Planet China

Getting grounded

It seems hard to believe today but in times gone by working as a flight attendant was considered to be among the world’s most glamorous jobs.

With the passing of time it’s become a grittier occupation, especially with the advent of low-cost airlines and more demanding passengers. That’s true – to a degree – in China too. But just because the role is less glamorous than it once was doesn’t mean there aren’t plenty of aspiring trolley-pushers.

Indeed, some will go to extraordinary lengths to become flight attendants, as a recent report from the People’s Daily website makes clear. It features a series of photographs of trainee crew at the Chengdu East Star Airlines Travel College in Sichuan province. Late last month these ladies (there seem to be no men on the course) were taken to plant rice in a paddyfield in the village of Yongan. Photos online show them doing their best to smile, knee-deep in water, while wearing full flight attendant uniforms.

One of the women was heard to exclaim it was like walking into a swamp, while the farmer reported that some of the trainees planted the rice seedlings the wrong way up. And the stunt soon became a hot topic of discussion on China’s internet, although the president of the training college was adamant it was a useful exercise in the “moral education” of his students. He said the course has been designed to allow students to participate in farm work and to “cultivate their loving gratitude” for how hard it is to grow the country’s staple crop.

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