Former Ryanair and Titan flight attendant Fiona Mallinson, who talked to MailOnline Travel over Zoom about her life in the skies

Fiona Mallinson was a former Ryanair and Titan flight attendant, and she spoke to MailOnline Travel over Zoom regarding her experiences in the sky.

The cabin crew life is undoubtedly a glamorous one – but it has decidedly non-glamorous aspects. This includes dealing with unwanted human waste.

MailOnline Travel caught up on Zoom with two former flight attendants – for British Airways and Ryanair – and a current Virgin Atlantic cabin crew member who have got together to launch a travel company called Doors2Manual. 

But before finding more out about that, we couldn’t resist asking them to lift the lid on what life at 38,000ft is really like… and it turns out that a strong stomach is required.

The answer to the question of whether cabin crew life was as glamorous as it is perceived by the public, was yes. But not always.

Former long-haul BA flight attendant Elaine Graham, from Belfast, said: ‘No one can deny that travelling the world and getting paid for it is glamorous, and I had so much fun, but actually on board the aircraft – that’s not glamorous.

‘It’s hard work and we’ve all got our poo stories… ‘

We are sorry, but poo stories!

Fiona Mallinson was a Titan and Ryanair flight attendant. She said, “Yes, there are always body fluids going somewhere.”

Laura Reynolds is on Virgin Atlantic’s maternity leave and said, “Yes, all of us have a story about poo.” You might find poo where you shouldn’t. You will find it outside the toilet and not in there.

Fiona said, “Or on top of the toilet.”

Elaine added: “I once saw a poo on a bathroom floor that I assumed was a joke. It looked perfect for a joke shop.

These stories of bodily discharge don’t end there.

Former long-haul BA flight attendant Elaine Graham, from Belfast, said: 'No one can deny that travelling the world and getting paid for it is glamorous'

Elaine Graham (a former BA long-haul flight attendant) said, “No one can deny the glamour of travelling the world, and being paid for it.”

Laura Reynolds (left), who's on maternity leave with Virgin Atlantic

Former BA flight attendant Elaine Graham

 Laura Reynolds (left), who’s on maternity leave with Virgin Atlantic, and former BA flight attendant Elaine Graham (right), told MailOnline Travel stories of onboard wayward poo

Laura from Stratford-upon-Avon said, “Quite often, we get given soiled diapers, and not in a pack, that’s another one of those that happen quite often – usually when you are doing a dinner service which is nice.

Elaine said, “And you smile and say thank you.”

Elaine stated that it doesn’t really matter which airline you fly with, but human waste problems in cabin crews ‘come standard’.

Another reality is being subject to abuse by passengers.

Fiona is currently based in Stansted. She said she became interested in being a cabin crew member for Ryanair because of the glamour and professionalism displayed by flight attendants.

“I was a check in agent for them and saw that being a cabin crew member for them was the right choice. Ryanair’s grooming standards mean that they would all be glamorous walking through airports.

“And then I thought: That’s exactly where I want. It’s not glamour, but the reality of it.

Fiona said that she was drawn to being cabin crew for Ryanair from seeing how glamorous the airline's flight attendants were. She added that once she became crew she sometimes hid in the toilet to get away from the stress in the cabin

Fiona explained that Ryanair’s cabin crew attracted her because she saw how beautiful the flight attendants looked. To escape the stresses of the cabin, Fiona shared that when she first became crew she would hide in the restroom.

“The uniform looks great, both the men and women look amazing, and they do their jobs well. But to say that it is hard work would be an understatement.

You are subject to abuse every day. It’s hard to enjoy life when your only escape is a small can of Tin Can flying in the air. There is no escape.

“I believe there is a misperception that you should treat staff as garbage if your flight costs so much.

“Every day you are subject to abuse.” You can’t fly through the air in a small, plastic tin container. It is not enjoyable. There is no escape.

“I used to be known for locking myself in the bathroom a few times just so I could escape.”

How can we talk about abuse?

Fiona said, “Oh, verbal abuse. I wasn’t physically abused.” Some people would suggest that my family was in danger.

“But this airline is not a low-cost one. It could happen anyplace.

Laura agreed, saying: “You have the occasional occasion.” These included delayed or late flights and wrong meals.

Readers who are nervous flyers will be pleased to hear that the crew members had virtually no emergency landing stories

Nervous flyers who were able to listen will be happy to learn that there was virtually no need for emergency landings.

