Kate Simon: No frills, but there's still a thrill in the air
Sunday 20 November 2011
The American drama Pan Am, which hit our TV screens last week, is surely this winter's guilty pleasure, with its glamourous tales of life in the skies in the 1960s, when girdles and personal weight limits were regulation.
True, flying was for the few then. Many more of us can now travel the world, not least because of the rise of no-frills flights. But who won't watch the show and wonder at the width of those aisles and the capacious leg room, when today's flying experience often involves sitting hugging our ears with our knees.
Pan Am's portrayal of the treatment of female cabin crew has been its biggest talking point. This was a time when women had to resign to get married, and sexual assaults were expected to be sorted out with a handshake.
Of course, such discrimination would be illegal these days. As a spokesperson for British Airways confirms: "A person's looks have no bearing at all on recruitment. We have set uniform standards policy. There are make-up guidelines, but you don't have to wear it. It's about being smart and respectable."
Yet, I was interested to hear from my sister-in-law, Mel, who used to work as cabin crew for a major airline, about how important "looks" still were when she was flying just 10 years ago.
"A good friend of mine was dying to fly but she knew she wouldn't make cabin crew because she was about a size 20," Mel told me. "Over the years since, she's lost all that weight. Now she's cabin crew, flying long haul."
And it wasn't glamour all the way either. Mel did get to see many top cities, but she often found herself twiddling her thumbs at airport hotels. And the rigours of frequent flying took their toll on her body. "I lost loads of weight. My appetite reduced significantly. Everyone said I looked ill." When she realised the irregular hours were leaving no room for her to build a personal life, it was time to quit.
Still, Mel doesn't regret her time as cabin crew. "I saw a friend the other day and she told me an airline was recruiting," she tells me, "and I thought, you know, I never got to do long haul ...." There's something very seductive about life in the skies, even in 2011.
The Independent travel offers: Discover a world of inspiring destinations
- 2 'Heartbreaking' Syria orphan photo wasn't taken in Syria and not of orphan
- 4 Orthorexia nervosa: How becoming obsessed with healthy eating can lead to malnutrition
- 5 Bryan Cranston speaks candidly about wealth
Britain to take more refugees as Cameron bows to pressure after more than 250,000 back our campaign
Senior British politicians tell David Cameron: When dead children are being washed up on beaches – it's time to act
Jeremy Corbyn calls Osama bin Laden's killing a 'tragedy' - but was it taken out of context?
If these extraordinarily powerful images of a dead Syrian child washed up on a beach don't change Europe's attitude to refugees, what will?
Make your voice heard: Sign The Independent's petition to welcome refugees
If you're not already angry about the refugee crisis, here's a history lesson to remind you why you really should be
£22000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The fastest growing fitness cha...
£7500 - £10000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The fastest growing fitness chai...
COMPETITIVE: Guru Careers: A Marketing / Digital Marketing Executive (CRM, Eve...
£8 per hour: Recruitment Genius: The role is likely to be 4on 4 off, days and ...