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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Janet Fabio

Jamie Tobias Neely Staff writer

Age: 50

Hometown: An American citizen born and raised in Japan; attended Gonzaga University; now lives in Spokane Valley.

Occupation: United Airlines international flight attendant.

How life has changed since Sept. 11: She returned to flying within a week and found passengers were kinder and gentler. “I remember people coming up to us and just hugging us at the airport and saying, ‘Are you OK?’ “

“Now they might as well kick you as talk to you. It’s like, ‘I want my drink and I want it now.’ “

Specific impact on daily life: Flying has become much more stressful for both flight crews and passengers. Flight attendants must eye passengers carefully and confront them for any violation of the rules, such as standing around the bathroom or the cockpit doors. She acts to protect not only her passengers’ safety but also her own.

“I say, ‘Sorry, they don’t pay me enough to go down with the plane. My kids can’t afford it.’ “

United’s financial woes have caused a range of cutbacks, from the difficult to the mundane. She’s said goodbye to retiring and laid-off colleagues, and she no longer serves caviar or Dom Perignon in first class.

Her secret to adapting: Running, lifting weights, friends and a sense of humor. “I knew that if I let myself down, there’d be a straitjacket waiting for me with my name on it. I willed myself to be a happier person.”

What she has lost: A sense of fun about her job. No more popping into the cockpit to trade jokes with the pilots.

What she has gained: New respect from passengers who no longer look at a 50-year-old flight attendant and wish for a younger face. Now they’re reassured to have mature, experienced women and men who guard their safety with confidence.

What she misses most: Her daughters’ sense of security about her career. She’s a single mom, and an airline accident anywhere in the world rivets her twin daughters’ attention. She tells them, “I don’t care what happens; I’ll just walk right out of it.”