Saturday 18 November 2017

Tales from the mile-high club

In her 20 years as an air hostess, Sara Keagle has seen it all – from passengers clipping their toenails to incontinence – writes John CostelloThe shocking stories include tailes of toenail cutting mid-flight. . .

Pan Am stars Christina Ricci, Kelli Garner (Kate), Karine Vanasse (Colette), Margot Robbie (Laura). RTÉ Two
Pan Am stars Christina Ricci, Kelli Garner (Kate), Karine Vanasse (Colette), Margot Robbie (Laura). RTÉ Two

Adult nappies, smelly socks and blankets covered in boogers hardly spring to mind when considering a career as an air hostess. But while many of us like to complain about the shoddy treatment we get from airline staff, it appears having to spend your working life enduring the behaviour of some airline passengers is far worse.

So, in order to turn the tables, one air hostess has decided to pull back the hatch on the gross behaviour perpetrated by some passengers while mid-flight.

Stewardess Sara Keagle, who has two decades of in-flight experience, has compiled a long list of sordid stories from her fellow flight attendants to reveal just how nasty passenger behaviour can be.

The shocking stories include tales of toenail cutting mid-flight, walking barefoot around the cabin and baby nappies being changed on tray tables. But be warned – these are just the mild ones.

Indeed, after signing up to become an air hostess thinking it would be glamorous, it wasn't long before Keagle's illusions were shattered.

On her second trip, wearing a crisp new uniform with her hair pulled back into a neat French twist, a passenger asked if she could help heat up a baby bottle. "I knew just what to do," Keagle wrote in her tell-all blog. "All I needed was a sick bag so I could fill it with hot water. I reached into a seat back pocket, grabbed a sick bag and pushed my hand inside to open it up. As I felt the warm, oatmeal consistency of its contents, the glamour ended."

However, when she asked her fellow co-workers to share the grossest things that had ever happened to them, after she had dipped her hand in a fully loaded sick bag, their replies shocked even her.

A colleague told of a passenger she found sitting on the jump seat at the back of the plane while waiting to use the lavatory, which was engaged at the time.

When she told him he could not sit there he took a few moments before standing up and walking back to his seat.

When the air hostess later sat into the jump seat as the airplane prepared to land, she discovered it was soaking wet. It was only then she realised that the passenger had peed on it.

But the tales of sick sky-high shenanigans get worse.

One passenger sitting in first-class took off his pair of soggy socks and put them over the air vent above his seat in an attempt to dry them. Soon passengers all the way back in the economy class were complaining about the pong.

Now there is no doubt stinky socks in a confined space are pretty gross, but soiled underwear is a whole other level of horribleness.

This is something Keagle can concur with. Once when she was helping clean out a plane in between flights, she reached into a seat pocket and came across a pair of dirty panties that had been secretly stuffed inside.

Worse still, another crew member came across an adult nappy left on top of the toilet seat in the plane's lavatory.

So no matter how much we complain about luggage charges and the lousy attitudes of some airline staff, it is a wonder how many air hostesses can stick the behaviour of passengers given the long hours and relatively low pay they have to endure.

But it is the fact that some customers seem totally oblivious to the foulness of their behaviour that's most shocking.

Keagle heard that one woman took off her shoes and socks, whipped out a foot file and promptly began giving herself a pedicure mid flight.

By the time she had finished, she had collected quite a mound of foot shavings, which she collected together, strolled up to the waste paper basket and emptied in front of an airhostess.

And while airline food isn't alwasy the tastiest, one first-class passenger's alternative was far more stomach churning. Unbelievably a stewardess reported seeing the 'gent' picking something of his bare feet and eating it.

Despite amassing such a horde of horrendously horrible stories, Keagle is still confident there are many more being created on a daily basis.

So the next time you encounter a grouchy steward or an angry air hostess, maybe consider giving them a break. After all, you never know what in-flight horror they have just had to deal with.

Sara Keagle's blog can be read at

Irish Independent

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