The World’s Most Senior Flight Attendant Is Still Going Strong!

Filed Under: Videos

In late 2014 I wrote about Bette Nash, the world’s most senior flight attendant. She had been flying for 57 years, and seemed like an absolute gem. At the time The Boston Globe created a video about her, highlighting the “lifetime of lessons” she learned from 30,000 feet:

My favorite part was what she found to universally be true:

But Bette, as she approaches her birthday on New Year’s Eve, says she has found something that seems universal and true.

“People want a little love. And I don’t mean a lot of hugging and everything, even though we might do that. But this is the big thing: People need attention. You can’t buy love. You can’t buy attention. But people need this.”

“And it’s for free,” Bette says. “You can give this to people for free.”

As it turns out, Bette is still flying 18 months later, and she’s now 80. This past week CNN shared an awesome interview with her, following her around once again, and it can’t help but make me smile:

On one hand airlines always talk about flight attendants’ primary role being safety, and one has to wonder how good of a job can be done evacuating a plane at that age. While flight attendants have to go through recurrent training, they’re allowed to retake the test several times, which seems a bit backwards, since in the event of an emergency they only have one chance to evacuate everyone.

That being said, in the case of Bette, I can’t help but have a big smile on my face when I see her awesome attitude and how much she seems to love what she does. What an incredible person.

Have you flown with Bette? I hope to run into her one day!

  1. That advice can apply to almost any customer-facing role and within an organization as well. My customers like me not just because I know my business, but because they feel good doing business with me. So anyone that thinks that they have to be an a*shole to get their job done, think of that little anecdote. It might not be as easily executed 100% of the time but I assure you people will like the attempt more than the other way around.

  2. I flew with her many times when I worked for the Shuttle after it was spun off from EA. A gem then, and now!

  3. I actually had her from I think from Philly to Reagan in US Airways a year or two back and remember reading about her the very next day. I was quite surprised, given her age and didn’t know that she had a record as I had just recognized her from her pictures!

  4. What a great story. Has she ever said what it was like to fly with Wilbur and Orville? (Jk) 🙂

  5. Potentially confusing post title: you mean senior as in “old” vs senior as in “high up in the management hierarchy”. Could have been worded better.

  6. Do domestic carriers put ads in senior citizen homes for flight attendants? International carriers have beautiful women that cannot compare to the US flight attendants.

  7. You have to love her. Imagine the amount of smiles this one human has put on many a face over the year. We each have the power to impact each other in extraordinary ways!

    Obviously she is not there for anyone’s safety …and if anything, one of us would be helping her off the plane in an emergency…but that’s not the point is it. 😉

    How many of you will ever get to do what you love for 50 + years?.

    I trust this can inspire others to embrace what they love in life, and support each others dreams a bit more.

  8. Such a great story Lucky! By the way has anybody ever told you that you have some of the douchiest readers I have ever seen? Yes, I am talking about you, “nobody in particular,” and “Jim.”

    One is correcting your grammar, while the other is implying that the airlines should hire attractive women only so the pervert can drool over them.

  9. She has no reason to be in the sky as a flight attendant. What is an 80-year-old lady going to do in an emergency situation–be it a crash landing, a mechanical error, terrorism or just an unruly passenger? This is a warm and fuzzy story, but let’s get real.

  10. When she talked about giving out free cigarettes an doing a 5-cart service which included carving up roast beef, you know that was the grand age of flight. Nowadays it’s airlines seeing how tight they make seat pitch and passengers like us who are coveting the miles/points needed for our next award flight.

  11. I wonder how many captains and passengers she has had sex with over the years. There was no mention of a husband. Someone flying to maintain their “social life” (to quote her) doesn’t belong in the sky.

  12. @jim, yes we used to have Neanderthal standards like appearance for a job that (at least legitimately) has nothing to do with gender or appearance, but we evolved. Well most of us did.
    Eventually, the Asian and E3 airlines may a ls evolve. Probably around the same time as Jim.

  13. Jim, Would you say the same thing about male flight attendants? Or maybe you think men should not be flight attendants.

  14. Great post Ben! Thanks. Just the inspiration many of us needed today. She’s grand!

  15. “one has to wonder how good of a job can be done evacuating a plane at that age”

    I knew a man who was still an active volunteer firefighter (as in….going into burning buildings) until the age of 72 when he was struck and killed by a 17 year old driver during his daily 4-5 mile jog.

    Age has less to do with it than a lot of people want to admit. It’s often a matter of people simply slacking off as they get older followed by arrogant folks assuming that correlation is causation.

  16. You don’t know she wouldn’t be capable in those situations. Just because she is 80 doesn’t tell us that.

  17. Now, now Adam! Deep breath! I know it’s upsetting to have to tolerate the likes of those like Jim! He is easy to identify on a flight. Has never in his life once read the safety brochure in the pocket in front of him and when they make that obligatory safety announcements he would be far too busy playing games on his phone to pay any attention at all! He could have some beautiful,young twenty something FA standing there offering to strip naked and sit in his lap if he would smile but alas, he would not paying any attention at all! In case of an emergency, Bette would be right there saving the likes of him along with Just saying where as I would prefer to hand them boat anchors to clutch to their chests till after we landed.

