The wild “Coffee, Tea or Me” era of flying is long gone, but frequent fliers still want to know: is it socially acceptable to ask out your flight attendant? And if you can summon up the courage to try it, what are your chances?
“Good looks definitely help because flight attendants don’t have a lot of time to talk. But if you’re clever, you can still find ways to catch a flight attendant’s attention.”
- Cheryl Harnden, former flight attendant
We contacted Delta, Southwest, United and American Airlines and each carrier said that they have no policy preventing flight attendants from fraternizing with passengers.
“We trust our people to make the right decisions on and off the clock,” said Michelle Agnew, a spokesperson for Southwest.
Flight attendants say that fending off flirtatious passengers comes with the territory, but some admit that they are open to finding a mate, or at least a date, on the job.
“It’s not hopeless at all,” said Brian Easley, a veteran flight attendant with a blog called Straight Guy in the Queer Skies. “I can think of so many female flight attendants who have met their spouse on a flight.”
Melissa, a flight attendant who blogs and asked us not to use her full name, says that she has dated a passenger just once, but has a collection of business cards given to her by flirtatious passengers.
“It can be a hassle,” she said. “If a crew member responds to a passenger flirting it can create a situation where that passenger is perhaps 'too' comfortable. They start sitting on our jump seats, helping themselves to the bar, and hanging around in the galley.”
Cheryl Harnden, a one-time flight attendant now a stay-at-home mom in suburban Washington, D.C., said that her colleagues were open to meeting passengers but were also pretty picky.
“The guy had to be good,” said Harnden, who dated a passenger just once before she got married. “Good looks definitely help because flight attendants don’t have a lot of time to talk. But if you’re clever, you can still find ways to catch a flight attendant’s attention.”
Women love a good-looking man in a uniform, but men have been fantasizing about stewardesses since at least the 1960s, when wild stories about their supposedly debauched lifestyle began to circulate. In 1969, a soft-core adult film called “The Stewardesses” depicting a night in the life of some randy flight attendants was a box office hit, and a still-thriving sub-genre of porn was born. Last week, a raunchy video of two buxom blondes dressed in British Airways uniforms soaping each other up in a tub made headlines in the U.K. and the video garnered nearly half a million hits on You Tube, proof positive that plenty of men still fantasize about flight attendants.
Amanda Pleva, a flight attendant with 11 years experience, recently wrote a story called, “I Was Not the Stewardess of His Porn Movies,” after she dated a passenger who drew a portrait of her from behind, and then talked about little else but sex on their only date.
“A lot of passengers still assume we are living the ‘Coffee, Tea, or Me?’ lifestyle, which is frustrating,” she said. “The assumption of my role as a concubine is a bit offensive.”
Harnden says that she sometimes hated to admit she was a flight attendant because she feared how men would perceive her.
“Guys would think you’re easy, you’re fast,” she said. “I’d always get questions about whether I was in the Mile High Club. Have you done it? How many times? Even guys who didn’t know me very well felt like they could ask me questions like that.”
Easley says that female and male passengers also hit on male flight attendants, gay and straight.
“I’ve seen men who are married, with rings on, hitting on my gay co-workers and they will exchange numbers,” he said.
Easley said that he’s been asked out by female passengers about five times during his 16-year career, but that pales in comparison to what some of his female colleagues, even married ones, experience.
“I have some friends who are happily married and they don’t put out the- ‘I’m looking to meet someone vibe’- but they still get hit on non-stop, on every single flight,” he said.
Flight attendants say that business class travelers tend to be more flirtatious than those who fly in coach, with “gutsy, married middle aged men” and foreign men rated as the boldest. And most, but not all, say that a guy traveling in first class or business has a better chance of capturing a female flight attendant’s interest than someone in coach. A female flight attendant named Alex, who asked us not to use her last name, said that flight attendants are encouraged to spend more time talking to passengers in business or first class, which gives some the wrong idea.
“I do feel as if men in first class are more likely to hit on flight attendants because first class gives them a sense of entitlement,” she said in an e-mail interview.
Harnden said that some of her female colleagues wanted to work business or first class because they “set out” to meet a successful guy, but Melissa said she thought that passengers in coach might have a better chance, if they played their cards right.
“Amongst the 300 of you, if you are able to chat long enough to us to make us feel somewhat human for five minutes, you'd stand out for sure,” she said.
So if you have the guts, how do you do it?
Easley and Harnden agreed that discreetly approaching a flight attendant in the galley is better than putting them on the spot in front of other passengers in their seats.
“On a plane there is no space, and the last thing guys want is public rejection,” Harnden explained.
Melissa advises would-be Casanovas to give their numbers, rather than asking for a flight attendant’s about 30 minutes before landing, don’t ask where the crew hotel is, and stop pressing the damn call button. “And you have no chance if you've had an argument with the gate agent, or complained about other passengers, or have been mean to the other crew you're not interested in, or if you're drunk, or if you didn't our follow safety instructions,” she said.
Easley says that passenger-flight attendant fraternization has decreased during his career because his airline had a hiring freeze for years and most of his colleagues got older and many got married. American airlines no longer discriminate in their hiring practices, as some once did and as many foreign carriers still do, so flight attendants aren’t all young, single females as they once were.
“My airline just started hiring again for the first time in twelve years, so now we’re getting some new faces,” Easley said. “The passengers and crew are excited about it, so maybe the trend will pick back up again.”