Celebrating 50 years and 10 million miles
DENVER — On June 19, Carol Andrews slid her hands into a pair of white gloves that she hasn’t worn in decades.
The gloves were the finishing touch to Andrews’ first flight attendant uniform from 1963 that included a matching blue tweed blazer, pencil skirt, pillbox hat and a string of pearls.
“Flying used to be a white-glove service,” said Andrews, a Pinewood Springs resident. “It was luxurious and people got dressed up, but the attire nowadays is comfortable.”
Andrews, 72, donned the retro uniform in celebration of her 50th anniversary as a flight attendant for United Airlines.
She posed in the engine of United’s newest mid-size commercial airliner, the Boeing Dreamliner 787, in her ‘60s uniform and then in a modern black suit that the airline is expected to roll out soon, as her family and colleagues took pictures.
Andrews arrived at Denver International Airport, her home base, after flying nearly 6,000 miles in two days between Denver, San Francisco, Newark and San Diego.
During the past 50 years, Andrews estimates that she has flown about 10 million miles, mostly domestic, or 20 trips to the moon and back.
After graduating from college, Andrews, who was 22 at the time, boarded a DC-8 jet airliner for her first flight on her way to Chicago to begin flight attendant training.
“My perception of jet was like the Air Force,” Andrews said. “This was a lot slower. I was surprised it was a jet.”
During her career, Andrews said, she worked on about seven different planes, starting with a DC-6 propeller plane.
The turbulence was more noticeable in the older planes and they didn’t have trays attached to the seat backs, she said.
“We would put a pillow in the passenger’s lap and then put a tray on the pillow,” Andrews said.
In five decades, Andrews has never experienced a crash or an emergency landing or even seen the oxygen masks release from the ceiling.
“I’ve been really lucky so far,” Andrews said. “I think that’s a pretty good track record.”
Andrews was initially attracted to the job because of the opportunity to travel, and even marriage, children and grandchildren couldn’t slow her down.
The colors of fall in New England, majestic Alaskan wilderness, Hawaiian sunsets and city skyscrapers have exceeded Andrews’ expectations.
Carol’s husband, Jon Andrews, worked as an agent for United before getting his pilot’s license and flying for Frontier Airlines, but he spent more time at home once their children were born.
Jon was a single dad a couple of days a week while Carol was working, which meant learning to do laundry and cooking, or more often, finding places to eat out when dinner was ruined.
The couple’s oldest son, David Andrews, picked up some of the slack, helping out with housework while Carol was out of town.
“That was just how it was,” David said. “She was gone about three days a week and that was just normal for us.”
Travel also became the norm for the Andrews thanks to free flights.
Hawaii quickly became one of the family’s favorite destinations.
“We’ve been there at least 20 times now,” said Paul Andrews, Carol’s youngest son. “It’s basically our home away from home. We’re practically locals.”
With hundreds of destinations and millions of miles under her belt, Andrews said she is as dedicated to the job now as she was 50 years ago and she doesn’t see retirement anywhere in her future.
“I don’t work, I fly,” Carol said. “I just love the people.”
“That’s the one thing that hasn’t changed after all these years,” she said. “I kind of think of it like inviting them into my home for a little while.”