The simple answer is, yes … and no. Here’s the full story.
First crewlife is different from the average work life, for a couple reasons. First, when crews show up “at work,” the first thing they do is scatter to the four winds. No boss, no supervision, no oversight–gone. I always liked that aspect of my job as an airline pilot, especially as a captain: there’s no “boss”–except maybe me as captain–but rather, just a job to do. That job is flying, something we like to do.
When we as crew are out on the road, most of the logistics that the biz or leisure traveler need to worry about are taken care of: transportation, hotels, airport access. So, in theory, there’s the potential for some social interaction.
In “the good old days,” pilots and flight attendants were “paired” for an entire sequence, meaning, the cockpit crew and the cabin crew were scheduled for the same flights and the same layovers, sometimes for the whole month. If there was time an opportunity–say, the long Cabo layover, with open bar included in the hotel stay–there could be some partying going on.
We used to say on the Fokker, which had a crew consisting of two pilots and two flight attendants, that every trip was a double-date. In fact, on my F-100 captain checkout trip, I met a flight attendant who I dated for much of the next year.
That ended when I met another flight attendant on another F-100 trip and in less than two weeks, we decided we should be married. And we have been married for the past twenty-five years. I detail this story, plus many other pretty extreme pilot and flight attendant connections, here.
But truth be told, we’re the exception to the rule. While there are many pilot and flight attendant couples, and many flight attendants married or committed to other flight attendants, and many pilots with the same connections with other pilots, several factors have made those connections less likely.
First, the crewlife workday ain’t what it used to be: work hours are longer, layovers are shorter, and hotels are of lesser quality and the locations seldom in choice areas any more.
Plus, a few years back, the FAA instituted new crew rest requirements for pilots, but there are no such federally mandated rest requirements for flight attendants–a travesty in itself, but that’s another story. The end result has been that often, pilots and flight attendants stay at different hotels or even if they’re at the same property, the flight attendants are headed back to the airport after a shorter–typically inadequate–rest break.
Flight attendants are worn out from such brutal scheduling with too little rest. That kind of kills the social prospects of any layover situation. But there’s more.
Flight attendants tend to be outgoing, confident, adept at handling any situation, self-assured and practiced in the social arts from calming a passenger storm on board to leading their own lives with confidence and independence.
Pilots tend more towards the nerdish, narrow-thinking, dogmatic way of seeing the world. It’s kind of the opposite pole of the typical flight attendant personality. Pilots land toward the control-freak end of the personality bell curve and many are insecure with a strong-minded, independent partner.
If a pilot can handle the typical flight attendant confidence and grace–and really, who wouldn’t?–the results can be a lifetime partnership:
But then, there are also so epic train wrecks, and I detail them both, success and spectacular failure, in vivid, real-life case files in An Airline Pilot’s Life. Read it, and you’ll have a pretty clear picture of what exactly goes on between pilots and flight attendants.
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