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She don't wear no pants and she don't wear no tieYou ain't nothin' but a waitress in the sky
Always on the ball, she's always on strike
Struttin' up the aisle, big deal, you get to fly
—The Replacements, "Waitress in the Sky"
Flight attendants are glamorous, and in popular culture are often depicted as attractive. Truth in Television for a long time, as airlines once insisted on specific physical standards when hiring women for the job. In many western countries, this is no longer legal. A series of US court decisions in the 60's and 70's found airlines in that country liable for grounding flight attendants as they aged, gained weight, married or became pregnant.
In fiction, the Sexy Stewardess may be the main character, but will more often be the male hero's love interest, or will show up as cameos (usually several at a time) to emphasize a given character's wealth or seductive potential.
Despite what many believe, flight attendants in Real Life are primarily there to save your life, not to pour you coffee or look sexy. The number one factor determining whether passengers actually survive a "survivable" accident is the response of the flight attendants.
- Pan Am has reportedly made a joke ad out of this trope.
- Southwest Airlines: Remember what it was like before them?
- Taken to ridiculous extremes by the (mercifully) short-lived Hooters Air.
- This ad for Lynx body spray.
- "An airline uses its sexy stewardesses as a selling point, and flies decades back in time"
Anime & Manga
- Gate Keepers makes a joke about this. The two female leads think they are going to get to play stewardesses... But they're given the uniforms of shoe-shiners instead.
- Minky Momo once transformed into one.
- Kanako Oomori from Cage of Eden.
- Sailor Moon transforms into a "cute stewardess!" with her Luna-Pen once.
- Natacha (see image) is about the adventures of a sexy flight attendant.
- While doing a favor for an aging crime boss (don't ask), this was once attempted on Spider-Man. Since this happened during the period he and Mary-Jane were back together, the results were quite humorous.
Spider-Man: *from inside a large amount of webbing he's put up to keep the scantily-dressed "attendant" at bay* Just slip the food through the webs and no one gets hurt.
- A pair of attractive attendants come on the Brett Grayle in the first Damnation Station strip. Grayle later turns out to be gay, but does seem to be pleased with the attention.
Films -- Live Action
- Played with in A View From The Top: The flight attendant heroines, in one of their early jobs, are pretty much dressed like streetwalkers and eventually escape to a better airline. Depending on what you think of Christina Applegate, Kelly Preston and Gwyneth Paltrow, it might even be played straight, but this does not dull the pain of watching.
- The title heroine of Jackie Brown may be considered a double subversion, as the flight attendant is in breach of standard canons of beauty, but still sexy in her own way.
- The second cop of Chungking Express has a relationship with a flight attendant, and the girl who falls in love with him ultimately becomes one as well.
- In a flashback scene, we see his then-girlfriend do her safety instruction routine over the usual voice recording ("emergency exits are located at the front and back..."), while at his place and with her top off. It's an obvious turn-on for him. You can watch it here from 4'45 onwards.
- Catherine Zeta-Jones in The Terminal.
- Halle Berry in Executive Decision.
- In Catch Me If You Can, Frank Abagnale hires young women to pose as sexy flight attendants to complete his impersonation of an airliner pilot and distract the police and FBI agents looking for him.
- In Iron Man, Tony Stark's private flight attendants double as go-go dancers.
- Austin Powers, after demanding "Bring on the Sexy Stews!", is informed by a miffed female flight attendant that they're not called that anymore.
- Getting Any? by Takeshi Kitano.
- Jeri Ryan plays one of these as a minor character in Down With Love.
- One of these attempted to lure James Bond to his death in Moonraker.
- The Tobacco One stewardess in Thank You for Smoking.
- In the French movie Banzaï, the protagonist's Love Interest is such a stewardess. He convinces her to leave her job before they'd marry, since he hates going abroad. Then he is forced by his job to travel around the world, and run into his fiancée in Hong Kong....
- Tiffany and Claire from Snakes on a Plane--Tiffany even unbuttons her shirt. The other two flight attendants are Grace--who's nearing retirement--and Ken.
- The flight to Delos (the resort of which Westworld is a part) has a couple of these. The twist? They're robots.
- Three stewardesses in Boeing Boeing.
- The flight attendants (one of whom is seduced by Ruby Rhod) in The Fifth Element.
- In Dickie Roberts: Former Child Star Dickie realizes that he no longer wants fame, fortune or meaningless sex when he is propositioned by two sexy stewardesses, yet finds that he is not interested in sleeping with them. In a Shout-Out, they approach him by asking if he wants "Coffee, Tea or Me?" (Or "Us"), which was the name of a series of novels about two sexy stewardesses published in the 1970's (See Literature section).
- The Left Behind series plays this painfully straight.
- The Coffee, Tea or Me? novels, which were also made into a TV movie.
- In the original short story Quantum of Solace, James Bond comments on how he wished he could marry a flight attendant.
- A Harlequin Romance back in the 80s both played and subverted this trope. The heroine is a former stewardess who becomes a Ranger at the Grand Canyon, and when one too many people gets catty, she then proceeds to describe the average shift: very long hours on her feet while wearing high heels, walking back and forth (I forget the number of miles she quoted, but I looked it up at the time and found it was accurate), and some airlines did have rules forbidding stewardesses from sitting while on shift. When asked about the makeup, she points out that she is a natural blonde and has to wear sunscreen if she don't want to burn like cheap meat.
- Two are featured at the end of Friday the 13th: The Jason Strain, and were presumably hired by Caleb Carson simply for their looks. Jason hacks one to death, and stabs the other in the face with a broken bottle.
