Over the past two years, we’ve witnessed how resilient air travel and, especially, air travel employees can be. At the start of March 2020, everything was operating as usual—the next week saw huge changes like gutted flight schedules, with crew furloughs on the horizon. For passengers the flying experience changed as well, with in-flight service offerings removed and a federal mask mandate implemented.
As time goes on, the state of things seems to be improving. Airlines have begun to restore some of the amenities we’ve been missing, in-flight altercations are on the decline, and flights are fuller with an increasing amount of people ready for the vacation or trip they’ve been putting off for the past couple years.
We couldn’t help but wonder what it’s been like for flight attendants have been working through it all—and what lies ahead for 2022. Here, five flight attendants from various airlines share what they’re seeing and hearing in their cabins, and what they’re looking forward to most this year.
More leisure destinations
“In the year ahead many airlines have plans of increasing service to cities that saw cutbacks at the height of the pandemic, and we’re also hearing about a renewed focus on growing vacation destinations. With business travel not what it was, airlines are turning to places they already serve, and new destinations that attract leisure travelers and vacationers. In some cases, the schedule will be more robust than before with more departures than they had at the start of 2020. You’ll see more sun and fun and fewer flights to business hubs. This also means airlines are looking to hire again to staff the planes that are back in service, and their new deliveries, and I can’t wait to see so many aspiring flight attendants land their dream job and earn their wings!” —Abbie U., flight attendant based in Honolulu
In-flight service will be more personalized
“In 2022 in-flight service will be more personalized for the passenger and a bit easier for flight attendants—at least at some airlines. During the pandemic, some technological enhancements have been made to the small electronic tablets we carry. The app on those devices shows us everything we need to know about the plane we’re flying on and the crew we’re working with. It includes a passenger manifest and any needs a passenger may have such as wheelchair assistance, identifying an unaccompanied minor, and even pre-selected meal choices. You can see a schematic of the plane, tap on a seat, and all of the information we would need about a passenger is there. These updates also help out on the ground to make boarding a bit smoother. We can search passengers by name to help solve seat duplications and other boarding issues without having to bother the gate agents that are busy enough. This will be an absolute game-changer.” —Cheryl H., flight attendant based in Seattle
An easier path to elite status
“Once we get past the latest surge, you’re going to see airlines drop prices and try to fill up planes again. We saw travel make a come back through the holidays, but then it faded a bit at the start of the year. If you’re vaccinated and looking to travel, March, April, and May 2022 may be the sweet spot. Cheaper tickets can also equate to an easier path to gaining airline elite status. Look at the airlines that will award status based on miles and flight segments and not just on the value of the fare. If you earn it you can use it for the rest of the year and in some cases all of 2023. Some hotel brands also match your airline elite status to their rewards program giving you even more bang for your buck. For airline employees, fare sales mean fuller planes and less of a chance of us scoring an empty seat for free (or just for fees) but there are times where the sale price of a ticket is less than the fees we pay to travel non-revenue, so it’s worth buying a ticket to earn the rewards and guarantee a seat on the plane.” —Mike S., flight attendant based in Philadelphia
Booze back on board
“For some people, there will be sheer, undeniable happiness and excitement in 2022 when airlines bring back alcohol in the main cabin! I don’t know what it is about airplanes that make everyone want tomato juice, but I’m constantly getting requests for Bloody Mary’s. The unruly passenger numbers need to further decline, but it’ll be nice to be able to offer them to passengers again, within reason of course. Before 2020 the drinks offered travelers a means to relax and enjoy their experience, help them sleep or drown out the cries of a baby, maybe ease their fear of flying or celebrate a milestone or anniversary. We used them to thank passengers for helping out with a seating issue or as an apology when something went wrong. It’ll be nice to have spirits back when the time is right.” —Bill R., flight attendant based in Los Angeles
“Over the past few months, I’ve seen a lot of nervous and anxious travelers. Not because they have a fear of flying, but because of the idea that flying somewhere and enjoying a trip could possibly result in illness. But, during the holidays, I saw glimpses of what traveling was before 2020, everyone was excited to leave their houses and go somewhere else. People were talking to their seatmates and not afraid to converse, laugh, and connect. I can’t wait for 2022 to bring happy passengers back to planes again who are ready to experience the joy of traveling the world. It boosts the mood of the crew, the people around them, and really makes the whole experience more rewarding.” —Cynthia H., flight attendant based in Nashville