TROLLY DOLLY DISHES

Cook­ing Katy Perry’s break­fast was just part of the job. So was get­ting bit­ten by sea snakes and punched by hun­gry hip­pos. Owen Beddall tells all in his Con­fes­sions Of A Qan­tas Flight At­ten­dant. In­ter­view by Jesse Archer.

DNA Magazine - - CONTENT -

Con­fes­sions of a Qan­tas flight at­ten­dant. Yes, there is a Mile High Club!

DNA: This is one juicy book! Did a defama­tion lawyer have to look over the man­u­script be­fore you pub­lished?

Owen Beddall: Don’t worry, the Ran­dom House lawyers have been over the book very care­fully, sev­eral times. This is a per­sonal pet peeve, but why the fuck does it take so long for pas­sen­gers to

board a plane? [Laughs]. It’s usu­ally be­cause peo­ple are so bloody slow and they come on with 50 ki­los of “es­sen­tial” in-f light lug­gage. Ev­ery­one wants to get drunk on a long­haul flight. What’s the best way to go about get­ting your­self over-served by a

flight at­ten­dant? Try be­ing nice. If you can find some sort of en­gage­ment and play to their ego, you’ll be lath­ered in Dom Perignon in no time. The most se­nior flight at­ten­dants get the best sched­ules and flights. So why are they always the most cranky and

snotty? [Laughs] Your words, not mine. It’s prob­a­bly be­cause they have been worn down by the chang­ing face of the trav­el­ling public.

Just be­cause you get off in a nicer des­ti­na­tion doesn’t de­tract from the marathon of roles you have played in-f light to get there. Plus, in re­al­ity peo­ple check in their brains and their man­ners with their lug­gage. A woman once punched you in the jaw be­cause she didn’t get her meal fast enough. What is it about fly­ing that makes

peo­ple crazy? I think that it is the frus­tra­tion of things tak­ing so long. You check in, go through se­cu­rity, pass­port con­trol and then sit around wait­ing to board for hours. Peo­ple are tired, ex­cited, anx­ious and very frus­trated. They then get shoved from per­son to per­son and some­times the first cap­tive staff mem­ber they get is the f light at­ten­dant. Their minds and fear plays havoc with them. I must say, though, in any other job you’d be ar­rested if you as­saulted some­one at work. Could you imag­ine be­ing mad that your ac­count doesn’t have as much money as you wanted and punch­ing the bank teller!? What is the num­ber one most an­noy­ing

thing an am­a­teur pas­sen­ger does? When they fin­ish their meal and just put it on the f loor or try to help by rearrangin­g all of the trays and hand­ing you them in one big mess. That, and pas­sen­gers run­ning to­ward you dur­ing board­ing with an “emer­gency”. In­vari­ably they were wor­ried about a con­nect­ing f light some 24 hours away or that their non-lac­tose ve­gan diet hadn’t been catered for. You men­tion giv­ing de­caf to peo­ple who want cof­fee so you can get them to sleep – what other tricks do flight at­ten­dants pull over on un­sus­pect­ing trav­ellers? Well, that’s a trade se­cret. But I will tell you one thing: there is a very good rea­son why those lights go out quickly on f lights.

Which air­line has the best rep­u­ta­tion? Vir­gin th­ese days. Un­der the watch­ful eye of my old col­league, John Borghetti. They always seem so happy and the com­pany has gone ahead in leaps and bounds.

Which air­line’s crew par­ties the hard­est? Bri­tish Air­ways, hands down. No one likes be­ing out on the lash as much as our BA friends. Sin­ga­pore was the big­gest party hub. At one point, you were off your tits in San Fran­cisco and went to the Qan­tas doc­tor’s ho­tel room naked, got down on all fours and propo­si­tioned him. How did you keep

your job? [Laughs] That’s some­thing that many have asked. I was drugged at the time. Let’s keep it in per­spec­tive. The thought still cur­dles milk. The book talks about Qan­tas’ in­fa­mous “kan­ga­roo court”. Can you tell us the worst case they ever heard? [Laughs] Prob­a­bly my own. No, se­ri­ously, I couldn’t pos­si­bly com­ment. Al­though I’m sure there is some in­ter­est­ing read­ing in em­ploy­ment tri­bunals for cases that went be­yond the kan­ga­roo court. Sell­ing smug­gled duty-free cig­a­rettes for profit is one racket one flight at­ten­dant had worked out. Is the pay re­ally that

bad? That was just to pay the body corp on her in­vest­ment prop­erty, dar­link! When you asked Katy Perry how you should go about mak­ing some ex­tra cash, she sug­gested pos­ing for mag­a­zine cov­ers – how is that work­ing out for you? How

much is this in­ter­view pay­ing, again? You had real mean­ing­ful ex­changes in the gal­ley with stars like Katy Perry, Cate Blanchett and Lily Allen. What is it about long-haul travel that al­lows th­ese peo­ple

to open up and share so much? Peo­ple are in a re­laxed state of mind. Ev­ery­one is go­ing some­where and they are some­what ex­cited or anx­ious. Add to that some al­co­hol and you have a chatty old party in the sky. You talk about flight at­ten­dants hooking up with pas­sen­gers in the toi­lets and pas­sen­gers with other pas­sen­gers, but did you join the mile high club? I’m plead­ing the

fifth on that. What would a flight at­ten­dant do if they saw two peo­ple go­ing into the toi­lets to­gether? Not much, join them. Se­ri­ously, you

“Bangkok is one of my most favourite places in the world but see­ing a col­league in jail there was pretty mem­o­rable and very fright­en­ing.”

