Diary of a Pissed Off flight Attendant

There have been several “confessional” books from airline employees in the last two years.  Some have been excellent – informative and interesting (Confessions of a Qantas Flight Attendant and Cockpit Confidential, for example).  Others are simply excuses to complain about humanity (E.g, Confessions of a Hostie). The title of Diary of a Pissed-Off Flight Attendant should give you an idea that this falls polemically into the latter. It’s a non stop scathing diatribe against passengers and then against other employees of the airline. You could probably just sum this up to say, “people are selfish’ and you’ll be able to skip reading the book. Unfortunately, the observations are neither interesting nor revelatory. You’re not likely to find something new here about people or passengers.

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The vitriol flies fast and free in the book – every disgusting or rude thing a person can do/be is covered ad nauseum. This approach works if the author is particularly witty or sardonic; unfortunately, as written the author comes off only as narrow minded and petty. There’s not enough meat to the observations and the supposedly ‘cutting remarks’ in reply to dumb passenger questions feel forced and unrealistic. It’s more of a, “I wish I could have been smart enough to think of responding this way” worded rejoinder that no one believes was ever uttered.

I know many will rate this low simply because it is so acerbic. But honestly, the writing is not particularly interesting and I think that is what most readers will react to – blunt conversation can be quite fascinating if written in an equally forthright way. But here, most readers will likely pick up that the person claiming to be blunt is prevaricating and embellishing. A lot of the events felt like they were amalgamations that she had heard about from other employees of the airline. There are no bon mots in here – the author just doesn’t have the wit for that.

That ambivalence is problematic throughout the book. E.g., complaining in one chapter when passengers don’t return a pleasant plane greeting but only a few chapters later complaining that passengers expect her to be cheerful all the time even if she had a bad day at home or something unpleasant was going on in her life is disingenuous, if not completely hypocritical. Readers aren’t dumb and can sniff out problematic writing like this.

The author uses “Sun Airways” but I think most will immediately recognize Southwest airways. That airline will always attract the budget conscious and so the clientele should be ripe with some very interest segments of middle class that probably wouldn’t be on Delta or American. But stories of toenail clipping and urinating on oneself probably aren’t that fascinating. The author’s preoccupation with hygiene probably make those situations a lot more noteworthy to her than for us to read. If those are emblematic of the problem with passengers, I don’t think the airline industry is in that bad a shape – nor do I think employees have a monopoly on disgusting behavior. But I’m not going to want to read “Diary of a Pissed Off Supermarket Sales Clerk” either.

For those that want a really fascinating observation on the ups and downs of being a steward/ess pre-and-post-911, glamor and reality, I highly recommend Confessions of a Quantas Flight Attendant instead. For those who want to know more about flying, from turbulence to the beeps in cabins, Cockpit Confidential is excellent.  This book, however, is too much like one of the author’s pet peeves – to quote the book, “diarrhea of the mouth.”

Reviewed from an ARC.

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