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Flight attendant vents about job on stage

By A. Pawlowski, CNN
Rene Foss takes a humorous look at her job as a flight attendant in a musical comedy revue. She wrote and stars in the show.
Rene Foss takes a humorous look at her job as a flight attendant in a musical comedy revue. She wrote and stars in the show.
  • Longtime flight attendant stars in comedy musical revue about her life in the air
  • Rene Foss always wanted to be in show business, had bit part in a soap opera
  • She wrote the play after being frustrated about not getting acting jobs
  • Foss: "I hope people get comic relief"

"Instead of seeing the world and all of its sights, I'm picking up trash and breaking up fights" -- Rene Foss, "Around the World in a Bad Mood!"

(CNN) -- For many fliers, air travel has become a tragedy. To Rene Foss, on the other hand, it's rich material for a comedy.

She's seen it all in her 25 years working as a flight attendant for a major U.S. airline -- everything from cranky passengers and scary co-workers to the "unspeakable horrors of the crowded cabin" -- but her real calling was show business.

Based in New York, Foss spent her early years in the airline industry going to auditions and taking voice lessons in between crisscrossing the globe for her day job. She once snagged a bit part in a soap opera playing -- wait for it, wait for it -- a flight attendant, but acting jobs were mostly hard to find.

So she created her own.

In 1998, Foss debuted in "Around the World in a Bad Mood!" -- a show she wrote about her life as a flight attendant. She turned it into a humorous book a few years later, sharing tidbits such as the secret language of airline employees. (How does a flight attendant say, "F**k you?" -- "I'll be right back!")

Her show has since been produced throughout the United States, in Canada and in Europe.

Video: Flight attendant vents on stage

Foss, 48, is returning to the stage again next month in New York, where she and a small cast will perform her musical comedy revue at The Duplex in Greenwich Village.

Foss recently spoke to about her life on the ground and in the air. The following is an edited version of that interview:

CNN: Were you nervous when you wrote the play about how your employer would react?

Rene Foss: No, I really wasn't because the play and the book are not based on any specific airline. It's more about air travel in general.

Contrary to the title, it's really sort of a salute to the profession of flight attendants and just a humorous look at a basic air travel experience. I didn't feel it was anything that would be harmful or negative in any way to anyone.

CNN: What's your take on Steven Slater, the JetBlue flight attendant who made a dramatic exit from a plane?

Foss: There but for the grace of God go I.

Questions Flight Attendants Deal With
• Is this your regular route?
• Where are we?
• Can I move up to first class?
• What river is that?
• Do you have raspberry kiwi iced tea?
• Where are you staying tonight?
• Are you married?
• Can you take this diaper?
• Can I borrow your pen?
• Can I use your Chapstick?
• Do you have a refrigerator?

Source: "Around the World in a Bad Mood!"
  • Air Travel

I think I speak for a great many flight attendants around the country when I say, we've all been probably pretty close but fortunately didn't quite take that final step.

The poor man was just pushed to the brink, and unfortunately for him, he was just unable to restrain his emotional reaction to it. The only unfortunate part is his actions could have really hurt someone on the ground or killed somebody even. I believe he is going to have to answer to that, as he should.

Marquee Blog: Reality show offers pour in for Steven Slater

CNN: Are you planning to include any references to him in your play?

Foss: Oh, I invite him to come and be part of the show. We have a cameo role each night which features a guest performer. He's welcome to be the guest performer anytime.

I'm sure I'll be able to put some references in there. It's certainly a current event, and I try to incorporate as many current events as possible.

CNN: Have you been making changes to the musical as the industry has changed?

Foss: Yes, there's so much material and so many different aspects to it. There's definitely been some changes.

One of the things we poke fun at is many passengers these days are really upset about some of the charges -- that's sort of a new thing in the industry where everything is à la carte.

I think humor is a wonderful way to deal with frustration and many people -- passengers and [airline] employees -- have a lot of frustrations with the airline industry, although there's very little that you can do.

CNN: What would you say to someone who wants to become a flight attendant today?

Foss: Don't do it. [Laughs]

I would say what's great about being a flight attendant -- which they can't change no matter how the profession changes -- is it is a wonderful way to see the world and it is an excellent opportunity to meet different people and have different travel experiences.

On that level, it is a wonderful profession.

But on the reverse, you have to be really prepared to work hard and to be a very patient, flexible person because you're going to be working with different people and in different countries and in different situations. I like to say you have to be a diplomat, a psychiatrist, a nurse, a teacher, a mother, a friend, a banker because there are so many aspects to the job.

CNN: Most people realize the glamour has vanished from the job, but many are still fascinated with it. Why?

Foss: Some people still see it as a glamorous profession just because for so many years it was identified as a glamorous profession.

But the second part of that is that even though it isn't what it once was, it's still a very interesting profession in that it's unique. We don't go to the same office every day; we don't work with the same people every day.

CNN: Do you ever show off your musical skills on the plane, like the Southwest flight attendant who rapped the safety demo? (Watch David Holmes give emergency instructions Video)

Foss: Maybe in the privacy of the back galley when the curtain is closed. But for the most part, when I'm at work I try to be as professional and follow the company policy as much as I can.

CNN: Your show has played in several countries -- are you surprised at how universal the subject is?

Foss: Yes, I am surprised, but at the same time I can kind of understand it. It is a universal topic because nowadays everybody travels; it's not like it was in the '50s when only a few people were able to do so.

Flying has become part of the human condition.

CNN: Are you hoping for a movie?

Foss: I would love a movie. I think it would make a great sitcom.

CNN: What do you hope people get out of your show?

Foss: I hope people get comic relief. The main feeling in our world today with travel, whether you're in this country or any other country, is there's a lot of frustration. If you sit down and really talk to passengers or airline workers of any rank, they all have some complaints.

I think the passengers, it will give them a little bit of insight into our profession and maybe a bit of appreciation for the work that we do.

CNN: Do you still like your job?

Foss: I like to say I've given them the best years of my life and now I plan to stick around and give them the worst.

I love my job. There's no job like being a flight attendant, and I don't have any intention of leaving the profession. I always welcome the new material. There's more stuff for maybe another book or for the current show.

It is a great profession. It gets better the longer you stay.