On 31st December, Bette Nash celebrated her 84th birthday but unlike the vast majority of people her age, Bette has no intention of retiring anytime soon. Nash is the oldest, most experienced and most senior flight attendant in the world and her story has featured on television channels and newspapers around the world.
Her long career in the aviation industry has spanned more than six decades but it all started in 1957 when she started flying for Eastern Airlines at just 21-years – an airline that would eventually become part of American Airlines who she still works for to this day.
Bette was attracted by the “spiffy appearances and gracious manners of the crew members” and you’ll still find her with a “perfectly pristine” uniform greeting passengers. Despite being the most senior flight attendant in the world with first choice of whatever trip she wants, you’re most likely to find Bette working the short hop between Washington D.C. and Boston.
Regulars on the route have even been known to affectionately refer to the flight as the “Nash Dash”.
Bette is certainly something of a legend in the aviation industry and she has her own fan club of sorts – one signed up member would definitely be Jose Ribeiro, a flight attendant and customer service manager at OneWorld partner British Airways. Jose has some of the top customer satisfaction scores in the airline and his boss credits part of that success to his idol.
“What Jose likes to do at the start of his briefing, he has his team, he has their attention, and he starts by showing them a video with Bette Nash,” explains Ann Pilgrim, a cabin crew fleet manager at British Airways.
Which is why British Airways arranged for Jose to meet his idol on a recent visit to Washington.
“It’s humbling to me that somebody else would be interested in something that I had to say,” Bette said of the meeting, moments before Jose excitedly embraced his idol.
Clearly in awe, Jose most wanted to know what advice Bette would give young new entrants in the flight attendant career. “To bring the human factor into it is the most important. Instead of technology, it’s humanology,” she told Jose.
She’s been an inspiration for American Airlines for years and now she’s an inspiration for British Airways. But what of the haters who say Bette should retire?
“As long as I have my health and I’m able, why not work. It’s still fun. Plus, I’ve at least made my Diamond Jubilee, just like Queen Elizabeth,” she says. Don’t expect Bette to be hanging up her ice tongs anytime soon.