“But you sometimes have to remember that these people had been traveling for hours before they got on with you. So sometimes, all you have to do is take a deep breath, and then look at the situation from their perspective. Some people were not pleasant and would make a joke, as they paid passengers.

Readers with nervous flying skills will find it reassuring to learn that crew members reported almost no emergencies landing stories.

Elaine was a BA pilot for over 24 years. She said most emergency situations that she handled were medical.

They advised anyone who was nervous to fly that they tell the cabin crew.

Laura stated, “Spend some time talking to us crew because we will always make you feel at ease. When you board, let one of us know and we will have a conversation. You’ll find us to be very easy to get along with. We’ll grab you a cup of tea… you’ll probably end up being one of the family by time you get off because you’ve chatted to us so much.

You will need to be willing to spend a lot if you are interested in an upgrade. If the plane is oversold at the back and there is space in business or first, they will do upgrades – and a lot of the time it’s a good deal. It’s unlikely that you will get it free.

“We fly all day so it is a natural habit. These little panicky things are likely nothing.

Elaine: “I agree. A few years back, a friend of mine asked me: “What’s the purpose of those dings as you turn onto runway?” My answer was “It’s to inform the cabin crew that if they don’t have their seats they should be sitting down immediately.” He said, “Oh, it was always wrong.”

‘So yeah, Laura’s right. You can let the crew know, and they will be watching out. You might not hear from them at the moment the noise occurs, but they’ll smile to let you know that everything is okay.

Fiona continued, “Look! I have a family. I don’t believe it’s safe. There’s no other way for me to be here.

So we know the crew can help with nerves – but what about upgrades? Are there legitimate ways to be bumped up when you fly?

Apparently not on BA or Virgin – and Fiona shakes her head, too.

She stated, “Those days are gone.” We have lost all power.

Elaine stated that if you are looking for an upgrade, it is worth the cost. If the plane is oversold at the back and there is space in business or first, they will do upgrades – and a lot of the time it’s a good deal. However, you won’t get it for nothing.

Laura revealed that some cheeky flyers upgrade themselves – by sneaking into a premium cabin

Laura revealed that some cheeky flyers upgrade themselves – by sneaking into a premium cabin

Fiona said, “Dress well as well.” If you’re looking for a great deal, you have to feel like you belong. It’s not possible to show up wearing ripped shorts and only a singlet. Your chances are much better if your appearance is professional.

Elaine noted that the ground staff would first try to upgrade silver and gold cardholders.

Laura revealed that some cheeky flyers upgrade themselves – by sneaking into a premium cabin.

She explained that you will be flying at night with 15 other passengers, then get up to breakfast, where you realize you have 17 people.

“So, two people managed to sneak in and fall asleep all night without anyone noticing. They will have to be asked to return to their seats.

Elaine stated, “That has happened to everyone.” One of my friends was so quick to get up in the morning that they didn’t even wait. They just got up and went.

Doors2Manual, billed as 'the newest and most unique travel company in the UK

Doors2Manual is billed as “the most innovative and unique travel agency in the UK”.

Fiona revealed, however, that Ryanair passengers will try to get an upgrade, even though they fly economy only.

She replied, “But it is all first-class!”

Elaine, Fiona and Laura – along with former Virgin Atlantic crew member Janna Beech – all met through a Facebook page called ‘Not Just Crew’, which was set up post-pandemic.

They set up Doors2Manual, billed as ‘the newest and most unique travel company in the UK’, as a result of them bonding on the forum.

Because it is affiliated with Hays Travel (the UK’s largest travel retailer), the firm can offer a wide range of holiday options. All bookings are Abta/Atol covered.

The crew is unique because they are able to share their knowledge with customers and make themselves available by email, phone or video calls.

Laura explained that she can suggest places to visit because we’ve been there. When we get there, we have been to places and events that you probably won’t find on Tripadvisor. You won’t find these things in any travel agency.

“There are many quirky things about which we have information that can be sent to people once they reach that destination.”

Fiona also said that it wasn’t always hotspots for tourists. Although not on everyone’s top list, we’ve visited places that might be.

Laura noted that they will ask the crew if one is not sure of a location.

They can also offer advice after they have booked their vacation.

Fiona said that she and her husband have been in all aspects of life, including the unpleasant.

Elaine said that the staff are also available after hours.

She explained that they have worked overtime and been out of the home for a while so we are not just nine-to-five. We work when our customers need us, even if it’s weekends or evenings.

Customers have you ever asked for a free upgrade?

They reply, “Not yet, but that will certainly come,” has more information.