Flight Attendants

More Than Just Chicken or Fish

An edited version of this article appeared in Abu Dhabi Week magazine in November 2011. It no longer appears online.

With throngs of race fans flocking to the capital for the Etihad Airways Formula One Grand Prix next week, our skies are going to be full. International tourists aside, though, Abu Dhabi is a city filled with frequent flyers. Just about everyone in the capital – from labourers to the royal family – flies more often than residents of most other countries do.

And it seems a lot of those travellers love to hate the air hostesses charged with seeing us on our journeys in comfort. Stop the first person you see on the street and they can probably tell you a tale of woe about a flight attendant who didn’t bring their coffee fast enough or had the gall to serve them beef when they really wanted chicken.

But an incident this week serves as a reminder of why those air hostesses are on our planes at all. On a routine direct flight from Abu Dhabi to Melbourne just a few days ago, a baby stopped breathing. There were no doctors or nurses on board, so one of the flight attendants performed CPR on the infant.

This valiant young woman got the child breathing again and for the next two hours – until the plane could make an emergency landing in Colombo – the flight attendant gave the baby oxygen and did everything she could to keep him going.

We could say how remarkable it was that this “mere” flight attendant was able to effectively save this child’s life. We might also note that she did it not in hospital scrubs and orthopaedic shoes, but instead wearing pumps, a fresh coat of lipstick and without one hair out of place.

The fact, though, is that she was simply performing the duties she’s been trained to do.

So the next time we get on a plane, we might all do well to remember that – while they do want to see us comfortably seated and happily fed – the air hostesses who attend us are on board first and foremost to see to our safety. Maybe we could all give them a break, because if you stop breathing mid-flight, it will be their job to save your life.