Bankers, tax inspectors and social workers are among a growing band of professionals quitting their careers for a job as a flight attendant, a leading airline said.
Virgin Atlantic said most of its cabin crew now held bachelor or masters degrees in a huge range of subjects totally unrelated to the travel industry.
The airline said rising unemployment was playing a part in the changing profile of its staff, but it also believed that people were becoming disillusioned with their previous lifestyle.
Virgin Atlantic's Anna Catchpole said: "The economic downturn has encouraged many professional people to re-examine the things they once thought were important.
"With so much uncertainty, people want to live for the moment, so a nine to five existence to pay for a mortgage and a car no longer holds much attraction.
"Big companies are always urging employees to indulge in blue sky thinking, and now hundreds of executives are literally putting that philosophy into practice."