have to be care­ful not to as­sume and ac­cuse so of­ten it’s best to just turn a blind eye. You gained 30kgs in the course of your ca­reer – was it all due to plane food? A com­bi­na­tion of food, par­ty­ing, age­ing, in­jury and just too much of the good life. Weight has always been my bat­tle. I re­cently called up Michelle Bridges and begged her to trans­form me [laughs]! You got a gas­tric band and lost tons of weight, but called it the worst money you ever spent. Why? I felt like it was forced bu­limia and I didn’t eat meat for five years. I had con­stant ref lux and felt mis­er­able. Bangkok was your route for a while and all kinds of hi­jinx hap­pened there from sea snake bites to waxing hor­rors and lady boy ac­tion. What was most mem­o­rable? Bangkok is a very spe­cial city, one of my favourite places in the world, but I have to say that see­ing a col­league in jail there was pretty mem­o­rable and very fright­en­ing. One fa­mous band of­fered your fel­low flight at­ten­dants thou­sands of dol­lars to smoke in the first class toi­lets – do those toi­let smoke alarms ac­tu­ally work? Yes, but I know how to turn them off. What’s the first ad­vice would you give some­one look­ing at work­ing as a flight at­ten­dant? Not to take it too se­ri­ously. Don’t

get caught in the com­pany pol­i­tics. It’s a fun job and you should use it to travel the world – shag your way around – and see and ex­pe­ri­ence things. Get into first class and bag your­self a rich hus­band ASAP. You en­coun­tered true south­ern hospi­tal­ity in Dal­las, but this one was pla­tonic. Do many flight at­ten­dants have boys in ev­ery port? It wasn’t ex­actly pla­tonic but it wasn’t a notch on the bed post, ei­ther. It’s so funny be­cause you see all the boys with their phones out on Grindr and Scruff. A lot of them pre­tend that they are part of some holy sect but, you bump into them in places of a loose na­ture [laughs]. A lot of fe­male flight at­ten­dants are chas­ing pi­lots or tro­phy hus­band-hunt­ing in a way that feels very Mad Men. Did it ever strike you as back­ward? It’s as old as doc­tors and nurses. I don’t nec­es­sar­ily think it’s back­wards but it is very funny to watch. Peo­ple hunt for part­ners in all sorts of premises. I think th­ese girls are look­ing for val­i­da­tion and find it in the, uh hum… cock­pit. You suf­fered a ton of in­juries on the job from a bro­ken back to deep-vein throm­bo­sis – and you never even crashed! Is it re­ally that dan­ger­ous a job or are you just very un­lucky? The job does have dan­ger­ous el­e­ments. It’s also a very phys­i­cal job and peo­ple don’t see that. A lot of f light

at­ten­dants carry nig­gles and in­juries be­cause of the fa­tigue and phys­i­cal­ity. The Qan­tas crew was en­cour­aged to dob in one an­other and be­came in­creas­ingly dis­en­fran­chised. Is this why they’re go­ing bank­rupt? I don’t think its the cabin crew that are send­ing it “bank­rupt”. I sus­pect that’s fur­ther up the tree where the cor­po­rate part of the job is com­pletely out of touch with the re­al­ity of the job. I don’t think you can run a luxury prod­uct as a bud­get prod­uct and ex­pect growth. In the merger with Emi­rates, you had to go through train­ing on how to ac­com­mo­date Mus­lims and one les­son was that if there is an is­sue it’s vi­tal to find a man to solve it. Has Qan­tas sold its in­tegrity in such a part­ner­ship? I would say Qan­tas has lost its iden­tity as the friendly, stylish and safest air­line. As you men­tioned, the f light at­ten­dants seem cranky, the des­ti­na­tions and the touches of world star ele­gance are dis­ap­pear­ing. It’s a com­pany that doesn’t seem to of­fer growth. I don’t un­der­stand the idea of part­ner­ship when they still com­pete against each other on the same routes and, more dis­ap­point­ingly, Emi­rates has more in­ter­na­tional points of con­tact between Aus­tralia and Dubai and the world than Qan­tas does, if I’m not wrong. In South Africa, an­other of your routes, you saw some har­row­ing things and noted overt racism on board. As part Abo­rig­i­nal your­self, have you suf­fered from racism and how have you han­dled it? Yes, I have. I have ex­pe­ri­enced it from both sides of the fence and I think you can only try and ed­u­cate peo­ple and make them ques­tion why they had such views in the first place. Do­ing this job has re­ally given me a per­spec­tive of dif­fer­ent cul­tures and that there are mul­ti­ple world view­points. Who are the worst – and best – pas­sen­gers, gen­er­ally speak­ing? The best are night­time pas­sen­gers be­cause they go to sleep. The worst are the self-im­por­tant no­bod­ies who f ly at all hours. Cul­ture and class don’t sep­a­rate them. This is your first book. What are you work­ing on next? I’m work­ing on a TV show called So You Want To Be An Au­thor? and also an­other book. We have had in­ter­est to turn this book into a film and I’m also ex­plor­ing that. For your next in­ter­na­tional trip, which air­line will you fly? [Laughs] Who­ever gives me the best deal. I’m f ly­ing to New York and Lon­don on Vir­gin Aus­tralia in the up­com­ing months.

More: Con­fes­sions Of A Qan­tas Flight At­ten­dant: True Tales And Gos­sip From The Gal­ley is pub­lished by Ran­dom House.

Au­thor Owen Beddall with celebrity high­flier, Katy Perry.

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