23 December 2019

Getting to know the people behind the boarding passes

A TUI fly flight attendant describes the appeal of fleeting encounters

How many hours she has spent up in the air? “More than 2,000,” she says. “On flights to around 50 different airports.” How many people she believes she has been in touch with? Thousands! She has to engage with each individual in a warm, personal manner. This is one of the basic prerequisites of her job. However, she finds it easy. “You need empathy. Without empathy, you cannot practice this professions,” she emphasises. Marlene Schmitz is a flight attendant at TUI fly. She has worked in this profession since June 2015. “I had completed by university degree course in online journalism and was not entirely sure what to do,” she explains. “On a flight to Budapest to visit a friend, I spontaneously decided to become a flight attendant.” A decision she has not regretted ever since – despite or actually because of the many encounters she has at work.

“Many different people get together on a flight,” says Schmitz. “I have received innumerable suggestions from my guests, for instance regarding books the guests have just read, or suggestions on how to cook certain dishes or how to best wash my pullover. Of course, some contacts may occasionally test her nerves. “You also need a lot of patience”, she continues. And, of course, most encounters are fleeting – as if passing people in a pedestrian zone. And yet, time and again there are encounters with people that go a lot deeper and enable the flight attendants to get to know the people behind the boarding passes. The flight attendant remembers a flight from the Canary Islands back to Germany two years ago. “One of our passengers was an elderly gentleman,” says Schmitz. He told us that his wife had just passed away. The couple had been married for a long time, and during the final stage he had cared for his wife. “He also told me how much he had loved her”, continues the flight attendant. “He suddenly started to cry, and it was so touching that I started crying, too. I will never forget his comments about love.”

Some passengers can become real acquaintances above the skies. “One of our guests commutes between Fuerteventura and Stuttgart twice a month“, says Schmitz. “He lived in the island for a long time but had to move back to Germany for health reasons. And yet, he regularly visits his friends in Fuerteventura. He is our regular guest. Each time he is back on board, my colleagues and myself are happy to see him again.” Every encounter may lead to a new, valuable experience. “You never know that will happen on a flight. This is why flying is so exciting. I gain a new experience on each flight.”