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Sex, fights and mid-air surgery: the real life of a Virgin Atlantic air stewardess

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Anna Brech
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Suturing up a stomach wound and witnessing a celebrity passenger cheat on his girlfriend are just some of the gory details laid bare in a new tell-all book by a Virgin Atlantic flight attendant.

Mandy Smith has lifted the lid on her 10-year stint as a Virgin Atlantic crew member in the racily-named Cabin Fever: The sizzling secrets of a Virgin air hostess.

Smith saw it all as she travelled the world serving up tea, coffee and safety instructions. Her story offers up some fascinating behind-the-scenes tidbits on what life as a flight attendant is really like.

As you might expect, the Mile High club features strongly - with some passengers unable to resist the time-honoured thrill of sex at altitude.

"The official stance was that if we saw anyone being amorous, we would tell them to stop it," Smith explained, in an interview with ITV's This Morning. "It's not really encouraged... We would be knocking on the door saying, 'Can you come out please?'"

Mandy Smith in her days as a Virgin flight attendant

Smith's book reveals one instance when an A-List celebrity (whom she doesn't name) cheated on his girlfriend with an air hostess mid-flight on the way to Antigua - with his girlfriend sitting nearby. The crew member hadn't realised he had a girlfriend and was mortified when she found out.

But affairs are apparently par for the course when it comes to flying.

"One businessman was travelling in Upper Class and getting it on at the bar with a fellow female passenger. They’d had a few drinks and had a few snogs," Smith recalled, in an interview with the Daily Mail. "Literally five minutes later his wife walked through to see him. She’d been sitting back in Economy with no idea what was going on! We were shocked."

Then there was the time when one of Smith colleagues "was caught giving oral sex to a steward".

"She was sacked on the spot, they take that very seriously...," Smith said. "The Virgin crew are professional and diligent and I wanted to make sure that came across."

Mandy with her tell-all book

When it wasn't sex causing a stir, it was mid-flight fights and air rage - such as pizza-throwers and head-butters.

"The passengers behaved far worse, especially in Premium Economy because they think they’re better than Economy, but actually can’t afford Upper," Smith said.

"I had a man throw pizza in my face once because he said it wasn’t good enough for his son to eat... [another passenger] head-butted my colleague who was merely trying to restrain her outburst, and her nose burst open and I don’t even think she ever apologised. We have to put up with a lot."

Mandy appearing on ITV's This Morning

Dealing with mid-air emergencies was another key part of Smith's job. One time she had to help stitch up a man whose stomach wound had ruptured "with butterfly stitches", while on another occasion, she comforted a woman who had just miscarried in the airplane toilet.

"I gathered plastic aprons, surgical gloves, face masks and cloths from our first-aid supplies in the galley and returned to the scene with more crew to help," she recalled. "We have to be calm and helpful in all situations, nothing can faze us. No matter how upsetting, we are there to help."

The book that says it all

Of course, there is a glamorous side to being a flight attendant and Smith describes being treated "like royalty" as she and her crew attended raucous and debauched parties everywhere from Las Vegas to St Lucia and Cape Town.

She writes about skinny dipping en-masse in St Lucia and a hell-raising stag do the Virgin crew went to in the City of Sin.

"The boyfriend of one of the crew members was on the stag do of a Calvin Klein model," she says.

"Afterwards we all went back to their hotel suite which was massive. People were getting it on all over the place and drugs were lined up on the tables, though of course we didn’t touch them because Virgin do random drug tests."

Smith worked in the engineering department at Virgin Atlantic before becoming an air stewardess. She has now retired from the profession to live in West Sussex with husband Glenn and their 19-month-old baby.

Her book Cabin Fever: The sizzling secrets of a Virgin air hostess by Mandy Smith and Nicola Stow, £9.99, is available now.

Words: Anna Brech

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Anna Brech

Anna Brech is a freelance journalist and former editor for stylist.co.uk. Her six-year stint on the site saw her develop a vociferous appetite for live Analytics, feminist opinion and good-quality gin in roughly equal measure. She enjoys writing across all areas of women’s lifestyle content but has a soft spot for books and escapist travel content.

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