- Stanley Morgan's The Fly Boys series features the exploits of the staff of Glamour Airlines, an on-the-way-out airline renamed and revamped by a new owner on the principle that Sex Sells. The new uniforms "are silver lamé and sequins -- and that's just the men... the hostesses are in candy-striped bikinis and see-through skirts."
Live Action TV
- The Persuaders: Brett Sinclair's own private flight attendants were also obviously hired for their looks and their, er, friendliness.
- On a recent episode of the American version of Life On Mars, Annie assumes the identity of a dead flight attendant. Everyone who works with Annie is attractive (as is she), and most are fairly kinky, too.
- Played with in Sex and the City where Miranda has no success in a speed dating event by saying she's a lawyer. Once she says she's a stewardess, the guy's immediately interested and she spends the rest of the episode in that persona, making up stories, etc. Then when she cuts her finger rather badly, the guy gets freaked out by the sight of blood and reveals that he's not actually a doctor but said so cause he always wanted to date a stewardess.
- On The Bob Newhart Show, the Hartleys' pilot friend Howard Borden would make the occasional reference to the stewardesses he's romanced.
- Doctor Who. Tegan Jovanka, Australian companion of the Fifth Doctor. Actress Janet Fielding was actually too short to be a stewardess, so she falsely claimed that Australian airlines had shorter minimal height requirements.
- One of these, murdered in 1960, was the Victim of the Week in the Cold Case episode "Wings".
- Cropped up a few times in the third season (and discussed in-depth in the final episode) of The Gruen Transfer with examples of this trope in advertising, in particular focussing on the efforts of two low-budget Russian airlines to tap into this trope (an ad with sexy stewardesses washing a plane in bikinis in one example, and a nudie stewardess calendar released by another).
- ABC's period drama Pan Am centers on the Pan Am stewardesses during the 1960s. All of them are beautiful and the show makes point of how they were forced to appear and behave like for the job.
- Provenza and Flynn get taken for a ride by a pair of sexy stewardesses in The Closer episode "Layover".
- "Air Hostess/I like the way you dress/yada yada yada" by Busted.
- "Airline Amy" by Weird Al.
- "I'm Mandy, fly me." by 10cc
- The above-quoted "Waitress in the Sky" by The Replacements is a cynical skewering of this trope.
- The video for Britney Spears' "Toxic".
- Edguy's "Lavatory Love Machine" is about screwing a stewardess in the lavatory of a crashing plane, so naturally a sexy stewardess appears in the music video.
- Cabin Pressure - Averted.
- One bit by Larry the Cable Guy is about there being more aversions to this in real life.
- In the 1960s farce Boeing Boeing, the hero is dating three international stewardesses who don't know about each other, since they're never in town at the same time.
- April in Company.
- Ace Attorney Investigations features one of these in its second case, namely Cammy Meele. It may be noted that she doesn't wear a bra (nor an undershirt or whatever).
- Anesthesia's superstar persona in Rumble Roses XX.
- Doralice Prunelier in Fascination. She becomes a captain in the sequel Lost in Time.
- Final Fantasy XII is the first game in the series to feature airports, so naturally, it also features flight attendants. They sell you stuff and kick off a sidequest.
- Cammy's blue Shadaloo outfit from Street Fighter Alpha makes her resemble one, or is it just the hat?
- In a bizarre but fanservicey Rare Male Example, The Nostalgia Critic dressed up in a skimpy air-hostess uniform for the first TGWTG DVD menu.
- In the Futurama episode "Neutopia", Leela, Amy and LaBarbarba become Sexy Stewardesses when the Planet Express ship is changed into a commercial airline.
Leela: There. It was hard work, but it beats posing in demeaning, skimpy modelling outfits.
Professor Farnsworth: Ladies, here are your demeaning, skimpy stewardess outfits.
- Truth in Television insofar as during the 1960s and 1970s, stewardesses were required to be of a certain weight and attractiveness and were often fired if they got pregnant or gained weight. Even recently, some airlines got in trouble for discriminatory hiring practices.
- A U.S. Army officer told an anecdote of training with some foreign officers who remarked on this and concluded that unattractive stewardesses, while visually displeasing, were a sign of the strength of America's freedoms. "Someday," one of them vowed, "my country will have ugly stewardesses too."
- Early in the aviation business, this made sense. Lifting capacities of planes were limited, and it made business and safety sense to have small, thin, women as stewardesses.
- The practice continued in the U.S. until the end of the 1970s, and ended not because of any anti-discrimination laws, but because of airline deregulation. Prior to 1978, U.S. airlines were not allowed to compete with each other on ticket prices. Thus, they had to find other ways to compete with one another, such as the roominess of their seats, quality of their food, in-flight movies, frequency and availability of flights -- and attractiveness of their flight attendants. (You'll note that modern U.S. airlines often lack meal service, when compared with airlines of the past; this is another casualty of deregulation, as most folks would rather pay less for a boarding pass than get served airline food.)
- There are still some requirements that are legally justified because they are purely practical: A stewardess must be tall enough to reach the overhead compartments, must not be too fat to fit in narrow aisles, must be at least fit enough to perform normal tasks and stand for long periods of time, etc.
- A popular Riff Trax short, "Flying Stewardesses", has a lengthy segment about how the girls must stay attractive and in shape. Apparently it involves sailing.
- Early commercial airlines created this trope in the first place because they found that when male flight attendants instructed passengers in proper safety procedures, it tended to scare people off. Hiring pretty blondes who could play-act at being glorified cocktail waitresses ensured that sky-wary customers were Distracted by the Sexy, not fretting about whether or not they'd make it to their destinations alive.