Meet the Country’s Longest-Serving Flight Attendant

Bette Nash has been flying since 1957.

Bette Nash then and now. Photographs courtesy of Bette Nash.

“I remember I flew a trip out of Dulles to Mexico City. We would set up five-part service. The first cart was hors d’oeuvres and drinks. Then you’d serve the salad, carve roast beef or duck à la orange. Then you’d cut cakes and tarts and this and that. Coffee and cordials. That was really luxurious. You had silver coffeepots. You laid down linen on the tray tables.

“The first day of the Eastern shuttle, I think there were just 650 passengers. It didn’t even make the news. Within the next six months or so, everyone was flying on it. Walter Cronkite, all the Supreme Court justices, all the Kennedys.

“They filled out a little ticket like you might do for a contest. You put your name and address on it and handed it to us. It sounds so crazy today. We’d walk down the aisle saying, ‘Fares, please! Fares, please!’ The fare was $12. Of course, there were not jetways or anything. People just walked outside and there were steps and they went up. It was first come, first served. When the plane would fill up, they would call a standby. This one man one time, he was the 96th passenger [for 95 seats]. And they flew the plane just for him to Washington.

“When Donald Trump took over, it was so much fun. He came in on the first flights of the day—he had people serving Champagne and concierge service. He said it was gonna be the greatest airline. Then things got tight. I guess he went into bankruptcy.

“It still is fun, because I know the customers. When you see people, it’s like people are coming to your house for coffee and snacks. Customers are getting on and hugging me. I like the paycheck—don’t get me wrong. But from a psychological standpoint, I love being here with the people. I guess that’s why I keep going.”


This article appears in the November 2016 issue of Washingtonian.

Correction: The online version of this article originally misspelled Bette Nash’s first name. 

Staff Writer

Michael J. Gaynor has written about fake Navy SEALs, a town without cell phones, his Russian spy landlord, and many more weird and fascinating stories for the Washingtonian. He lives in DC, where his landlord is no longer a Russian spy.