Amy Hirschi » Photography // Travel // Lifestyle

Why I quit my airline job

Ok, for those of you who don’t know, before I started this amazing business I had an airline job. I took calls for them for one year and four months and I worked full time. Delta was a good company to work for, and I owe them most of my travel experiences. I’m not here to tell you not to have an airline job, I’m just here to lay out the facts of what to think about before you accept that job, the pros, the cons, and why I decided to drop that dream and chase a new one. I just get asked A LOT about what it was like there and people wonder if they would like it.

So I get this all the time…

“How do you afford to travel SO much??” or “I would do anything for free flights! How could you leave that job?”

Well how we afford to travel is extremely wrapped up into this old job I had. As a airline employee you DO get free standby flights! It was a dream come true. I started applying to work for Delta before I even graduated from high school. And on my fourth try, I finally got an interview. I had recently finished my generals in college and was pretty confused on what to do as a major so I just thought maybe I could take some time off to figure it out. Low and behold I look on their website and they’re hiring in SLC! For a customer experience specialist.. whatever that was, I wanted it. Without a second thought I applied for the job!

I had a pretty good job and my school schedule was going well too. But the need and feel to travel was pulling deep at my 20 year old heart. One phone interview, one in person interview, two scary and unsafe drives to the airport through ice and snow, one outfit purchased, and the airline job was mine.

Seriously a dream come true!! My sister in law had worked at Delta and her and my brother traveled all over the world, and they were also able to travel home while he was in his masters program while that could have not been affordable otherwise. I was so thrilled to start seeing places I always loved and of course to start adventuring in new places as well.

  • You fly for free.. for the most part.

So the first misconception is that you fly for free no strings attached when you have an airline job! When we were flying to Europe it cost us on average $100 each, and for my parents is was around $300 each. I understand that is so much cheaper than a ticket, but that’s not what I’m talking about here–I’m here to layout the facts if you want an airline job. I’m talking about the fact that it’s not exactly free. Plus you’re only working for $10 an hour. There’s a yearly fee of $50 as well. These are small fees to pay for what you get, but when you’re making little money every little thing counts.

  • You fly for free.. when their’s an open seat.

So flying standby is a real fear of mine now! Even now that I don’t fly standby I still get nervous when I go to the airport! I’m not one bit scared of flying, but I’m so used to going to the airport and not knowing if I was going to make it on the flight I was hoping to! We were late to the Red Sox game and almost didn’t make it home, we actually had to purchase tickets because of getting bumped off of flights to customers or because of employees with more experience. We had to wake up at 4:30 to make a flight home from California. We stayed in Seattle 2 extra days when we couldn’t make a flight. We drove home with a friend from Vegas because there were no seats. We took a red eye and then the same day took a flight home. We had to leave work a day early to make it to Scotland.

Again, I am SO aware of these amazing experiences and all the fun we had!! I am eternally grateful to my old airline job for giving me these experiences. But for some people (like my husband) flying standby is too nerve wrecking and very hard to handle. My airline job ended up not being worth the stress and hassle it created when we traveled, even if it was free.

  • You fly for free.. But when you land, you pay.

Traveling a lot, even if you can get to your location free of charge, gets VERY expensive. And remember, $10 an hour? We’re talking LAST MINUTE (because we didn’t know if we would make the flight) hotels, cars, tickets, etc. Plus we were eating out more. Traveling is expensive ALL the time, even if one of the elements is cheap or free. I heard people say, “well the tickets are the most expensive part”, which can be true, but not always.

  • You fly for free.. After being yelled at.

Whether you work at the airport or take calls for your airline job, you’re going to get yelled at. Imagine the worst road rage you’ve ever had or witnessed. Flying makes that ten times worse. Air rage is real, and it’s alive and well. They’re grumpy, don’t like flying, and think everyone is incompetent at their jobs, and you’re taking the brunt of their annoyance. I’ve had people call me stupid, make fun of my Utah accent (all the time), and yell at me for company policies. It’s no way to spend your days, even if you can hop on a flight somewhere else. (Guess how many clients have ever yelled at me, zero)

  • You fly for free.. When you need a getaway from real life

What my husband and I finally realized is that the times we weren’t complaining or annoyed with each other is basically only when we were on vacation. So the other 25 days of the month we were on edge and not seeing each other enough. I was grumpy from taking hard calls all day with my airline job and then would take it out on him. We didn’t talk about much else besides my work and our next trip. But I wanted a life that I could love everyday, not just a vacation I loved every other month.

  • You fly for free.. When you’re not working.

One of the best things about running my own business is that I get to choose when I work. If I have class, I don’t work. If I have a family party, I don’t work. Having an airline job is the exact opposite! People fly every day of the year and they need help with their travel no matter what. Even if it’s 2 am where you are and no flights are coming in, it’s 5 am in Atlanta and the work day is starting and people are trying to get where they need to be. I worked on Thanksgiving (thankfully my days off were Christmas eve and Christmas that year!), my husbands birthday, missed family parties, missed church, missed friends, and so many other things!

My first shift was from 8am-4:30pm with Tuesdays and Wednesdays off. Which was kind of crummy when my husband had weekends off. That means we each had two days without the other and without work.

My next shift was from 3:30pm-midnight with Tuesdays and Wednesdays off. I thought this was the worse it could be. Swing shifts are terrible in my opinion. I would wake up at about 10 am, go to my math class and see my husband. Then I went straight to work and basically wouldn’t see him again until the next day in class again. I never saw my friends at night on the weekends and missed every family function.

I caught a lucky break and went back to day shifts with another 8am-4:30pm with Mondays and Tuesdays off. Now sometimes I could trade shifts and get a weekend day off with my husband but that was rare.

My next shift was 9am-5:30pm with Saturdays and Sundays off! It seemed like heaven. But with a 45 minute commute my entire day was taken up by commuting or by working, plus I would hit the rush hour every day. And as a 21 year old I was in school and could only take night classes. I ended up going part time with school and that dream of graduating seemed to be getting further away from me.

The change..

I had a false sense of seniority because my shifts were getting better, however, people who love their jobs at airlines tend to stay, so there’s a lot of people who have a lot more seniority than you do. So I was moved departments about a year into my career there to make way for the new trainees, and the shift I was given was 7:30pm-4am with Mondays and Tuesdays off. It was my literal hell. I would get home and fall asleep at 5 am right when my husband was waking up for his day. I woke up when he got home and ate breakfast. By this point I had completely dropped out of college and my health was struggling. Sleep is so important to me feeling well and I always felt sick or depressed.

That’s when it ended for me. That’s when I’d had enough with my airline job. I realized that it was going to take me YEARS to work my way up to have enough seniority to have the schedule I wanted. And I didn’t have years to give. I had a husband that missed me and who I missed a lot, and we’d only been married two years. I needed this time that we had to just be married and be together before we had kids. I’d wanted to graduate college from before I can even remember. I hated missing family functions, and I really HATED missing church almost every week.

I was sick, tired, depressed, and well traveled. The free flights just didn’t cut it for me any longer. I’d burned through all my sick leave because I in fact, was sick a lot.

And leaving was the best decision I made career wise.

It was holding me back more than I could have ever realized. If the first part of each of those reasons is more important than the rest of the reasons, a job with an airline may totally be for you! But as me and all the coworkers I started with who have since quit will tell you, the second part to us was a lot more prevalent and important. This doesn’t mean I’ll never have an airline job again, if I could design for them part time and work whatever hours I wanted to.. AND get free flights, I would definitely consider it.

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