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United Airlines flight attendant, 83, lands in Guinness book for longest tenure

AP Photo/Courtesy of Jean Akana-Lewis

In this 1992 photo provided by his family, Ron Akana poses in an airplane with his wife Betsy and his daughter Jean Akana-Lewis.

In 63 years, Ron Akana has seen it all—from 35,000 feet in the air, that is.

The 83-year-old United Airlines flight attendant will appear in the Guinness World Records book in October for having the "longest career as a flight attendant" in the world.

Akana, now a Boulder, Colo. resident, finished up his final route last weekend on a United Airlines flight from Denver to Kauai, The Associated Press reported.

"I wasn't expecting this much attention," he told the AP on Tuesday.


His airborne days started in 1949, when he was a student at the University of Hawaii and his friends saw a newspaper ad. 

"We didn't even know what a flight steward was," he told the AP. "But it meant getting to the mainland, which was a huge deal in those days."

He became one of United's first male flight attendants: "We just liked working with girls," he told the AP.

AP Photo/Courtesy of Jean Akana-Lewis

In this 1957 photo provided by his family, Ron Akana, third from right, poses with his United Airlines crewmates in new flight attendant uniforms. Also pictured from left to right is Matt Ah Chong, Clem Keliikipi, Timmy Pang, Eddie Takahashi and Roy Miyose.

With the exception of two years away to serve in the Korean War, Akana has been in the skies ever since.

In over six decades, he has seen the transformation of air travel. He saw meal service improve, the start of in-flight movies, passengers go from dressing up to dressing down, smoking become a federal offense and tighter security in the post-9/11 world.

After being offered a buyout, he is retiring, the AP reported.

"It was a job that started to grow on a person. I always flew with new personalities," Akana told Boulder's Daily Camera. "I know I'll miss it, but the time has come. Aching bones and joints."

But his frequent flier days are far from over: In his retirement, Akana plans to travel frequently with his wife, the Daily Camera reported.

"I got terrific travel privileges," he told the AP, adding: "There's a lot to be seen."

Akana will miss the passengers and fellow crew members the most: "It's the people I worked with," he told the Daily Camera. "They always had interesting experiences that we all became part of."

"We are grateful for Ron’s many years of service and wish him well in his retirement," said United spokesperson Charles Hobart, in a written statement.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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