Flight Attendant 'Too Old' at 83?

March 19th, 2012

There was a nice article in the N.Y. Times over the weekend about a United Airlines flight attendant from Hawaii, who is still working at the age of 83. His name is Ron Akana, and he's been doing that job for 63 years. It's evident he loves what he does. But it raises some questions about when one should retire, and passenger safety on airline flights.

Comments posted on the site where I first saw the article link suggested that Ron might be a liability in an emergency due to his physical condition. An anonymous commenter said he was on a flight that Ron was working, and claims the UAL flight attendant is hard of hearing. I don't know if airlines do regular sight and hearing check-ups, but it would seem reasonable for that type of job.

The other issue raised by the article is money. After he turned 70, Ron was earning over $100K per year through a combination of wages, pension and Social Security -- they call him a "triple dipper." He says it's "vacation money," implying he doesn't really need the job to get by. Which I think is great, since I personally don't like the idea of mandatory or early retirement. For most people, being put out to pasture when you still have skills or experience that can be put to good use, is not a good thing.

However, at a time when so many people are out of work  -- "young" whippersnappers in their 40s and 50s, compared to guys like Ron -- is it really fair that he keeps holding on to a job that does have physical requirements? Have you seen how much stuff people are cramming into "carry on" luggage they try to jam into overhead compartments? I've been on a few planes where the flight attendant had to risk hernias while helping passengers with their heavy bags. On a more serious note, unruly passengers can be a real threat in the air, and you have to wonder whether an 83-year-old person can handle such altercations without suffering a stroke or heart attack.

Here's the link to the NYT piece, which may or may not work for you, since they have a paywall. (If you're registered with them, you can access up to 20 articles per month for free.)

What it does remind me though is flying is not nearly as fun or glamorous as it used to be.


High school sports have been preempting some of our regular Career Changer TV weekend time slots, but you can DVR or watch the current episode during the day. Visit www.CareerChangers.TV for the schedule (Mondays through Thursdays rarely get preempted). You can also watch video segments from past and current shows on the CCTV YouTube Channel. Mahalo!

3 Responses to “Flight Attendant 'Too Old' at 83?”

  1. Deb White:

    My kids are no where near Ron's age, yet, they are hard of hearing!! Maybe, his supervisor needs to inform him to get a hearing test. If he's not disabled due to "old age", why treat him like he has a problem, especially if he doesn't! In case of an emergency, he's probably more able-bodied than his female co-workers and other elderly passengers! As for carry-on luggage, I don't think anyone is going to have a ton of bricks in there. Plus, there are still some gentlemen out there who will help put up bags and stuff in the overhead compartments!

  2. clayton:

    Mr, Akana might be old, but he still emplifies the Aloha Spirit that all Hawaiians eventhough he is a kupuna and should be enjoyiing his life away from being a flight attendant. I agree that he should retire being 83 yrs old. I'm sure that his pension and other incomes is more than enough to get him buy his daily life style. Mahalo Nui for showing the aloha

  3. Rich Figel:

    In theory, age shouldn't matter if a person has the skills and is mentally sharp. But I think flight attendants also need a certain level of physical fitness to do that job... and I don't know that someone who is over 80 should be placed in that position if there is an on board emergency.

    As for Deb's comment, they may not be packing bricks, but my wife and I have seen many inconsiderate passengers jam very heavy, overstuffed carry-ons into not just the compartments above their seats, but OUR seats as well before we were allowed to board. Try getting those people to move their bags or make room for your bag, and you'll find that flight attendants will just tell you "first come, first serve."

    Airlines really need to tighten up the carry-on/overhead compartment rules. They charge us extra for every bit of luggage... the least they can do is give you overhead space for carry-on bags instead of making it a free-for-all situation!