The first female flight attendant was a nurse. With COVID-19 ushering in new realities, might we be heading full circle?
In 1930, 25-year-old Ellen Church became the first female flight attendant, then called stewardess, in the world. She was hired by United Airlines and was a registered nurse. She sold herself by convincing that United it would be helpful to passengers to have a nurse onboard in case something went wrong.
Other airlines soon followed and Church was soon one of hundreds of flights attendants hired not only for her good looks and short height, but her nursing credentials.
As time passed and onboard safety improved, nursing was viewed as far less important a flight attendant qualification than good looks, petite size and young age, which became the hiring standard as late as the 1990s (concerning weight) in the United States and still remains the standard in other parts of the world.
But we are in a new era now. Look at the new uniforms that Philippine Airlines flight attendants will wear. Designed by Filipino artist Edwin Tan, the uniforms are more about providing protection than on any sort of sterling.
“The detail is a subtle branding for the airline. We didn’t have time to print or embroider so we came up with the idea of mimicking or reworking the flag logo of Philippine Airlines.
“We used a non-porous material for the personal protective equipment (PPE). A material with substantial weight to give it a better fall than generic PPE’s.”
If we ever enter an era into which testing must be performed onboard, wouldn’t it be more comforting to have a certified nurse be the one performing blood tests and monitoring patient vitals?
Even if actual nurses do not return to the air as flight attendants, it seems flight attendants will be looking like nurses for quite some time…