Eighteen months ago, viewers were introduced to hapless flight attendant Cassie Bowden (Kaley Cuoco) and her closet of fabulous coats. Cassie’s outerwear throughout The Flight Attendant Season 1 was so revelatory that it inspired impassioned rankings, shopping guides, and in-depth interviews with costume designer Cat Thomas, who insisted the coats quickly became a character of their own. While her wardrobe is equally impressive in Season 2, one question has plagued me since watching the six episodes made available to critics: how the hell is Cassie fitting all of these wool overcoats and knee-length parkas into her TSA-approved carry-on?
There’s less travel in The Flight Attendant’s sophomore run, but it still features some packing that stretches the limits of credulity, as Cassie consistently packs a full-length coat, at least one extra outfit, and shoes. Further complicating matters, it seems she fits all of this into a small tote stacked on top of a 16-inch roller bag, rather than your typical 22-inch carry-on (Cassie’s carry-on items look similar to the Crew VersaPack Rolling Tote and Deluxe Tote released as part of the show’s 2020 collaboration with Travelpro). Call me crazy, but a below-the-knee puffer jacket isn’t fitting in a bag the size of a small cooler — or at the very least, it’s not getting in there without a fight.
In a desperate attempt to move beyond this minor detail that's entirely unrelated to The Flight Attendant’s plot, I contacted travel packing expert Anne McAlpin, founder and CEO of Pack It Up: The Art of Organized Travel. Would it be remotely possible for Cassie to fit these large coats — plus her clothes, shoes, makeup, and other items — into her two small carry-on bags?
McAlpin’s packing philosophy is “less is more,” a phrase that Cassie — who travels to Reykjavík, Iceland in a black trench coat but later dons a white, extra-long parka over two thick sweaters — is likely unfamiliar with. While the travel expert termed Cassie’s outfit “overkill,” particularly given the mild temperatures in Iceland at that time of year (in September the weather averages between 43-45°F and rarely falls below 35°F), she said a puffer would fit into her totes if they were compressed down. “A large compression bag would squish it down, but that would take up probably three-fourths of that rolling tote,” she said. “It would be a tight fit.”
McAlpin then put the puffer to the test by attempting to fit it into her own Travelpro Rolling and Deluxe Totes. When packed in a compression bag, the parka took up just one-third of the interior of the tote, leaving room for Cassie’s Reykjavík sweaters, boots, beanie, and fanny pack than McAlpin initially predicted. Without a compression bag, however, the jacket took up so much space that there was little room to pack anything else, let alone Cassie's two sweaters and heavy-duty boots.
Of course, packing in compression bags requires making a series of good choices, which Cassie notoriously avoids. McAlpin said she’d watched part of The Flight Attendant’s first season, so I asked if she thought Cassie, who finds herself at odds with international bounty hunters, the CIA, North Korean spies, and her own mother at various points in Season 2, is the type of person to pack smart. “With her personality, I’m guessing she puts it all in [willy nilly],” she said. But McAlpin isn’t giving up on Cassie quite yet: “It seems like she would use compression bags if a really good friend told her and suggested [she] do it.”
Former American Airlines flight attendant Katie Gonot told me that Cassie’s packing style is not only “chaotic,” but unrealistic. “I can’t pack in those small bags,” Gonot, now a pilot with Frontier Airlines, said of Cassie’s stackable totes. “I’m only going for two days and I know I’m not going to do anything on this layover. But I still want to have stuff just in case, because I’ve been stranded places without stuff and the planes break.”
With so much else to pack, a heavy coat wouldn’t be a priority. Gonot said she would go for a light puffer that “folded down” over a knee-length parka like Cassie’s, but allowed that “some flight attendants are a lot boujee-er than others.” Added Gonot, “There [are] jokes about flight attendants [who] have like five bags. They just attach them all.”
As for McAlpin’s compression bag theory, Gonot was skeptical. “I use packing cubes. I don’t do the compression,” she said, explaining that it’s “helpful” to keep shoes and other large items separate from the rest of her clothes. “I don’t think any [flight attendants or pilots] actually use compression.”
Cassie is clearly terrible at listening to advice — see the “people hunting Cassie” note above — but both McAlpin and Gonot attempted to impart some wisdom onto the drama-loving flight attendant.
“I would start with a checklist and narrow it down to one coat only, with a base layer. Maximum three pairs of shoes,” said McAlpin. “Less is more, and making choices about what you’re going to wear allows you to enjoy your destination more.”
While Gonot took issue with Imperial Atlantic’s week-long trips around the globe — “That would never happen,” she said — she encouraged Cassie to plan ahead, regardless of how many days she’ll be traveling. “The longer your trip, the bigger your bag,” she said. “For four days, even a small suitcase is pretty doable if you know where you’re going, and you’re not going to be gone for that long.”
Unless you find yourself ensnared in an international conspiracy, that is.
For more packing tips, follow Pack It Up with Anne on Facebook and Instagram.
New episodes of The Flight Attendant Season 2 drop Thursdays on HBO Max.
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Claire Spellberg Lustig is the Senior Editor at Primetimer and a scholar of The View. Follow her on Twitter at @c_spellberg.
TOPICS: The Flight Attendant, HBO Max, Kaley Cuoco, Rosie Perez, Zosia Mamet