Why become a flight attendant?

The mystique of stewardesses has been around since the beginning of the occupation's existence. It's hard to pinpoint exactly why the occupation is so alluring. Is it the freedom and excitement of travel? The charming and charismatic image of flight attendants? The romantic notions of what a flight attendant may do during her layover? Women across the decades had their own reasons and motivations for getting on board as sky girls.

Prestige and Independence

When women first started working as flight attendants in the 1930s, it was considered quite an honor. In a time when female occupations were limited to fields such as teaching, nursing and secretarial positions, working for an airline had huge appeal. Not only did women have a chance to travel across the country and meet exciting new people, they also had the luxury of having a steady paying job during the Great Depression. Also, during this time the notoriety and romanticism of stewardesses developed as the esteem attached to pilots carried over to flight attendants.

Read a transcription of a stewardesse's welcome speech during her first flight.

Classic Picture


Many of the nurses who worked on planes in the 1930s traded taking care of airsick passengers to air evacuating wounded soldiers in World War II. Because so many former flight attendants went to the war, most airlines relinquished the nursing requirement for their flight attendants. This rallied many women to enter the field of commercial aviation as their patriotic duty to help their country.

Glamour and Style

Following the war, the image of flight attendants became increasingly glamorous. Mirroring the current social atmosphere, the femininity of women was emphasized more than the hard-working women of the Depression and War eras. Hourglass-shaping uniforms and the strict adherence to the unmarried policy created a 'girl-next-door' appeal to stewardesses. Male passengers, especially those on United Airline's male-only 'executive flights,' were particularly delighted with the polished, smiling stewardesses who catered to their every whim while in flight. Women who chose to become stewardesses during this time were often looking for adventure and yearning for a taste of a charmed life that, for them, was only attainable as sky girl.