This column's going to read like a goddamn paid advertisement for the airline industry, but this is what it's come to, because there's something uniquely grating about the widespread misconceptions surrounding the unrivaled achievement that is humankind soaring through the air. People will bitch on and on about how religion is a lie, but then they'll be afraid to get on a plane because rationality is only fun when it's challenging someone else's beliefs. So let's challenge yours. Or, to phrase it more kindly, humans may have evolved to walk, but ironically we're orders of magnitude better at flying. So here are the myths that need to die ...
5Pilots Make Tons of Money
Pilots are well known to be up there with doctors and lawyers and guys who make bullshit apps in the annals of Those Raking It In. Except, did you know that, according to the book Cockpit Confidential, ticket prices have declined in part because pilots' salaries have also declined 42 percent in the past three decades? Pilots make less than you think they do. And you know who else you can say similar things about? Artists. Hear me out ...
Because they're the same. Considering how hard and time-consuming and expensive it is to get to a place where you're allowed to take the controls of a $100 million airliner, the only people who get to do that job are those who have to fly. Much like the arts, it's largely the domain of obsessives who'll persevere through anything to live their dream, and much like artists, pilots are taken advantage of by an industry that gradually cuts back on how much they earn, full well knowing that they'll never quit and get other jobs. Professional artists are just the ones who survived the attrition, and pilots the same.
You can illegally torrent music and games until you're blue in the face, but artists will still be making music and games, even if it's in their spare time after 23 hours in the plutonium mines, because it's what they have to do. And you can cut pilots' pay to the point where they're so overworked they push the stick the wrong way in a stall due to sheer fatigue and crash into suburban Buffalo, but they're still gonna be lining up to fly. Because they have to. It's up to the non-artists and non-pilots of the world to not be gigantic dickbags and maybe not take advantage of some of the rare people in this world with a fucking passion for something, if only because you might be the one traveling on a regional jet whose first officer has to live with her parents and work a second job because you're paying her $16K per year to do something you'd never have the balls to get anywhere near.
4Flight Attendants = Sky Waitresses/Waiters
Imagine having to deal with the public every day (and if that's bad enough on its own, just skip to the next section). Now imagine having to deal with the public every day after a round of drinks. Now imagine it's set to the soundtrack of screaming babies and/or people bellowing indignantly, because not a single member of the public appreciates the realities of a life spent dealing with the public. Now set all this in an enclosed space designed by engineers and accountants (and idiots). Now imagine having to smile the whole time because, surprise, you're the face of the company. Now imagine having to selflessly leap to the aid of said unbearable members of the public should anything go wrong. Now imagine being exactly as scared of disaster as they are, except you need to be better than them because the public will look right fucking down on you until there is an emergency, at which point they will instantly shift to looking up to you.
Now imagine you first have to be one of the 4 percent of applicants who pass several interviews to weed out the idiots and then go through weeks or months of training and endless tests to weed out the cowards. If you're late once, you're gone. If you fail more than one test, you're gone. You have to memorize huge lists of procedures and get your training so ingrained that you will act automatically in an emergency. All that for the privilege of working in a confined space with the drunken, asshole public, each of whom see themselves as the star of life's movie and thus take everything personally, some of whom you would rather push into a fire but must risk your life for, and too many of whom look at your job and say, "Oh, I could easily do that: it's just waitressing." But the public could never deal with the public while waiting tables, let alone being responsible for everyone's safety at the same time. This is why you tip your sever 20 percent, and why you should be goddamn nice to the flight attendant you'll be expecting to save your life. Plus, like the pilots they work with, they're often so underpaid that they might actually be serving you dinner later at a restaurant as their second job.