Confessions of a Qantas Flight Attendant

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I was browsing through the bookshop inside the Qantas Lounge at Sydney Airport when I spotted this row of books in prime position, ready to be snapped up by travellers eager for an easy read on the plane.

It’s interesting that Qantas are so keen to show off the book, considering that this cheeky memoir is not just about what flight attendants get up to on the job, but is also a scathing account of what the author portrays as cost-cutting measures by an airline that has an uncaring attitude to its staff. Coupled with endless vignettes of high-flying fun, it’s also a unique take on Qantas’s human resources practices and its entry into (and exit from) different markets from 2001 to 2013.

Perhaps Qantas’s PR department hasn’t read it. Or perhaps they just have a fabulous sense of humour. Let’s hope it’s the latter.

The memoir, written by former flight attendant Owen Beddall and co-writer Libby Harkness (who also co-wrote Turia Pitt’s memoir) is a rollicking ride into the world of jet-setting flight attendants.

Ever wondered what happens to the leftover drinks from the plane? Want to know what they hosties get up to when they have a few spare days in an international city?

Owen provides a no holds barred peek into this world. And he spills all. Grant Hackett’s bizarre behaviour on a flight thanks to Stilnox. It’s there. The people most likely to join the mile high club. He’ll tell you. The “helpers” taken by flight attendants to get to sleep and avoid jetlag (we’re talking about the pharmaceutical variety). The fact that Katy Perry doesn’t know that London is in the UK. Yahuh.

He doesn’t hold back on his own sex life – and the proclivities of fellow flight attendants and pilots – and his own search for a long-term relationship.

I have no doubt that the Random House legal team had their work cut out for them when analysing whether this manuscript could result in multiple law suits. But it appears the result is worth it. Only released in July 2014, Owen says it’s already in its third reprint.

To be fair, it’s not just that it sports a Buzzfeed-style title, which is in itself marketing gold. The memoir really is packed with entertaining stories (Owen confesses that he would love to be the next Graham Norton). Libby Harkness has done a wonderful job truly capturing Owen’s voice. And the many comedic moments in the book are interspersed with some hard truths about how major airlines have to evolve their practices to stay profitable.

That means cost-cutting, which obviously has an impact on staff hours, wages and expectations. Owen is clearly bitter about this and the book could have turned into a whinge-fest but he just manages to keep the book focused on the light, fun and sometimes hilarious side of flying. Just.

The book will never be a hit with the literati (if they even acknowledge its existence). But it will be a hit. It’s an entertaining beach read. A fabulous gift for anyone who travels a lot. Or if you grab a copy to read on the plane, you’ll get off the flight with a whole new insight into what the attendants get up to in the galley behind that drawn curtain.

Confessions of a Qantas Flight Attendant is available now through all good bookstores.


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