Head in the clouds.
Cover Image © Jessica Kincy

Black Perspectives #06: Jessica Kincy (Flight Attendant)

Let’s Dive Into your Worklife

SSD: What inspired you to get into what you’re doing?

JK: What inspired me? This job actually kinda just fell into my lap. I was applying for jobs in a completely different field/industry and an ad popped up on the side of my screens for a flight attendant position. I really just applied for it out of boredom and didn’t think I’d even get called back, but here I am. Seven and a half years later, still.

But when I got here, the travel because [that’s] very appealing. I get to see places, meet people, and experience cultures that I never would have been able to, if it were not for this career path. I literally have to world in the palm of my hand.

Where to go next?

SSD: What do you hope to accomplish in your time as a flight attendant?

JK: What I hope to accomplish is to make better use of my time while I am on the road, as exhausting as that may be. I also have a travel bucket list that I haven’t even put a dent in (surprisingly), so I’d like to see a lot more while I am still in this industry.

I wouldn’t say that I am still pursuing anything within this career, as I am actually trying to figure out my next steps if I were to leave this industry and pursue more of my creative talents.

SSD: What places do you want to visit? Share that bucket list!

JK: My travel bucket list is a mile long, and my list grows the more I scroll through social media! A good majority of the accounts I follow are travel-related. LOL. Bali, Nairobi, Maldives, Fiji, The Amalfi Coast, so many more. Even places I’ve been before but didn’t get enough time in.

SSD: I don’t want to assume, but is flight your favorite form of travel? If it’s not, what is & why? And if it is, what comes second & why?

JK: Flight is my favorite form of travel if it’s anything past a 4 – 5 hour drive. I even hate driving around my own city, let alone long distances. But “car” is my second preferred option. Even if I am in a city that revolves around public transportation, I would rather catch an Uber. I want to get in and go from point A to B without having to do any thinking or checking/confirming what stop I’m at, etc. I like for my travel to be as mindless as possible.

SSD: Share a bit more with me about the “creative talents” you mentioned earlier. I have an idea of what you’re into, but it’s always better to hear it straight from the source.

JK: Creatively, I’m into interior design, home decor, DIY home decor/projects, fashion/style… And everyone knows I write.

SSD: Yeah, one cool perk of being connected to you online is getting to see you make dope stuff like this…

JK: 😂 Make sure the coffee cup is plastic so it’s light enough!

SSD: What’s a tip that you’d give someone who sees you, is inspired, and wants to follow in your footsteps?

JK: Tips… I would tell anyone that wants to follow in these footsteps to start young. Have passion and hobbies outside of this that could easily work with being on the road. Starting out, your schedule isn’t as flexible as you’d like it to be AT ALL, so have something else that you can do at the same time that makes you happy and doesn’t make you feel burnt out.

[C]ompanies that only care about profit do not care about your well-being.

TAKE YOUR TIME OFF. You ARE replaceable to them.

Jessica Kincy

SSD: What lessons have you learned from your job that you think people could benefit from at large if they knew?

JK: The biggest lesson I’ve learned from my job is to TAKE CARE OF MYSELF. Meaning taking my vacation/sick time when I need it. My mental/physical health has become so important, and companies that only care about profit do not care about your well-being.

TAKE YOUR TIME OFF. You ARE replaceable to them.

The second lesson I would say I’ve learned is that TIME is my most valuable asset. Time is the only true luxury. Living life constantly on the go, with not a lot of actual free time, has shown me that time matters. Free time, time with loved ones, time outside of dedicating every waking moment to work.

SSD: Solid advice. I’m happy that you learned those important things. I think EVERYONE needs to heed those words.

Do you have a favorite memorable interaction with an interesting person or culture you care to share?

JK: A favorite or memorable interaction?

SSD: Yep.

JK: I was in Lima. Peru for work, and I ventured out on my own. I sat at the bar at this outdoor restaurant that was overlooking the water. An empty seat on each side of me.

A couple came up and the woman sat down. Her boyfriend stood behind her.

I asked them if they wanted me to scoot over and I did. From there, we started a convo.

She was from Denver, he was from Lima but they both lived in Chicago and were just back visiting his family. We discovered that she was actually booked on the flight back to the states that I was working. His whole family was on their way because they had reservations so they insisted I come and have dinner with them.

I sat at dinner as the sun set with a Peruvian family of 8.

They paid for my food and drinks – laughed and joked with me. Then they took me to get ice cream and to an underground arcade. I stayed out with them until about midnight and they paid for my Uber back to my hotel.

Most fun I’ve ever had on a work trip.

Jessica sitting on some steps in Brazil.

SSD: What, if any, would you say are the drawbacks to your job?

JK: Being a flight attendant isn’t the glitz and glam that it seems to be. There ARE great perks… but I’m learning that as I get older, my main priority is my TIME. And constantly being on the go and having long days takes away a lot of that.

For instance, if I’m working, that means I am out of town. So… I can’t do anything that needs to be done for the day if it requires me being [at] home. Grocery shopping, random errands, meal prepping…

When I am off work for the day, I’m in a new city. And those things can’t usually get done as easily as they could for someone who comes home from an office [each day].

So, on my off days – my only time with real free time – I’m forced to spend it doing all the things that I can only get done while back at home base. Which doesn’t leave any actual free time.

So… time is my biggest priority.

If I can manage to tackle fixing that issue, my creativity comes next. But after 12 and 13 hour days, most times I’m too mentally exhausted to do anything productive. So, that makes me feel like time has been wasted. So, that’s a constant struggle.

SSD: I imagine not being home all of the time is hard (as you’ve explained) — Does it ever make you want to NOT have a permanent residence and just kinda’ Airbnb your way around? (Haha – I know that would cause tax issues at the end of the year, but you get what I mean.)

JK: More than anything I want a permanent residence. Staying in hotels for a large portion of the month makes me CRAVE a space that feels like home. A designated place to put all of my things.

SPACE.

Being crammed in a metal tube all day, and a small hotel room every night, makes me love coming home to a HOME. 

Jessica Kincy relaxing on her couch.  Who took the photo?  I don't know.

SSD: Speaking of “metal tubes” – I know, odd segue — Do you have any tips for how to best get through a day “when you just don’t feel like it”?

I know people complain about it all of the time, but we also aren’t in the sky with our jobs – 30,000 and 42,000 feet in the air facing our customers and colleagues having to play nice.

That said, you HAVE to have some expert perspective here.

JK: When I just don’t feel like it, I stay as quiet as I can. Passengers don’t really engage FAs much. The ones that do, usually ask the same basic questions about the job. So there’s not much “playing nice” I have to do as far as passengers go. Staying quiet and under the radar is easy.

My biggest struggle is when I run into crew members that love to talk when I’m just not in the mood. Your time on the plane with them is spent in the galley where there’s no escape for hours. So playing nice with THEM is very hard. And not to say I want to be mean, but sometimes I just need silence and don’t feel like engaging.

And I don’t have any tips, I wish I did.

When I know the day will just be way too overwhelming and I’m struggling mentally… Sometimes I just call in sick. We get a “point” for calling in sick, though, so that’s not always an option. My second-best option is to just remain as quiet as I can when I get there. The talkative crew members usually flock to one another when they see that one isn’t being as responsive as they’d like.

SSD: Oooooo — Now, I know that this might open a can of worms, but you mentioned calling in sick. This is a technical question very specific to your job that I’ve always been curious about.

What happens if you’re scheduled to work a day, but you’re sick? Since flights don’t happen without you there really – I’ve always been curious how that gets handled if it’s kinda’ last minute.

Can you share with me how an occurrence like that gets covered?

JK: This is a very intricate detail that a lot of people don’t think about and may find interesting.

As a flight attendant, you will have months that you are on-call for work. [This is] for instances when people call in sick, or entire crews misconnect due to weather or maintenance, etc. (I’ll use my seniority and my airline as an example because the time frame may differ but there will always be FAs that are on call at each company).

So, once every 4 months I am on-call for the month. I will still have my designated off days. Usually, it’s 18 days on-call and 12 days off. I bid for my days off for the month and I am awarded those days based on seniority with the company. So, for 3 months – I will have a set schedule, then one month I’ll be on call.

For instance… Jan, Feb, March will be a set schedule. April I will be on call (for 18 days). Then May, June, July I will have my schedule… [In] August I will be on call again. And so forth.

So for those 18 days, I will have a 12-hour shift of being on call. If they don’t call me by the end of that shift, I’m off for the day. If they do call me, contractually, they have to give me 2 hours to get to the airport. The shifts are staggered so that there are a certain number of FAs on call at any given time.

There are also 2 of those 18 days that my assignment may be at an airport on standby assignment. Meaning, I will have to go sit at the airport for a SIX-hour shift (in our FA Operations area)! This is for the specific purpose of trips that pop up last minute and are outside of our contractual 2 hours that they have to give us. (Like, a FA got a flat tire on the way to work. Or a crew misconnected, or a crew went illegal because their duty day was too long due to FAA legalities regarding how long we can be on the clock.)

So, when it’s an airport standby assignment, I’m just in our operations area sleeping, watching movies or whatever on my laptop, etc. with other FAs that are also on standby – HOPING that 6 hours pass and they don’t call me over the PA system so that I can go home (at the end of that 6 hours, I’m free to go home).

Jumping for joy next to a giant plane engine.

To sum it up, there are people on call at home and people on call at the airport. This is to ensure on-time departures. Most FAs will call in sick well before they have to be at work because they know that other FAs have to be given at least 2-hours notice. When I call in sick, I call in the day before usually.

SSD: Wow.

JK: You asked.

SSD: I did.

SSD: Have you ever worked on an international flight before? And whether you have or haven’t – does that take a different level of qualifications or training compared to working on domestic flights?

JK: I’ve worked a bunch of international flights. FAs need to be qualified on the particular aircraft that we take to certain destinations to work on those flights. But when I got hired back in 2014 they were training all new hires on every single aircraft we had in our fleet. So I’ve always had the qualifications to be able to do so.

Since I’ve has this job, I’ve gotten my passport stamped 23 times. And a lot of the time, they don’t stamp it if you’re working [on the flight] crew. So my passport would probably be full if they did. Lol!

SSD: Has the increase in rowdy passengers impacted Black flight attendants any differently than non-Black ones?

JK: From what I experience and from stories I hear/read, I cant tell that this is affecting Black flight attendants any differently than non-Black FAs. The rowdy passengers hate us all the same, at this point. LOL!

SSD: Ok, last question. Thank you for putting up with my randomness.

What is the most shocking national news you’ve found out when you’ve landed that you didn’t know while you were in the air?

JK: I’m usually always connected to the inflight wifi, so I don’t miss much, to be honest. My iMessages come thru and all my apps work. But I was in the air last year as the US Capitol was under attack. And that was pretty crazy to watch my timeline as news articles popped up and my group chat went pretty crazy.

Sharing is Caring
Created by Alex Volkov