Kara Mulder, an accomplished flight attendant and the creative force behind the popular Flight Attendant Life blog, has leveraged her relentless curiosity and passion for travel into successful roles as both a private jet flight attendant and freelance writer. USTN spoke to Kara about her varied career in the skies and how flying has changed in recent years.
What airline has been your favorite to fly with, and why?
Due to working in both commercial and corporate aviation, I have experienced a broad sampling of air travel. Still, I don’t have a favorite airline. I think different airlines provide different strengths and weaknesses to travelers, and I usually choose an airline based on the following criteria:
Direct routes: Flying Point A to Point B
Airline safety rating: This is more critical when flying outside of the United States with carriers that may not maintain exemplary safety standards.
Departure and arrival times: Are the times reasonable?
Ticket pricing: Is the price within a travel budget?
One thing I've learned is that airlines evolve, just like any other business. United Airlines, for example, has recently impressed me with its enhanced customer service efforts, both inflight and baggage claim resolutions.
How do you think being a flight attendant has been impacted by the pandemic?
When the pandemic hit, I was a corporate flight attendant, and the experience was surreal and challenging in General Aviation, but luxury air travel seemed to resettle at a much quicker rate than the airline sector. The high-net-worth clientele returned to “normal,” which wasn’t the same as pre-pandemic but recognizable due to the familiar high expectations that remained. Security changed and regulations became more strict in some cases, but overall, aviation is very cyclical. The pandemic made a lot of people a lot of money which was apparent in the uptick of private jet travel after the pandemic (which is now tapering some due to the economy).
From my observations, airline flight attendants had a very different experience. I think the pandemic hurt people in ways we will never truly understand. The stressors of financial stress, health concerns, and travel anxiety often bubble up on airplanes, for flight attendants to manage. Flight attendants not only deal with their own mental and emotional concerns but navigate the personalities of three-hundred human beings a day. I’d guess it’s incredibly challenging to be an airline flight attendant post-pandemic. I loved my time working for the airlines, but I don’t think I have the grit anymore to be airline crew. (Bravo and thank you to Airline Crew!)
What are the most rewarding and least enjoyable parts of being a flight attendant?
Working in corporate aviation, the personal ownership in my success, interpersonal interactions with crew and guests, and creativity involved in the job are immensely rewarding. Unlike airlines where crew might feel like a statistic, general aviation is much more personal and self-directed. However, health impacts, from irregular sleep patterns to radiation exposure, pose significant challenges. Navigating the demands requires dedication and resilience.
Many people have said that the golden age of aviation is behind us, do you still think that being a flight attendant is a glamorous career?
The concept of glamour in aviation has shifted with the industry's growth. In the past, the allure of air travel contributed to a perception of flight attendants as glamorous figures. Today, the industry places paramount importance on professionalism, service excellence, and passenger safety. This evolution aligns with the growing emphasis on aviation as a means of efficient transportation rather than a purely luxurious experience. Flight attendants are skilled professionals dedicated to ensuring safe, comfortable, and efficient journeys for passengers. While the golden age of aviation might be behind us, I believe satisfaction and joy can still be found in being a flight attendant.
However, aviation is no longer a golden ticket to see the world, especially when working at the airlines. Short layovers, low pay, and the impact on health are important to consider.
I’ve contemplated often people find being a flight attendant glamorous, and one hypothesis I have is this: When someone is a professional, their work appears effortless. Throw in travel, beauty, and mystique from a bygone era, and you have concocted a perception of glamour. More accurately, being a flight attendant is hard work with unbelievable perks. Still, my biggest regret is that I didn’t become a professional pilot.
What do most people not know about being a flight attendant?
Contrary to common assumptions, the flight attendant community is incredibly diverse in terms of educational background and career experience. Many of my colleagues and acquaintances pursued higher education and had successful careers in other industries before transitioning to aviation. The allure of becoming a flight attendant lies in the unique blend of freedom and variety the role offers. While it might seem unconventional, the opportunity to explore new destinations and embrace a dynamic work environment drew many of us away from traditional 9-to-5 jobs and into the skies.
Is there a strong work environment for flight attendants, do you think airlines do enough to protect flight attendants?
Regarding this question, I can only speak to the airline experience I have that spanned between 2008-2016. I worked for airlines that did not have unions and at the time, believed the airline treated crew fairly. While unions can provide the necessary protection, they sometimes prioritize seniority over recognizing individual excellence. In the corporate aviation sector, where I currently operate, there are fewer formal protections in place. This dynamic presents both challenges and opportunities. The lack of extensive safeguards might be intimidating, but it also empowers dedicated professionals to truly shine. In a world where job security is rooted in genuine commitment and exceptional work ethics, individuals thrive because they genuinely care about their roles.