  18. Don’t forget, too, that people like “Jim” would be sneering at larger people, as he opened his newspaper, over the person next to him, and/or elbowed the person in the middle seat to make sure that he got 2 armrests.

  19. You do seem to have a lot of trolls and troglodytes.

    As to her age, a flight attendant isn’t there to carry or throw people out of the plane in an emergency. She is there to organize them and get them to be calm enough to get out alive. That takes smarts, not biceps.

    And she’s pretty hot for an 80 year old.

  20. Nice story.

    But given that we’ve been endlessly told that flight attendants are lazy with service and are there “primarily for our safety”, what kind of readiness tests does the FAA require of them?

    I know that my mother, who’s younger than 80, no longer has the strength to operate one of those heavy airplane doors, so she would be a hazard if she was a flight attendant.

  21. @Adam: I raised a valid concern about the title of the post based on my snap interpretation when I read it. When I read the body of the post itself, it became clear that my initial interpretation was wrong. “Senior” is subject to misinterpretation, “oldest” is not.

    If you think that pointing out such matters makes one a douche, that’s on you.

  22. @ Nobody in particular — Except she’s not the oldest, she’s the “most senior” (as in, has the most seniority at the airline).

  23. @Bothrops: Ick. Do you like great-grandmothers? I don’t even want to think how shriveled up it is.

  24. @Lucky — the article does not make that clear. It speaks to how many years she has been flying and her age, but not her rank within American’s cabin crew structure, etc. See how easy it is to be confused?

  25. @ Nobody in particular — Sure, but does it really matter? This isn’t meant to be about some technicality, but rather that an 80 year old has been doing a job for 60 years and still loves it.

  26. @Stephen: See, I always say exercising outside is bad for your health. This poor 72 year old guy gets run over by a 17 year old.
    Nobody’s running me over on my exercise bike.

  27. @ Nick – They guy said Bette is hot, not that he wants to do her. Is that what you do whenever you encounter an attractive flight attendant? Try to imagine what her vag looks like?

  28. DL also has a really “senior” flight attendant. I’ve only seen her on the JFK/FRA. She stays out of the way during service? But checks up on everyone and hands out cookies mid flight. She’s great.

  29. @Lucky — surely being unambiguous in post titles and content is Blogging 101? I explained how what you wrote was confusing and easily misinterpreted, so take some feedback on the chin.

  30. @Nick: How do you know I am not an 85-year old into younger women, like 80-year olds? And remember that 80-year old may have been a stone fox in her day, one you would have had no chance with whatsoever. And come to think of it you still have no chance with her.

    And as you get older you may or may not learn to appreciate just plain giving compliments and being nice, with no expectation of anything in return, sort of what Bette does.

  31. So much respect for her! And so inspiring – she is someone who upholds her job well and with great pride. It’s not cushy being a flight attendant, and boy she looks so young and has a lot of energy for 80! Good on her to keep going, it will do her more good than to suddenly retire.

  32. I’ve heard about her and have always wanted to be on a flight with her! I think she’s absolutely awesome and have no doubt that she’s probably better than 99% of the FAs out there today.

    DL seems to have a noticeably older crew of FAs, and I actually find many of them to be far better than the younger ones. They still remember that their job is service and not to collect a paycheck.

  33. and they are old enough to remember before 9/11 when flying was fun, at least compared to what it is now.

  34. What a wonderful professional and very inspirational!!! I certainly applaud her love for aviation to remain in the industry. I can only imagine the upheavel and dramatic changes Bette has experienced in the airline business from a regulated era of the cab to deregulation from Alfred Kahn working for Eddie Rickenbacher and Frank Borman to Frank Lorenzo of Eastern Airlines, Trump Shuttle, USAir shuttle, usairways to now American Airlines. I still applaud Doug Parker initiating legacy consolidation preserving tenured careers of our airline professionals. With legacy consolidation, I am sure Bette would never have thought she would be ultimately working for American Airlines starting out in 1957 with Eastern. Bette has seen some wonderful technical advances that makes flying safer. It is great to see Bette is still going strong with a wonderful personality when once iconic global brands such as Pan Am, Braniff International, Eastern, TWA, etc no longer grace the skies. I wish her many more years in the skies.

  35. @losingtrader Apparently a similar sentiment was a long running between Robert (the firefighter) and his wife. She joked there was a reason why despite his outdoor running habits that she made him buy a treadmill for her to use. She joked about it when giving his eulogy. I think the irony of it actually brought her some comfort because Robert would have thought it was funny as hell. He was a hoot.

    @Nick @Bothrops I have to freely admit that given half a chance I’d bang Ann Margret (75) or Sophia Loren (81) just for the ability to say “I bedded Sophia Loren”.

  36. Hired by The Best in 1951, had I transferred to another carrier when mine folded its wings, I might still be a “he-hostess” – “plying the aisle” at 85…sixty-five years later. Have to tell you there are many former colleagues, several not much younger than I, with considerably more seniority than the lovely lady in your profile!

  37. Actually Continental/United has the most senior FA Norma Heape. She’s been flying since June 1957 so she has Bette beat by a few months and Norma flies EWR-HKG as the International Service Manager. Now that’s AMAZING!! But you have to give both ladies every bit of credit. It’s not an easy job and I’m sure they both can show us all a thing or two. Bravo ladies.

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