Although this is a book about life as a flight attendant with the world’s most iconic and glamorous airline, Pan American World Airways, it is not just a chronology of airborne events. Instead it begins with Betty Riegel’s description of leaving her home in the middle of the night, clutching her teddy and running with her Mother to an air raid shelter during war torn London. From humble working-class roots, growing up with a mother who struggled to make ends meet and a father away at war, she had always dreamed of bigger things.
After responding to an ad in the local newspaper, she secured herself an interview for the Pan Am training program and at just twenty-two years old was selected from thousands of eager young British women to begin a career that would change the course of her life. Betty said goodbye to everything she knew and boarded a plane to New York, a city full of noise, towering skyscrapers, and promise.
Under the watchful eye of her “housemother,” Dottie, Betty mastered the art of being the perfect Pan Am stewardess—everything from faultless etiquette, geography, and safety to seamless makeup application, charming influential passengers, and preparing five-course Parisian cuisine at 37,000 feet. But no amount of training could have prepared her for the roller coaster of life in the air.
Betty’s airline encounters include a white rhinoceros and a dance with an Arabian price in the first-class galley of a Boeing 707. Some of her off-duty adventures include dating Japan’s “Elvis”, going on an African safari date with an English big game hunter and learning from a London clairvoyant of the precise description of her destined husband!
Up in the Air charts the grueling yet fabulous life aboard the most iconic airline there has ever been and how a young woman from Essex opened her eyes to the world and lived her dream.