Confessions of a QANTAS Flight Attendant by Owen Beddall. 2014
I remember when this book was first mentioned to the group and it was described as being somewhat flatter than the title might have promised. I have to agree that this is not a highly specific description of what went on in every layover bedroom Beddall ever occupied – perhaps we should grateful for that. It is however, an interesting insight into the way of life of a ‘trolley dolly’ and doesn’t disappoint in terms of the fun party times that seemed to abound. In fact, it is a little troubling in terms of the sobriety of all staff commencing flights – despite whatever testing regimes were in place. Now that we have an ultimate example of mental instability in flight crew, this concern is real.
There are complexities though. We learn some details of Beddall’s personal background which is interesting if not gripping. However, in order to understand much of how he organised his life requires an understanding of QANTAS scheduling of flight staff and this is handled reasonably well without becoming too detailed. It was clearly a case of the tail wagging the dog and led to the gradually emerging concern Beddall had over the handling of his health concerns by QANTAS.
I have now been retired for 20 years but have clear memories of the growing concerns many employees have had since the 80’s over the growing perceptual gap between institutional employee group speak and actual behaviour at the coalface where individual survival and promotional concerns over-ride everything else. I also subscribe to his concerns about Unions that get too close to employer interests especially when the number of employers is relatively few or the few are giants compared with the rest. My experience with organisers of at least one Union lead me to confirm this and wonder where some or these organisations are headed in the future – whether their prime concerns are the root and branch interests of their members or political advantage of the upper echelons.
There are plenty of insights into the business of flying with which most of us can identify and some flashes of that legendary attitude we all associate with flight attendants. It is a bit difficult, however, to distance from the concern that at least part of the motivation for this book is a financial grab.