Aloha Airlines flight attendant Patti Smart recalled her history of working in the airline industry at the corporate office of Aloha Airlines on Friday. After more than 50 years of service as a flight attendant for Aloha Airlines, Smart is set to retire.
'QUEEN OF ALOHA'
Flight attendant retires after 50-plus years with Aloha Airlines
When Patti Smart was hired as an Aloha Airlines stewardess 50 years ago, it was a different job for a different time.
She rubbed elbows with Frank Sinatra, performed in-flight fashion shows and danced in smoke-filled aisles during island-hopping voyages aboard cramped DC-3s seating two dozen passengers.
Smart, nicknamed the "Queen of Aloha," retires Friday after more than a half-century on the job she started when she was 18 years old.
A lot has changed since the old days, when people dressed up in hats and bow ties to fly on propeller-powered planes across the Pacific.
"You're supposed to have the same niceness, the same warmth, the same caring. But it's faster now," Smart said. "In the older days, the flights were longer so you had more time to be intimate with passengers and you got to be very good friends with them."
Smart was paid $170 per month for 85 hours of work after she was hired on Jan. 28, 1957.
Today, as the airline's most senior flight attendant (they're not called stewardesses anymore), she makes $43.50 per hour catering to first-class passengers on flights between Orange County, Calif., and Honolulu.
Hearing Smart reminisce over times gone by makes it sound like her job was more fun than work. She laughs when remembering affable celebrities, prankster pilots and a boxlike cart that sheltered passengers from the rain as they disembarked.
The job has grown on her so much that she's reluctant to leave.
"There will be sparks flying from my feet as they drag me down the runway," she said.
One time, she got into a tight spot when her skirt flew out the window.
As she was serving pineapple juice to passengers, she spilled it all over her uniform. She changed into a pair of pants and washed out her skirt in the lavatory. When she tried to air-dry the skirt by letting it flap out the window in the cockpit, one of the two pilots snatched it and let it fly out the window.
"I wanted to kill those two. I wanted to get their two heads together and whack them. They were laughing and laughing," she said.
The joke didn't stop there. Another pilot on the next flight out radioed her plane and said he had caught the skirt as it went flying by.
With the advent of lower-cost flights with less amenities, air travel has lost some of its charm, she said. Passengers are more concerned with getting where they're going than enjoying the ride.
Aloha Airlines has been engaged in a three-way airfare war with rivals Hawaiian and upstart go! airlines for more than a year.
"The pie is the same size, but there are more slices," Smart said. "These are trying times. Fuel is going up, and everyone is feeling the pinch."
Even after retirement, Smart will continue to participate in a group that meets for monthly prayers for the company's survival.
"Aloha was started out of adversity. We became strong out of adversity, and we will survive despite adversity," she said. "I think we're going to make it."