Priyanka, 26, a cabin crew member with SpiceJet, badly missed flying for the past two months. When she resumed duty on the Delhi-Srinagar segment a few days ago, she had to wear PPE over her bright red attire. She was gripped by fear but chose to focus on her job.

“There was an elderly couple on the flight, both of them were battling cancer. Though we were told to maintain personal distancing, we do have to attend to passengers’ needs. I had to extend quite a bit of assistance to both of them. When they got off, they touched my forehead and blessed me profusely. There is nothing more rewarding than that,” she said.

While cabin crew have been perceived to have glamourous and cushy jobs, today they are akin to front line workers — ferrying stranded people from one city to another.

Asked about flying in such trying circumstances, cabin crew of various airlines described the situation as the new normal. Passengers may or may not have COVID-19, but even while maintaining social distancing, they have to extend help to those on board, they said.

Vanessa Fabian Waring, 32, who works with IndiGo, said that she and her colleagues stepped into the aircraft after a rigorous training regimen online on how to interact with passengers during the pandemic.

“We need to be confident. Passengers are flying back home after being stranded for months. A few days ago, a passenger sincerely wished me well before stepping off the aircraft. When such things happen, you truly feel grateful and happy to serve people in these trying times,” she said.

For some like Nikita Virani, also with IndiGo, flying is synonymous with in-flight service. “We feel bad that we are not able to extend it to passengers now. But our priority now is to ensure passengers wear safety shields and are comfortable,” she added.

And when children on board refuse to wear masks, Ajanta Dutta, 52, with Air India, said gentle persuasion usually works. “When you show children that you are wearing one and that it will look beautiful, many just smile and agree to wear one,” she added.

Sapna Menon, also with Air India, said despite the risks, she is proud to be serving people. “When the repatriation flight from Kuwait was about to land, passengers cheered in elation. I will never forget it,” she recalled.

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