A major change in policy at American Airlines could be the end of the road for 86-year-old flight attendant Bette Nash who holds the Guinness World Record as the oldest flight attendant in the world and the longest-ever serving flight attendant.
Having been flying for more than 65 years, Bette’s career has outlasted 12 Presidents, but it may soon come the time for AA’s #1 most senior flight attendant to finally hang up her wings.
After six decades in the business, the spritely octogenarian understandably doesn’t do a huge amount of flying nowadays, and she’s normally found operating the short hop between her base in Boston and Washington DC.
In fact, Bette’s presence on the early morning service is so routine that the flight has been affectionately dubbed the “Nash Dash”.
The roughly one-hour flight is operated on an Airbus A319 – the smallest aircraft in the American Airlines fleet with a capacity for 128 passengers. Bette is understood to be solely trained on AA’s Airbus fleet as she doesn’t operate long-haul flights anymore.
But by the end of 2023, American Airlines will require all of its flight attendants to be trained on all aircraft types in the fleet. As well as Airbus A320 series aircraft, American Airlines also operates single-aisle Boeing 737 aircraft, along with widebody Boeing 777s and 787 Dreamliners.
In terms of operational resilience, this policy change makes sense and compared to many other carriers, this isn’t anything new. However, it’s been difficult for an airline like American, with lots of senior crew who joined the carrier from various mergers and acquisitions, to standardise aircraft qualifications.
At long last, American Airlines is setting a deadline to change that, but as aviation insider JonNYC notes, this could “be the end of the road for some extremely senior FAs [flight attendants] if they need to get 777/787 trained.”
According to JonNYC, crew bases that serve so-called ‘international premium destinations’ will be the first to require all flight attendants to be trained across all aircraft types, while non-IPD bases will be required to meet the new standard by the end of 2023.
Along with learning safety and emergency drills for all aircraft types, flight attendants will also need to be trained in different inflight service routines.
Of course, there’s nothing to stop very senior flight attendants from going through this training, but whether they would want to is, perhaps, another matter altogether.
So, will Bette Nash also have to be cross-trained on all aircraft types? Could we see Bette working on long-haul flights again at some point in the future? We reached out to American Airlines but, unfortunately, their team wasn’t willing to discuss the matter.
Mateusz Maszczynski honed his skills as an international flight attendant at the most prominent airline in the Middle East and has been flying throughout the COVID-19 pandemic for a well-known European airline. Matt is passionate about the aviation industry and has become an expert in passenger experience and human-centric stories. Always keeping an ear close to the ground, Matt's industry insights, analysis and news coverage is frequently relied upon by some of the biggest names in journalism.