Decades before the selfie took off, Bette Nash's career began to soar. Sixty years ago, Bette reported for training at Eastern Airlines, which is now American Airlines.
Back when she first earned her wings, Bette says there were several requirements flight attendants had to fill.
“You had to be a certain height, you had to be a certain weight. It used to be horrible. You put on a few pounds and you had to keep weighing yourself and then if you stayed that way, they would take ya off the payroll! We used to pass out cigarettes and matches on the flight. I would go around with Kent’s and Marlboros.”
Bette saw her way through the smoke and more than a few turbulent mergers—millions of miles later, she still flies her D.C. to Boston route several times a week. Bette's route is known as "The Shuttle." When she first started, passengers bought life insurance from a vending machine before paying their airfare on board.
“When it started, I think it was $12 one-way,” Bette said. All these years later—Bette's passengers know her well. “I fly hundreds of thousands of miles a year, but these are always my best flights when Bette is on the plane,” said one passenger.
Bette's career nearly ended in 1989. Eastern Airlines spun off the shuttle, but a man from New York saved her job.
“He gave us everything he promised us... He gave us. I wouldn't be here today… I wouldn't… I hate to say this on TV. I wouldn't be here today if Donald Trump hadn't bought the shuttle,” Bette said.
After the Trump shuttle quickly failed, U.S. Airways took over and Bette’s friends thought she was crazy for staying. “They said, ‘Who wants to go to New York the rest of your life.?’ And I said... I do! Because I knew I was home every night,” Bette said.
Being home every night isn't about convenience for Bette. She's also a single mom. “I have my handicap son. I wanted to be home every night. It wasn't a choice for me,” Bette said.
For Bette, serving sodas and making announcements is more than a job. It’s her life, her dream and her passion, and she has no plans to clip her wings anytime soon.
On Friday, American Airlines recognized Bette for her service at Reagan National Airport.
Our affiliate ABC7/WJLA in Artlington, Virginia contributed to this story.