A passenger chased me through the galley of the plane – for cabin crew this is just a normal day at the office | Anonymously

lI’ve worked as a cabin crew for six years and I’ve never been so exhausted. I’m not the kind of person who usually suffers from fatigue, but the crew faces catastrophic and persistent levels of understaffing. Despite what you may hear about the travel chaos facing hard-working families who just want to get away for a well-deserved half-year break, are being asked to travel with hand luggage only to try and reduce the huge delays and cancellations, the pandemonium at UK airports is not only affecting passengers.

Crew members are flying more than ever. Our hours are longer, our schedule more grueling and we pay a pittance. Working for airlines used to be about luxury and glamour. Now many of us can’t even afford to live near the airports, so we drive for hours to get home from long-haul flights with dangerously little sleep. Crew members are so tired they get into accidents – private social media groups are full of tips for staying awake behind the wheel.

That level of fatigue can only last so long. Days and days of early starts followed by long haul flights wear you out, so the crew calls in sick. There is a lot of bitterness and anger at the airlines, who used Covid lockdowns as an excuse to lay off so many of us. Bosses offer us cash to recommend new hires – and we’ve heard airlines drop flyers through doors trying to get everyone to apply for job openings. But getting people to fill the jobs our union has told us is proving such a challenge that our airline is considering raising wages for new recruits — which is a huge slap in the face to the rest of us. There is talk of a strike.

We’re used to dealing with difficult passengers, but travel chaos has an annoying side effect. Customers are always more aggressive when they’re having a hard time at the airport, and as a cabin crew, you’re the next person in a uniform they’ll see. Recently, on a flight, a man chased me screaming through the galley after the captain announced that delays would mean some passengers would miss their connecting flights.

Pressure on travel companies may have gotten worse after the pandemic, but it’s hard to feel sympathy for airlines. Government lockdowns have been tough on the travel industry, but look how we’ve bounced back. Environmentalists may think people are going to fly less to fight the climate crisis, but in reality, people desperately want to escape their problems and have a little vacation. The current high demand proves that once again. Airlines bosses were openly angry when the transportation secretary, Grant Shapps, told them to… stop selling flights and vacations they couldn’t live up to because they didn’t get enough help to recover from the pandemic. But from where I stand, I don’t see how this travel chaos is the fault of anyone other than the airlines – when people line up to spend their money, but they don’t have the product to meet that demand. to fulfil.

Brexit has certainly been a barrier to filling staff shortages – many crew members came from Europe. But the real obstacle to hiring is that many people don’t want to work for the pittance that airlines offer. The days of the six-figure legacy crew are long gone. There is a feeling among current employees that the pandemic was a convenient excuse to evict the last senior members on expensive contracts. My colleagues are angry, especially at the idea that new recruits might get more money. The incentive to bring others on board has infuriated people. We wonder, if they have all that money, why can’t they pay us more?

After the pandemic there has been a shift in the way we look at work, people have become more critical of what kind of jobs they are willing to accept and at what cost. But it’s not just about the money. The working conditions you will have to deal with are no longer a secret. People want more from life.

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