Do Older Flight Attendants Get a Bad Rap?

And remember how an American Airlines pilot fell ill in midair last fall? His seat in the cockpit was filled by a 61-year-old flight attendant who happened to have a pilot"s license and coolly helped to land the plane. Airline officials praised her assistance as "outstanding."

Let"s go back a little further. On that "Miracle on the Hudson" flight, once Capt. Chesley "Sully" Sullengberger landed the plane in the river, who do you think got all those passengers out safely? The three female flight attendants, that"s who - ages 51, 57 and 58.

If some of today"s older flight attendants seem a little grumpy, you might be too if you lost as much pay as they have. After adjusting for inflation, their median hourly wages dropped by 26 percent between 1980 and 2007 (while median hourly wages of all U.S. workers rose by 13 percent). Some flight attendants said their earnings dropped by a third after 9/11.

Some argue that today's flight attendants don"t have to do as much. While it's true many airlines no longer have blankets to pass out and there are no more hot meals in domestic coach, that's always been the least of it. The main responsibility of flight attendants is safety - yours and mine.

Plus they have lots of other things to worry about, such as the 50-year-old passenger who allegedly kicked and spat on flight attendants (on US Airways in March); the 61-year-old passenger who violently grabbed a flight attendant forcing her to seek medical treatment (on United in April); or the 65-year-old woman who "forgot" she boarded her American flight with a loaded gun (and where were you, TSA?); and the 53-year-old passenger who allegedly would not quit playing "Words With Friends" and was given the boot (yes, you, Alec Baldwin).

Next time you board your plane, try smiling at your flight attendants. Maybe they won"t notice. Or maybe it"ll make a world of difference.

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