Flight Attendants Practice Self-Defense

Self-defense Class i i

hide captionAt a training class conducted in a community-college gymnasium, flight attendants learn the art of self-defense.

Kathy Schalch/NPR
Self-defense Class

At a training class conducted in a community-college gymnasium, flight attendants learn the art of self-defense.

Kathy Schalch/NPR
Southwest Airlines Flight Attendants i i

hide captionBright orange hot pants and go-go boots were essential for flight attendants at Southwest Airlines years ago.

Southwest Airlines/Collectors Press, Inc.
Southwest Airlines Flight Attendants

Bright orange hot pants and go-go boots were essential for flight attendants at Southwest Airlines years ago.

Southwest Airlines/Collectors Press, Inc.
Flight Attendant Striptease i i

hide captionIn 1965, Braniff launched "The Air Strip." The campaign featured Pucci-clad hostesses doing a mini striptease aloft. The industry changed radically; skirt lengths shortened and campaigns grew bolder.

Harding Lawrence/Braniff International/Collectors Press, Inc.
Flight Attendant Striptease

In 1965, Braniff launched "The Air Strip." The campaign featured Pucci-clad hostesses doing a mini striptease aloft. The industry changed radically; skirt lengths shortened and campaigns grew bolder.

Harding Lawrence/Braniff International/Collectors Press, Inc.
Russian Flight Attendants i i

hide captionAlaska Airlines' Golden Samovar Service was launched to celebrate its flights to the Soviet Union. Hostesses, dressed as Cossacks.

Alaska Airlines/Collectors Press, Inc.
Russian Flight Attendants

Alaska Airlines' Golden Samovar Service was launched to celebrate its flights to the Soviet Union. Hostesses, dressed as Cossacks.

Alaska Airlines/Collectors Press, Inc.

Flight attendants have gone from acting as flying nurses in the early days, to hostesses, sex symbols, glorified waitresses, nannies, and now ... the front-line troops in the war on global terrorism.

Security scares have prompted crews to search, evacuate, or divert planes almost daily. The Transportation Security Administration has been training flight attendants since the end of 2004. All U.S. carriers also teach flight crews about self defense. In classes, crew members learn to follow their gut instincts and act on them.

Johanna Omelia is co-author of, Come Fly with Us! A Global History of the Airline Hostess. Her book documents an era when passengers would throw water on flight attendants so that their outfits would be see-through. In the 1960s and 70s, when the airlines were competing to lure male business travelers, one carrier even gave out little black books to passengers so they could write down the flight attendants' phone numbers.

Stephanie Pappas, who has worked as a flight attendant for 34 years, reflects on the change.

"Back when I was hired, we were taught to be compliant, taught to keep the people happy," she says. Recent security scares remind Pappas, that now flight attendants have to be ready for anything.

Comments

 

Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the NPR.org Community rules and terms of use, and will be moderated prior to posting. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.

Support comes from: