A flight attendant career can be very exciting and rewarding. You get paid to travel, see and experience incredible places, meet a lot of people coming from different nationalities, cultures, and background. There is no doubt that you are living a wonderful lifestyle many people would only dream of.
Flight Attendant’s Job requires you to be constantly on your feet.
Working as a flight attendant requires a lot of physical work. You will be standing for a long period, especially during a long flight. This can lead you getting heavy, tired and swollen legs and feet. Unfortunately, this is one of the downsides of the job. It is inevitable, especially that being on your feet constantly is part of the job.
How you feel will depend on the length of the flight, the number of passengers onboard, the type of service you are required to do and even the type of shoes you wear.
When the flight is very long and you need to do two meal service on a full flight, then it is likely that you will have lower extremity discomfort during or after your flight. Personally, I experienced where I managed to sit and rest only for 50 minutes on a 6 hours flight. It was very exhausting and there were too many things to do and too many passengers to serve on a full VIP flight. Sometimes, your schedule can also be a factor especially if you are flying every day. Moreover, some airline companies provide their flight attendants uncomfortable work shoes, adding to the lead cause of discomfort. Believe me, I am writing from my experience.
In order to give you an insight as to why the job can be physically exhausting, I listed a few examples of the work activity of flight attendants on board the aircraft:
• Do a thorough pre-flight check of your area of responsibility: door, equipment, catering, galley, passengers seat, etc.
• Set up the cabin for the flight: newspapers, blankets, headsets, etc.
• Check catering and dry store items
• Assist passengers in putting their bags in the overhead bins during boarding.
• Offer pre-flight service: drinks, towels, newspapers, menus, etc. in premium zones
• Secure the cabin and galley for departure
• Setting up meal cart for the service
• Loading the hot meals into the carts or trolley
• Dragging the meal cart to the cabin. Meal carts weigh an average of 25 kilos when empty and more if loaded with meals.
• Offering Meal Service
o In Economy Class Cabin- a cabin crew will be serving meals and drinks to an average of 50 passengers.
o In Business Class Cabin- the service in the premium zone is more personalized. For the major airlines in the Middle East, Business Class passengers get a full course meal. The type of service cabin crew offer is more extensive, not to mention the Dine On Demand Service-where passengers can ask for food and drinks whenever they want.
o For example:
In Etihad Airways A380’s aircraft, only 4 cabin crew are assigned to serve
70 passengers in Business Class Cabin. It is like running a marathon going back and forth to the cabin, offering different sets of meals, serving the beverage that was ordered for each course, offering tea & coffee, doing the clearance, attending to passengers request, etc. From my experience, working in Business Class Cabin is the hardest especially when the flight is full.
• Turn Down Service -Preparing and making the bed for passengers in Business Class and First Class Cabin. (This only applies to some airlines.)
• Hydration Run- Offering different drinks to passengers in Economy, especially during long and ultra long haul flights.
• Check and clean the lavatory often
• Set up Duty-Free cart and offering it to the passengers in the whole cabin
• Attend to passengers request
• Count and close the Bar and Duty-Free cart
• Collect used blankets and headsets
• Secure the Cabin for landing
• Perform thorough security check-checking each passenger seats, overhead cabin,etc.
• Offload galley items that need to be offloaded (e.g. meal carts, dirty linens, etc.)
The following are the tips that worked for me and for many flight attendants in our team in preventing or lessening the discomforts of tired legs and feet during and after your flight:
1. Wear Compression Pantyhose/ Stocking/ Socks
Compression stockings provide support to muscles and blood vessels of the lower leg. It is designed to keep the pressure highest around your feet and ankles and lessens as it travels up your leg. This encourages blood flow towards your heart; therefore, improve blood circulation.
Wearing compression stockings regularly will prevent you from having blood clots, swelling, aching, fatigue, and cramping in the legs.
Flight socks are recommended to male or female flight attendants who are susceptible to developing heavy legs and feet or suffer from varicose veins.
2. Wear Comfortable Shoes
Since you will be standing and walking around the cabin most of the time, I encourage you to avoid wearing high heels and narrow shoes with a pointy toe. Lack of space for toes reduces circulation and encourages a range of problems from cramping of feet, bunions, and calluses.
High heels exacerbate back pain and heavy legs. Instead, choose to wear a pair of shoes with a cushioned sole that provides the best comfort and support for your feet.
The best thing you can buy for yourself is a pair of comfortable shoes made from the highest quality material which can provide you the greatest comfort especially when you are on your feet for long hours.
3. Wear Insoles
Wearing shoe insoles are extremely important. It can provide your feet with protection from pressure and shocks. Insoles are essential and design to offer you the best comfort and health for your feet. We recommend you buying insoles that are washable and have anti-microbial properties.
4. Elevate Legs
Raising your legs 8-12 inches above your heart level for at least 20 minutes is the best way to help drain tension. This will reduce swelling and pain from your tired legs and feet. Further, this will help your body in its effort to redirect the blood back towards your heart from your lower body. Moreover, this position will help you move stuck fluids, regulates blood pressure and reduce your risk of getting varicose veins.
During long haul flight, raise your legs during your rest period whilst in the crew rest area. Also, do this position just before you take a shower after your flight.
5. Go for a Walk, Run or Exercise
Since you will be standing on your feet most of the time, make sure that you strengthen your leg muscles by walking or exercising. It is also scientifically proven that having a healthy heart is one of the benefits of having strong legs.
6. Drink Plenty of Water
Dehydration happens when you’ve lost too much water in your body without replacing it. This can lead to dizziness, dry mouth, constipation, tiredness, headache , and muscle cramps. Drinking enough water during your flight promotes good circulation and encourages your body to flush
out toxins and sodium. Try to drink warm plain water or warm herbal tea if you dislike plain water.
7. Foot Reflexology Massage
This type of therapeutic massage relieves pain and discomfort by stimulating predefined pressure points on your feet and hands. These pressure points are believed to be connected to the nervous system and affect the glands, internal organs, muscles, bones, nerves, etc. When the
reflexologist manipulates this pressure points, the parts of the body that are the source of pain and illness can be strengthened. It also promotes good health, healing, and relaxation.
8. Massage Your Legs & Feet
If you can’t go for a professional reflexology treatment, try doing the massage yourself. Massage reduces muscle tension and promotes better blood flow. With your feet elevated, you can begin to massage your toes, ankles and work towards the calf, to help the venous blood return to the
heart and promote a quicker dispersion of fluid build-up. Use essential oils such as Juniper, Lavender, Eucalyptus to reduce the pain and also promotes relaxation.
9. Epsom Salt Works
Soaking your feet and legs in a warm Epsom salt bath, for 20 minutes can significantly reduce pain and swelling; thus alleviating restless leg syndrome. The magnesium sulfate in the salt is thought to help the muscles relax. If inflammation and swelling is a problem for you then follow
the warm salt bath with an ice bath until your feet feel numb.
10. Rinse Your Legs and Feet in Cold Water
To strengthen the veins and encourage them to contract, wash your feet and legs with cold water. This will lessen the swelling in your legs and feet. You will enjoy a good night sleep after you do this.
“Health is Wealth”
This is a famous saying in which we can all relate to. Flying can be fun, but you should also remember that, if you don’t take care of yourself, then this job can take a toll on your health.