Air hostess, former factory worker, 55, flies on

A former textile factory worker, Wu Eryu became an air hostess at the age of 31 in 1995 and now she's one of the oldest air hostesses in China who's still flying.
Shanghai Airlines

Wu Eryu trains her younger colleagues.

Shanghai Airlines

Wu Eryu works on a flight.

Wu Eryu, perhaps the most famous air hostesses in China, may have reached retirement age, but she isn’t quite ready to hang up her uniform.

A former textile factory worker, Wu became an air hostess at the age of 31 and then went on to win numerous local and national awards for her exemplary service work. Her employer, Shanghai Airlines, announced yesterday that Wu will remain a member of its air crew, despite her having reached the retirement age of 55.

This announcement means that Wu is one of the oldest air hostesses flying for a Chinese airline.

In celebration of her continuing service, Wu was feted yesterday by colleagues at China Eastern Airlines, the parent company of Shanghai Airlines.

Wu was one of 18 former textile workers who became air hostesses in the mid-1990s after being laid off in a restructuring of the state economy. Wu stood out among 3,000 applicants to Shanghai Airlines in 1995; and she started her storied career in autumn of that year. Already in her early 30s at the time, Wu was considered by many to be “too old” for her new role.

Wu describes her hard work as a show of gratitude to the society which gave laid-off workers like herself another chance.

“We were honored to have a new job, and more importantly our mission was to inspire laid-off workers to achieve excellence in other walks of life,” she said.

During her early days in the sky, Wu had to improve her Mandarin skills, learn English and overcome constant airsickness.

What made Wu a stand-out among her colleagues was her attentiveness to passengers’ needs and her proactive service.

“The best service is provided before the passenger asks for it,” Wu said.

In 1997 and 2000, Wu was named a “model worker” by Shanghai and the national government respectively.

Over the years Wu imparted her philosophy and knowledge to countless co-workers, and her best practices are considered trade standards across the industry.

Wu has also rejected several offers of administrative posts, opting instead to remain a hostess.

“I feel really happy when I’m flying and doing my job,” she explained.

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