For many travelers flying in coach, the only glimpse of first class they will ever get is a peek between the curtains dividing each airplane cabin. But now, a former flight attendant is pulling back the drapes with a memoir featuring gasp-worthy, in-flight antics and celebrity gossip.
In his new book, “Confessions of a Qantas Flight Attendant: True Tales and Gossip from the Galley," Owen Beddall, who worked as a flight attendant for Qantas Airways for 12 years, shares how he was able to cozy up with A-listers on long-haul flights, as well as the less glamorous aspects of hospitality at 40,000 feet.
“People think it’s all flying mattresses and shagging,” Beddall told ABC News. “They don’t realize it’s a really manual job, that you’re pushing 190-pound carts in a tilting plane with screaming babies and screaming people and lactose-intolerant vegans telling you their dietary needs at the last minute. You’re a priest, a security guard, a nurse. There are so many different roles tucked into one.”
Beddall made the transition from flight attendant to author after suffering a work-related spinal injury.
“During a training session, I fell down the stairs of a 747 and broke my back,” he said. “So I went from this carefree lifestyle of a flight attendant traveling all over the world to an office job and taking on a corporation [for compensation]. I joked that the first version of my book should have been called ‘Confessions of the Satanic Verses’ because it was so dark.”
But eventually, after a few rewrites, Beddall was able to shift focus to some of the more fabulous experiences he had in first class hobnobbing with high rollers.
“I would say the most in-depth conversation I ever had with a celebrity was with Katy Perry,” said Beddall, who was granted permission by her and other stars mentioned in the book to share his anecdotes. “She and Russell Brand came on as a surprise, because usually there is a lot of fanfare, and they were very amorous and lovely together. I remember saying to him, ‘Clearly this is a very physical relationship,’ and he gave me a wry smile.”
Beddall said that after most of the other passengers had fallen asleep, Perry was unable to snooze and asked if he would stay up with her. They chatted at length about music and writing.
“I told her I liked to write in my spare time and she gave me a lot of advice on getting an agent, social media and how to run things as a business -- and I thought for someone so young she had her head so squarely on her shoulders,” he said. “Although, I do have to say, at the end of the flight, I said, ‘How long are you going to be in the United Kingdom for?’ And she said, ‘Oh, no, I’m going to London, England.’ So that was very funny.”
Pop artists were par for the course on Qantas flights, according to the memoir.
“Lily Allen was probably my all-time favorite,” said Beddall. “She was actually sitting in business class, but she screamed ‘celebrity’ and, ‘Don’t you know who I am?’ So I listened to her music and invited her up to first class. There, she got lashed up on cocktails, we did some facials together and had a very girly chat on the flight.”
Afterward, Beddall admitted to worrying that Allen’s overindulgence might come back to haunt him.
“I gave her all of this Dom [Perignon] and I thought, ‘Oh great, they are taking pictures of her getting off the plane and I’m going to get in trouble.’ But she actually blogged about me and the experience in a travel column not long after and it was very special.”
But while some A-listers like Cate Blanchett, who arrived “with all of these designer gowns” can come across “like royalty,” other famous faces behave strangely, said Beddall.
“There is this famous Aussie supermodel who comes from a very average suburb in Australia,” he said. “She speaks English but will pretend not to and would only speak in French on flights. She would speak to her suitor in French and he would translate to us and then tell her what we said and we knew that she spoke English.”
Others in first class take liberties in more exhibitionist ways.
“There have been many travelers who clearly enjoy entertaining people in the toilets,” said Beddall. “Ralph Fiennes famously shagged a flight attendant in the toilet on a Qantas flight from Australia to India. But he’s certainly not the only one.”