Why do cabin crew have to deal with so much poo?
Updated: Jan 15
Cabin crew reveal the extremes of the bodily fluids they have to deal with.
Never have I ever heard so many poo stories… Poo in the aisles, the sinks and the sick bags. So why does a job that’s looked on with so much glamour, sound a bit shitty in reality?
I was sat with two of the most gorgeous people I’ve ever met in my life, both of which are living out their childhood dreams as air hostesses. “Do you want some slippers?” said *Anna, pulling out a huge stack of various hotel slippers she’s collected over 4 years of flying.
I admit, there’s way more cutting edge questions I could have pressed on with as a ‘harder hitting journalist’, but in reality I’m no Stacey Dooley and I just had to get to the bottom (pardon the pun), of the colossal scale of excrement they have to deal with per flight and ask...WHY?
“People underestimate what we have to do” admitted Anna.
We were all sat in Anna’s garden on one of the hottest days of the year. Charlotte* who has previously worked with Anna, gracefully poured us cocktails whilst they both flippantly compared their stories.
“Once someone did a shit near the exit door, which froze over in the altitude on a long-haul flight. When the plane landed, the cabin manager had to rip it off the carpet like a piece of Velcro, so customers didn’t have to see it on their way out”. said Charlotte casually, explaining that they see it all the time.
“I can’t remember the last flight where there wasn’t at least sick or shit” added Anna. “It can be a culture thing, when people aren’t used to western toilets. Occasionally, people will get confused and squat onto the toilet, pooing on the lid, floor or sink. It’s not always a culture thing though, some people will use their tray as a changing table for ease and then put a dirty nappy on the food tray when you collect it. We are not trained to do it, but we help out of decency.”
“Sometimes it can be really sad.” they both echoed. “Some people aren’t well at all and you can tell they’re coming home for the last time. People can be at their lowest and most vulnerable so it’s important we are there for them.”
“What if someone doesn’t make it during a flight?” I asked, I had never thought about it before.
“They’re covered in a blanket and if they can’t be moved to an empty seat, they have to sit in the same chair for the remainder of the flight.” they told me sombrely, as they recounted a story about a young dad who tragically went in cardiac arrest during a flight and sadly passed away.
Although naïve to admit perhaps, I had never really thought of things like this when flying. There I was casually drinking cocktails and laughing about poo, but I was discovering a whole new, much more serious insight into the industry and the helplessness that we can sometimes be faced with.
I started to feel a little bad for making them recount all these funny stories, some required a little more sensitivity than I’d thought I would need.
They agreed that most people are very polite about their bodily functions and won’t say anything. Poo will just be left for them to find like a nightmarish treasure hunt. They told me that “some people get so embarrassed they will literally be sick on themselves and won’t say anything.”
They continued to explain that some customers would rather not cause a fuss and feel too humiliated to ask for help, so sit for the rest of the flight covered in their sick instead. I get very travel sick, so can completely empathise with feeling unwell…but this feels extremely detrimental to your own comfort and self-esteem.
It’s safe to say that the interview actually changed my perception of what it’s like to work as a ‘waitress in the sky’ pretty drastically. In amongst the glamour of travelling and beautiful Instagram posts, there’s an entire workforce of dedicated and sensitive flight attendants, all too willing to help you at your lowest ebb. Within my childish questions about poo, I’ve found so much respect for the industry and the fearless nature of these air hostesses, who have the ultimate respect for the passengers they look after.
“Does dealing with so many bodily fluids change your opinion of the job?” I asked.
“Nahh…” they agreed without hesitation. “You can wipe away shit.” And with that, we finished our cocktails…bottoms up.
*Names have been changed.