Kelly Kincaid has worked as a flight attendant for 10 years. In her spare time she likes to draw. So it was only natural that she would fuse these interests with “Jetlagged Comic,” a webcomic about life as a flight attendant.
“I get my ideas from real life, from experiences I’ve personally had or have heard about from other flight attendants,” she told HuffPost. “I try to stick to the truth ― that is to say, to things that when people read the cartoon will go, ‘Oh yeah, that’s so true!’”
Although Kincaid always enjoyed drawing as a child and took a few art classes in college, she never seriously pursued this interest until she went through a period of career instability.
In 2008, she was “furloughed,” or temporarily laid off, from her airline. To soften the financial blow, Kincaid started a house-cleaning business. Although her airline re-hired her after four months, she continued cleaning for two years.
“During this time, no new people were hired at my airline. If you know anything about the airline industry, you know it’s all based on seniority. No new hires, no forward movement!” she explained. “It was a shaky two years with a lot of uncertainty about the future of my flying career.”
This career chapter made Kincaid feel introspective, and she started to question her choices and path. Watching the movie “Julie & Julia” sparked a change.
“Julia and I were in the same boat. She didn’t know what she wanted to do! Then her husband asked her, ‘Well, what do you like?’ and she simply said, ‘I like to eat!’ And there you have it,” she recalled. “So what was the difference for me? I loved to draw! How simple!”
With help from her husband Robert, who is also a flight attendant, Kincaid devised a system for coming up with cartoon ideas, taking art classes, practicing drawing, reading cartooning books and then finally, putting what she learned to work.
Kelly Kincaid/Jetlagged Comic
After winning online cartoon contests and getting into the habit of drawing new creations each week, she decided to focus on a specific theme and audience. For a long time, she resisted the topic she knew best: working as a flight attendant.
Flying has always been a big part of Kincaid’s life. “You could say I grew up in the airline industry. My mom has been a flight attendant for almost 30 years! I’ve been a little standby-er since I was 5 years old. I never once dreamed of becoming a stew like my mom, but once I fell into it, I’ve never looked back.”
Although her flight attendant journey has been “awesome,” she initially hesitated when it came to drawing about her work experience.
“The last thing I wanted to cartoon about was my job. I didn’t think I could make it funny,” she recalled. “It could make me so frustrated sometimes it was the last thing I wanted to think about it, let alone write about!”
During a layover in San Francisco, Kincaid attended a cartooning class taught by artist Hilary Price. “She told us that the best cartoonists write what they know,” she said. “So, I took that to heart. I began poking around in my creativity, trying to come up with silly cartoons about flight crew life.”
In 2012, Kincaid and her husband moved from Anchorage, Alaska, to Seattle, Washington. That same year, she began posting her flight attendant cartoons on Facebook and was pleased to find a strong positive response. She continued to create and post more cartoons around this theme and eventually named her strip “Jetlagged Comic.”
Over time, her fanbase grew. Today, the “Jetlagged Comic” Facebook page has more than 66,000 followers, and Kincaid has released two books, Airplane Mode and Jetway Reunion.
“The journey has been amazing so far. People seem to really like it,” she said. “I get a lot of great feedback from comments on posts, but also in emails, letters and face-to-face.”
Kincaid told HuffPost airlines like Alaska and Emirates have used her work in their training programs, and others like Republic, United and Air New Zealand have published them in their internal magazines for flight crews.
“I’ve worked with various aviation organizations supplying them with cartoon luggage tags and books. I’ve had many interviews with flight crew- and aviation-related websites and businesses,” she explained. “It’s been a really positive response so far. ‘Jetlagged’ gives me a lot of healthy challenges that make me grow as an artist and writer, but also as a businesswoman and entrepreneur.”
She and her husband are saving up to purchase equipment so that they can create more “Jetlagged” products, like luggage tags and hand-drawn art, which they sell online and to airport stores.
Although she primarily focuses on the flight attendant experience, Kincaid has also created cartoons about pilots, agents and frequent flyers. She likes to draw ideas from major topics like sleep struggles, hotel life and in-flight interactions.
“Creativity ebbs and flows, just like the ocean. Sometimes a wave of ideas comes in the middle of the night or when I’m washing my hair or going for a walk. And then there’ll be a dry spell of nothing,” said the artist. “But I never worry. I know it will come back. I just wait for the wave.”
Ultimately, Kincaid hopes her cartoons bring people joy and continue to help her grow as an artist.
“In the beginning, the challenge of writing ‘Jetlagged’ was how to make a frustrating situation into something funny and lighthearted,” she said. “How do I flip something negative on its head and make it into a positive? That is the constant challenge.”
“What I hope people get out of it is to keep a humorous perspective. The best ‘Jetlagged’ cartoons come out of some of my worst experiences. It’s just how you choose to look at it,” she continued. “Someone smart once said life is 10 percent what happens to you and 90 percent how you respond. I hope ‘Jetlagged’ will remind people to response with humor. To laugh at what we can’t control, to laugh at themselves and to laugh with the world.”