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Bette Nash, world’s longest-serving flight attendant, dies at 88 years old

todayMay 25, 2024

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Sam Sweeney/ABC News

(NEW YORK) — After serving the skies for nearly 67 years, Bette Nash, the world’s longest-tenured flight attendant, has died at 88 years old.

“It is with sadness that we inform you of the passing of our dear colleague, Bette Nash, the longest-tenured flight attendant at American Airlines,” according to a memo to flight attendants on Saturday obtained by ABC News.

Nash died on May 17 in hospice care after a recent breast cancer diagnosis, though she never officially retired from her role with American Airlines.

Nash began her career in Washington, D.C., in 1957 with Eastern Airlines, which later became American Airlines. Despite being able to choose any route in the world, Nash primarily worked the DC-NY-Boston Shuttle so she could be home every night to care for her son with Down Syndrome.

In 2022, she was honored with the Guinness World Record title for longest-serving flight attendant.

“With her quick wit, magnetic personality and passion for serving others, Bette set an example not just for the flight attendant profession but for all of us in the airline industry,” Brady Byrnes, senior vice president of Inflight & Premium Guest Services for American Airlines, said in the memo.

When Nash first started her aviation career, passengers would purchase life insurance from a vending machine before boarding — and flights cost $12 between New York and Washington. D.C., she told ABC News in a 2022 interview.

At the time, Nash reflected on the strict restrictions regarding weight and personal relationships she and other flight attendants had to endure to maintain their careers.

Nash said the airline would check on her at home to ensure she wasn’t living with a man because flight attendants had to be single. The airline also weighed her before shifts and could suspend her if she gained too much weight, she said.

“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 you off the payroll,” Nash said during a flight in 2017 with ABC affiliate WJLA’s cameras onboard.

Before her passing, Nash attended regular flight attendant training per Federal Aviation Administration rules.

“Bette was an industry icon, and those who flew with her knew her as a role model and consummate professional,” the airline said in the memo, adding, “Fly high, Bette. You’ll be missed.”

Copyright © 2024, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

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