updated 24 Jul 2010, 00:30
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Sat, Jul 24, 2010
China Daily/Asia News Network
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Air hostess flies high with book

A beautiful woman who writes well is bound to draw public attention, especially if she is an air hostess.

Xu Dingding, who has worked as an air hostess at China Southern Airlines for 19 years, recently published an essay collection about Chinese flight attendants. The book is packed with interesting anecdotes Xu observed within narrow and crowded airplanes.

Critics say the book is a new achievement for the woman, who began writing columns for the Southern Metropolis Daily and the Beijing Times in 2004. Her book is essentially a collection of her columns.

"Passengers always in a hurry might never realize that their short journey could be turned into funny stories in a book," one reviewer said.

In a summer afternoon, Xu, who was in Beijing promoting her book, chatted with METRO.

Q & A

Q: Is it true that air hostesses smile 600 times a day?

A: They smile far more than that. Take a Boeing 777 airplane for example, which has more than 380 passengers. Say that we smile twice to each person, that already amounts to more than 600 smiles. And only smiling twice at each passenger is a conservative estimate. We also often work more than one flight a day.

Q: How do you deal with annoying passengers?

A: I always consider passengers as my friends and family members and, accordingly, always do my best to fulfill passengers' requirements with care even when I am exhausted.

And each time the call button rings, especially that of the first-class cabin, we feel guilty and blame ourselves for not having anticipated everything the passenger might need.

Q: What is the weirdest complaint you've ever had?

A: It was when a passenger complained that our captain didn't speak standard Chinese well.

Q: What drew you to the job?

A: My parents worked in the civil aviation industry. During my childhood, I always looked up to those gorgeous air hostesses and dreamed of becoming one .

Now, after years in this occupation I don't know what else I could do. I'm already used to the friendship among the crew. Besides, this job is well paid.

Q: Are many of your passengers memorable?

A: Yes, there are so many interesting passengers. Once we were landing at Yellow Mountain (in Anhui province) and our captain mistakenly said, "Dear passengers, we are landing at Zhangjiajie (in Hunan province)". A passenger rushed over immediately and blurted out, "Oh my God, I took the wrong plane again, I just did the same thing yesterday."

Q: Are most passengers nice?

A: Yes. One time, an airhostess of our crew reached out to take a full vomit bag from a passenger who sat by the window, but the bag fell on a male passenger on the aisle seat.

The aisle passenger was still asleep. He initially thought he had vomited on himself as the airhostess woke him, but after he realized it was the vomit of others, he didn't get angry. We wanted to move him to a different seat, but the plane was full, so there were no seats left at all. This man said it was okay and stayed in his seat. He was soon asleep again, with newspapers unfolded all over him. It looked so funny but you just couldn't help but be deeply moved at his tolerance.

Q:Some people say that young girls dream of being air hostesses is because they think it will give them better chances of marrying a millionaire. How do you think?

A: Chasing money is a widespread social phenomenon. You can't say air hostesses are gold diggers any more than those in other professions just because air hostesses do meet a lot of rich male passengers in first class. I've met so many excellent women in this profession who sacrifice so much for true love, for men who make far less money than them. And there's nothing wrong with marrying a rich man. Why not accept a guy if he has money and loves you?

Q: Do you agree that airplanes are places where romance is likely to happen?

A: They can be. Air hostesses are mostly beautiful girls and airplanes are small places.

One of my colleagues married a famous football player. The man fell in love with her at the first glance.

Q: Have you ever been sexually harassed by passengers?

A: No, such things have never happened to me. But there are many stories on the Internet about things like this happening on planes. I read one that instructed amorous passengers on how to slyly touch an air hostess's thigh.

Q: How much time do you spend writing and what kind of feedback do you get from your colleagues?

A: Writing doesn't take much of my time since I'm busy with my work. Besides working flights, I also give training on the ground.

Writing is my hobby; it helps me conquer the dullness in life. My colleagues often say they like my columns.

Q: What is your relationship status?

A: I have a warm family. My husband also works in airplanes, so we understand each other well.

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