Oldest Flight Attendant Forced To Retire

Filed Under: Delta

In May I wrote about Bob Reardon, the oldest active flight attendant in the world. He had just turned 90, and had been at Delta (and previously Northwest) for 63 years.


Well, the following update was just posted on Facebook:

DearColleagues, Friends and Family of Robert “Bob” Reardon,

Yesterday,the Company announced the retirement of Robert Reardon effective August 30,2014.  Rather than a date to celebrate,it marks the end of a 62 year, 8 month career marred by a seven-month stressfuland unfortunate ordeal.  Robert’s pendingretirement was not of his choosing.

Robert hasmade it very clear that he does NOT want any “celebrations,”  “parties,” or “events,” planned or hosted bythe Company. They would be inappropriate and insincere.

Instead, agathering of friends, family and supporters will be held to honor and reminiscewith Robert when he is ready to do so.  Pleasebe assured that when decisions are made, you will be advised of the details,with sufficient advance notice so you may plan/bid accordingly.

For now, wehave set up a Facebook page so everyone may post messages, stories and picturesacknowledging Robert’s career, dabbled with his incredible memory, humor andwit.  The world will most likely neverhave another “Robert-like” icon.

Pleaseunderstand that Robert needs time to sort out and reflect upon the eventspreceding his retirement.  We invite everyoneto share Robert’s Facebook page with your friends around the globe, as theCompany announcement via email sent yesterday, was addressed only toMinneapolis/St. Paul based flight attendants.

On behalf of“OUR BOB”, the current holder of TWO Guinness World Records, thank you for yoursupport on his past journeys and into the future after the end of alife-defining career.

As Roberthas closed his notes, letters and commentaries thousand times, “Otherwise, allis lovely and serene.  As ever, Robert.”

Thanks fortaking us along for the ride.

Based on this it looks like he’s not retiring by choice after a seven month “ordeal.” Hmmm.

I’m not sure if we should chip in to plan him a retirement party, or to fix the space bar on the computer of whoever wrote that post…

  1. I do not know the backstory on Bob and his “forced” retirement. With that said, way to go Bob! To love what you do for 63+ years is a testament to his passion and drive in life. I hope when he moves on his life won’t end and he finds something else to do that is filling and productive. I am sure he could write THE book on the cabin experience since he lived through most of the history of commercial aviation in the US. My grandmother was a flight attendant for a short while in the 1940s when you had to be a nurse as well!

  2. Considering that airlines have been eliminating free space in cabins for years, and cramming more people into the same space, it is no wonder they have done so in email as well. Cram more information into the same space….

  3. What an epic career. So long as he’d be able to effectively operate and oversee safety duties/procedures, I’d have no issue having him as my FA.

  4. C’mon, the guy is 90 years old! Hang it up already and let the next generation of flight attendants have their turn.

  5. Great job Bob but I think having a 90 year old FA in an emergency situation is not the most appropriate choice neither for him nor for the passengers. Similar to a Delta FA that was wearing high heels boots up to her knees in a flight I was in last winter. In case of an evacuation I don’t think that was the best outfit.

  6. A 747 has to make an emergency divert to Midway Island due to smoke in the cargo hold.

    Upon landing in the middle of the night, with smoke now seeping into the cabin there is frantic action to get 300+ off the plane, which is almost two stories off the ground.

    Would this man help of hinder in that situation.

    Doing what you love is great, but when your age and physcial state becomes a liability to the safety of the people you serve somthing needs to happen.

  7. I thought flight attendants were present for safety first and foremost? This ancient geezer would be useless and should have been booted 20 years ago.

  8. As far as I am concerned, if he passes all of the health checks and mandatory drills he can fly if he wants. Its about doing your job not looking pretty. I have an 83 year old man works full time with us and he is 10 times better than some of the 20 somethings and its not a desk job.

  9. Would be interesting to learn the backstory of what had transpired. I’d think that any company would want to keep such an icon around so even if he couldn’t perform his FA duties, they could’ve created a position for him in whatever department that handles FA training (if he preferred not to fly) or given him something to do on-board like an auditor/mentor (if he wanted to keep on flying).

  10. I don’t doubt he is great at his job, and it’s tough to retire, but there is a good reason why in most countries everybody retires at 65, or at 70. If something goes wrong, a flight attendant might have to play the part of a hero who carries people off the plane, has to be able to survive the impact and the smoke etc. That is why I also do not like many of the Asian carriers hiring mostly young, attractive girls, many of whom I’m sure are not as well equipped to handle the situation as the mostly middle-aged flight attendants on US airlines. Whether male or female, flight attendants should be strong and mature enough so you can depend on them.

  11. I read many positive stories from the Asiana crash in SFO about their ‘young, attractive’ FAs not buckling under pressure to have no concerns about their training.

  12. The problem with even the most competent 90-year-olds is that they can become incompetent very quickly.

  13. I’d love to find out the story behind this as well.

    As for the young ladies on Asian carriers, I’d take them over a 50-year-old American woman with her arthritis and bad attitude any day.

  14. I’ve seen physically fit, confident 20-somethings absolutely fall apart in the face of an ounce of pressure. Likewise, my own dad is up in the years and still runs daily and works 50+ hours a week. That said, he isn’t 90. 90 is just a bit too far up there. But glad this fella got to spend so long doing a job he loved.

  15. I can’t believe he worked for Delta! I though United had the corner on the 60+ year-old flight attendants……

  16. He started out with Northwest Orient then it became Northwest Airlines which was absorbed by Delta. He was based out of Minneapolis which was a Northwest hub.

  17. @Santastico

    Many female FAs wear heels, but they are trained to remove them in event of a possible evac so that they don’t puncture slides.

  18. The FAs might be “trained to remove those heels”, but in an urgent, emergency situation – how far away from their regular shoes are they? Would think they might be “in a bag” which is “in the closet”, etc. And, how far away from their sensible shoes are they?

    They should be ready THAT VERY INSTANT to be in emergency management mode, not running to change shoes. I’ll be honest, every time I board a plane and see a FA in heels, it makes me think that passenger safety is not their number one priority. Wish the airline policy would change !

  19. Being a flight attendant isn’t like serving as the shell loader on a tank. Ability to physically mange in an emergency is clearly not the priority when it comes to hiring

    I’m sure there’s some minimal standard that all FAs need to manage, whether they’re an old male, or a middle aged slight of stature female. Beyond that I don’t buy that a (perhaps unusually) fit 90 year old can’t push a drink cart around and direct people to the correct seats. Saying he instead couldn’t perform certain tasks in an emergency seems silly when lots of other FAs not to mention exit row passengers also couldn’t handle their responsibilities during the same. Fortunately FAs are essentially never asked to deal with actual emergency situations that push their physical limits.

  20. interesting. the airlines i worked at required inflight staff to go to flat shoes in flight. my GF always changes to her flats when in flight (ANA) as well.

    Far as Bob goes, good for you. good PR stunt. I would personally not like flying on the flights he worked. it was hard enough throwing out doors during ART in an unlevel footing. I played D1 baseball and it was hard to yank that thing and clear the wing. i would doubt Bob could come close to getting out of his jump seat. makes for a feel good story and i am sure it was bitter sweet but safety first.

  21. Surely, Bob passes the annual emergency procedures training and health check to be a qualified Flight Attendant year after year for the past 63 years.. What is the fuss about? There is a 100-year old man in India who still runs marathon…. You can be old and fit or young and unhealthy… I would work t I’m 100 as long as I’m mentally and physically fit.

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