Thursday, November 29, 2007

Flight attendant retires after 50 years

Flight attendant retires after 50 years

By MARK NIESSE, Associated

Press Writer


HONOLULU - When Patti Smart was hired as an Aloha Airlines stewardess
50 years ago, it was a different job for a different time.

She rubbed elbows with Frank Sinatra, performed in-flight fashion
shows and danced in smoke-filled aisles aboard cramped DC-3s seating
two dozen passengers.

Smart, nicknamed the "Queen of Aloha," retires Friday after more than
a half-century on the job she started when she was 18 years old.

A lot has changed since the old days, when people dressed up in hats
and bow ties to fly on propeller-powered planes across the Pacific.

"You're supposed to have the same niceness, the same warmth, the same
caring. But it's faster now," Smart said. "In the older days, the
flights were longer so you had more time to be intimate with
passengers and you got to be very good friends with them."

Smart has the third most years in the sky among the 55,000 flight
attendants represented by the Association of Flight Attendants. The
most senior flight attendant in the nation started her job in 1950.

Smart was paid $170 per month for 85 hours of work after she was
hired on Jan. 28, 1957.

Today, as the airline's most senior flight attendant (they're not
called stewardesses anymore), she makes $43.50 per hour catering to
first-class passengers on flights between Orange County, Calif., and
Honolulu.

Hearing Smart reminisce over times gone by makes her job sound more
like fun than work. She laughs when remembering affable celebrities,
prankster pilots and a box-like cart that sheltered passengers from
the rain as they disembarked.

The job has grown on her so much that she's reluctant to leave.

"There will be sparks flying from my feet as they drag me down the
runway," she said.

One time, she got into a tight spot when her skirt flew out the
window.

As she was serving pineapple juice to passengers, she spilled it all
over her uniform. She changed into a pair of pants and washed out her
skirt in the lavatory. When she tried to air-dry the skirt by letting
it flap in the breeze from the cockpit window, one of the pilots
snatched it and let it fly out the window.

"I wanted to kill those two," she said. "I wanted to get their two
heads together and whack them. They were laughing and laughing."

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