Still dreaming of becoming a flight attendant despite pandemic?

CAL ground staff at Taiwan Taoyuan Airport Check-in desks pose for a photograph. (Courtesy of China AIrlines/Instagram)

TAIPEI (The China Post) — Not too long ago, the idea of becoming a cabin crew member in the airline industry appealed to many young men and women entering the workforce.

Imagine one traveling around the world, staying at hotels, and exploring exotic destinations — all while being paid! To many, the benefits of working as a flight attendant outweigh the potential downsides, which include experiencing long periods of time away from home, dealing with jet lag, and enduring long working hours.

Passengers disembark from a China Airlines rescue flight from Wuhan, China in this file photo. (Courtesy of the CECC)

In the past, working as an airline flight attendant was an extremely competitive job. Taiwanese airlines Starlux, EVA Air, and China Airlines have consistently reported acceptance rates of less than 2 percent, making it more difficult to become a cabin crew member in Taiwan than being accepted at Harvard, Stanford, or any of the world’s prestigious universities.

However, as the coronavirus pandemic continues to ravage nations around the world, times have certainly changed. In light of the plummeting demand for international travel, questions have been raised about the long term viability and reliability of such jobs.

Flight attendants from Starlux Airlines (left) and EVA Air (right) pose for photographs before coronavirus outbreak. (Courtesy of Starlux/Instagram and EVA air/Instagram)

Taiwan’s three international airlines are expected to survive difficult times due to various factorsbut the respective companies are for sure not looking to significantly expand in the immediate short term.

In fact, with the world’s largest airlines, including Emirates and American Airlines laying off a large number of employees, the future of the aviation industry is facing uncertainty.

EVA Air (left) and China Airlines (right) flight attendants pose at press conference donning their new protective gear. (Courtesy of the CECC)

But even for the flight attendants that continue to operate the minimal flights still in the air, their working environment is now completely different.

When on duty, most airlines require cabin crew to wear a combination of protective gear, including face masks, gloves, protective eyewear, and even full medical gowns covering their uniforms. In the air, flight attendants are not just responsible for aircraft safety and service as in the past, but also for the passengers’ health and wellbeing.

EVA Air cabin crew indicating “Doors Armed” with thumbs up, before and after the beginning of the coronavirus crisis. (Courtesy of EVA Air/Instagram)

In addition, their experience at the destinations they fly to has also drastically changed. Specifically, airline policies have changed to adapt to local regulations, meaning cabin crew may no longer explore the city as they have done in the past, but rather, must remain quarantined in a designated hotel.

It remains to be seen whether current arrangements in place will become the new normal, but what is certain is that the dreams of many prospective flight attendants may unfortunately be impossible to accomplish in the short term.