finally, don’t travel if you’re sick!”