4 min

The plane truth

An inside look at the world of gay flight attendants

Travis Henry discovered by accident his career as a flight attendant. Credit: Ryan Faubert

Ladies and gentlemen, this is the anxious-when-flying homosexual wedged between an oversized man eating peanuts and a woman with a hacking cough in row 28, seat D. On behalf of anyone who has fantasized about being whisked from his seat and taken into first class by a handsome air steward (“Sir, it seems there’s been a mistake; you shouldn’t be sitting here”), I’d like to draw all passengers’ attention to the very sexy captain and crew who’ll be taking care of you today on this nonstop service to Party City. At this time, I’d ask you to make sure you’re seated comfortably as I introduce some of Canada’s high-flying eye-candy.

In the cockpit is Ryan Sullivan, our pilot, who has been flying for more than five years, having wanted to fly since he was a boy of just 12. “It was my childhood dream to slip the surly bonds of earth,” Ryan says. Asked what it takes to become a pilot, he describes the experience as “more technical than romantic.” However, moments in which he sees the sun set are akin to “pure poetry.” The benefits of working in the airline industry are many: experiencing and seeing new things every day; constantly meeting and working with different people; and, a privilege reserved for pilots, the “best corner-office view on the planet.” Reasons to dislike the job include 4am wake-up calls, delays, and, umm, something Ryan calls AIDS: aviation-induced divorce syndrome. The lengthy times away can put a strain on a relationship. Please don’t mention Ryan’s youthful looks — he regularly has passengers tell him he doesn’t look old enough to fly the plane. His deadpan response? “I’m not old enough to drive the company car, but they let me take this thing out once in a while.”  

In the cabin today we have Travis Henry, a sexy, rugby-playing bear who, when we interviewed him, had been working in the industry for five years, three months and 12 days. He’s specific because “seniority is everything here!” He worked as a teacher and bartender for a few years, but one day he agreed to keep a girlfriend company for the four-hour wait in line to apply for a job as a flight attendant and figured he’d apply, too, since he’d already waited so long. She didn’t get the job, he did, and they don’t speak anymore. Ladies and gentlemen . . . well, just gentlemen really, please note that Travis might give you special attention if you’re his type. He says that one day he was on a flight with some stocky, handsome, muscled bears (his type!). It turns out they were the Toronto Argonauts; a large belly is kryptonite to Travis, so whilst manning the bar and snack cart he offered full cans of soda and extra snacks to these fellows, as, in his words, he considers this “maintenance.” A skinny twink seated nearby piped up and complained that he got only a glass of soda whereas they got the full can, blurting out, “What? Am I not your type?” The football player didn’t miss the opportunity: “So, if I’m your type, can I get an orange juice, too?” Travis’s story reminds me of the time I was “mystery shopping” a Virgin flight from London to New York; the steward took a shine to me and palmed a bottle of champagne into my bag when no one was looking, then proceeded to get me so drunk that I eventually revealed the forms I was filling out evaluating his service. He turned pale as a sheet until I showed him the 10 out of 10s I’d scribbled down. Ah, the joys of air travel when you’re a gay man.

Also in the cabin today we have Stephen MacDonald, in his 12th year, which included one year of humanitarian service that took him all over Afghanistan. Stephen, a self-confessed plane nut, believes his job is the “best-kept secret off the planet!” Many who enter this industry are tempted by the almost endless opportunity that travel affords, and there is no shortage of stories to be told back on the ground. Stephen’s favourite memory is an eight-day layover in Costa Rica, where he and nine crewmembers would spend their evenings looking across the Pacific Ocean while sitting in an infinity pool, sipping on gin and tonics before heading to dinner. Ryan tells of the time he found himself on a layover in NYC, made pals with a lesbian flight attendant couple and went with them to Stonewall for a drink, a night that was both meaningful and fun. When Travis offers you his salty nuts, please be sure to ask him about the time he and his colleagues used their crew jackets to toboggan down the Great Wall of China so they’d be on time for a flight. No word of a lie.

Lastly, ladies and gentlemen, I’d like to introduce Jesse Hazen, who has served the skies for one and a half years. Jesse kindly asks that you pinch him as he passes by because every day he finds himself reflecting on how he is living his dream. Just don’t be like the well-meaning but misdirected grandmother who tried to hook Jesse up with her granddaughter. That’s a not-going-to-fly zone.

It appears the captain has turned on the “Fasten seat belt” sign as we prepare for landing. You may wish to wake the loudly snoring man to your left with a sharp clap of the hands in front of his face. It’s been our pleasure flying with you today.

If you’re interested in joining the travel industry, we suggest you take a look at these career pages: