During a layover, I had an honest chat with a flight attendant and pilot about how lonely this job can be. It was comforting to hear other crewmembers talk about the lifestyle’s impact on their social life, since I thought I was the only one. It was also disheartening to realize that we don’t talk about this enough in aviation circles.
I’ve always been comfortable in my own company. Whether it’s catching a new movie, trying out a restaurant or traveling across the globe, being solo was never a huge problem for me. This personality trait has benefited me in this line of work but to put it plainly, I can feel so lonely at times.
Talking to passengers and getting to know the other crewmembers throughout the work day is wonderful. I can start the day talking to a New York Times photographer about shooting the most expensive property in Manhattan. The next flight will lead me to a seven-year-old who’s excited to spend the summer with his grandma. Even hearing the captain’s dramatic recap of his second failed marriage on the hotel shuttle is entertaining. But the feeling of ending your day in an empty hotel room with no familiar human contact can drain you of the joy you felt a few hours prior.
Things don’t always get better upon your return home. Friends that work traditional hours are not available on a Tuesday morning, so asking them to hang out seems pointless. Not to mention the post-trip coma that can occur after a tough week. Four long days of weather reroutes, angry passengers, and little sleep can cause flight attendants to shut down a bit at home. But when does alone time become unhealthy?
The impacts of conditioning yourself to be alone are pretty visible. Social settings seem a bit daunting and less effort is made to see loved ones. It’s as if you’re in a bubble that no one can get into.
I was hesitant to talk about this drawback of the job in fear that it would sound like a whiny complaint. I was worried that I would have to defend why I continue to fly, knowing that it can put me into such a mood. The chat with the other crewmembers gave me the confidence to speak about it.
We didn’t feel the need to explain to each other why we keep the job – we already know how lovely the fun flights and perks can be. Instead, we shared our own personal ways of self-soothing in those lonely moments. Whether it’s an intense gym workout, calling a loved one back home or giving yourself the freedom to just feel somber in that moment, a healthy output for your emotions is essential in the flight life.
After four years in the sky, the love and excitement are still there for me. However, every profession has its disadvantages and learning to deal with bouts of loneliness is one that keeps fly girls and guys grounded and appreciative of the great days.
Crewmembers! How do you deal with the lonely days? Comment below!